TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED The Circuit de Nevers, home of the French Grand Prix, has sometimes been described as a "modern, bland Formula One facility", but thanks to frequently unpredictable local weather, and...
TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED The Circuit de Nevers, home of the French Grand Prix, has sometimes been described as a "modern, bland Formula One facility", but thanks to frequently unpredictable local weather, and track conditions that can change faster than a politician's views, it has also been the scene of some dramatic races.
Last year's French Grand Prix was no exception. Starting in warm, overcast conditions, drivers had to deal with a track surface that was in turn dry, damp, soaking wet, and finally, puddled but drying. Not unexpectedly in such conditions, there was considerable incident, even eventual winner, Michael Schumacher, sliding off the track briefly late in the race.
"It's certainly a race track which can be notoriously changeable," observes Tyrrell Managing Director, Dr Harvey Postlethwaite. "The weather can run the full gamut of four seasons in a couple of hours, as we saw last year, and lap times can vary noticeably according to the ambient temperature. The track gets considerably slower in the heat of the day, for instance, and this time of the year you can expect very high temperatures in the Magny Cours area."
A three-hour drive south of Paris, the Circuit de Nevers has been home to the French Grand Prix since 1991. The eight-turn, 4.247-km/2.639-mile track has a smooth surface and generous run-off areas, but its twisty layout means that overtaking possibilities are limited, the main opportunity being under braking for the Adelaide hairpin.
"We set the cars up with high levels of downforce for Magny Cours, although not so much so that we compromise straight-line speed completely," says Harvey Postlethwaite. "To turn a fast lap here, you need to get a quick exit out of the Estoril corner on to the back straight and that, in turn, requires that you carry as much speed as possible through the preceding left and right-hand corners. "Tyrrell has done some useful testing here this year and I think we have developed a good chassis set-up. In addition, our drivers are both familiar with the layout of the circuit, so there's every possibility of a competitive performance in the Grand Prix. Hopefully, we will be able to match England's successful efforts on the football pitch."
On the subject of testing, Tyrrell team members have been in action twice since the Canadian Grand Prix 10 days ago, taking part in three-day sessions at Monza (June 9-11) and Magny Cours (June 16-18). Regular drivers, Ricardo Rosset and Toranosuke Takagi were joined on both occasions by Tom Kristensen.
The 30-year-old Dane, 1991 German Formula Three Champion and now a frontrunner in both touring car and sports car racing, was drafted in to assist the Tyrrell test team with its busy schedule.
The 72-lap French Grand Prix gets underway at 14:00 hrs local time Sunday, June 28. Last year's race was something of a Ferrari benefit with Michael Schumacher claiming a well-judged win in tricky conditions and team mate, Eddie Irvine, finishing third. Sharing the podium with them was Williams driver, Heinz-Harald Frentzen. Pole position also fell to Schumacher with a lap of 1 min 14.548 secs, although his fastest race lap of 1:17.910 was not quite good enough to beat the existing Circuit de Nevers record of 1:17.070 set by Nigel Mansell in a Williams during the 1992 French Grand Prix. TYRRELL CHASSIS DETAILS 1998 French Grand Prix RICARDO ROSSET (No 20) 026/02 TORANOSUKE TAKAGI (No 21) 026/03 Spare car 026/04