The small circuit at Mas du Clos has never held nationally-sanctioned motor racing events, instead focusing on providing excellent test and track day facilities in stunningly beautiful surroundings.
Built by a wealthy Ferrari-loving businessman in the back yard of his chateau, the circuit is a magnificent roller coaster of a ride with large elevation changes and swooping curves.
Recent years have sadly seen activities curtailed as wrangles continue as to whether the private venue needs to accord with international safety standards – despite never having hosted racing. With the owners unwilling to pay for the required upgrades, it seems that the circuit is now permanently closed to the public.
The track was the creation of Pierre Bardinon, a member of a wealthy family whose business was in leather goods, and in particular suppliers of the flying jackets used by the US Air Force. At the family château at Mas du Clos, Bardinon began indulging his interest in classic cars, being one of the first to start collecting them.
Initially a lover of Bugattis and Jaguars, his greatest passion soon switched to the machines of Enzo Ferrari. He began to amass a large collection, including some of the most sought-after models, such as a 250 GTO, 330 P4, 250 LM, 312 PB and Competition 250 SWB. Indeed, when once asked why there was no museum for his cars, Enzo Ferrari commented that there was - at Mas du Clos.
Bardinon did not believe in keeping his car collection closeted away, preferring instead to keep them in active running condition and encouraging his friends to join him in enjoying them. Pretty soon, the idea came to create a short track in the grounds for this purpose, drawing up a short 400m course in 1963, which he soon extended to 1km and then its current 3km layout in 1967. Among those invited to sample the famous collection of cars in the early years was Jim Clark, who took out the P4 with girlfriend in tow and promptly set a new lap record...
"Like many men," Bardinon once explained, "I work during the week at my profession and spend my money on my sport. For some it is tennis, for others polo, perhaps, or yachting. My sport is motor racing. Therefore it was logical that I should build this track to practice my sport, just as others might build tennis courts or a swimming pool. Each year I drive seriously here for 40 or 50 hours."
Soon, the Club Alfa Romeo de France was also invited to enjoy the circuit's facilities, followed quickly by the French Bugatti club, the Morgan Club and, of course, the French Ferrari club. Events generally consisted of laps of the circuit followed by a grand dinner at the circuit's restaurant and then an evening with le patron in the bar, where Bardinon would mingle with his guests and childhood friends to share his passion for fast cars.
It also wasn't long before the top racing teams of the day began to realise the benefits of Mas du Clos for private testing, with Matra being the first and using it to allow Henri Pescarolo his first laps in 1969 following his fiery crash at Le Mans earlier that year. Ligier, Alpine and Dunlop soon followed suit.
Often referred to as France's version of Brands Hatch, the circuit was responsible for bringing 7,000 visitors to the local hotels in its heyday. What makes Mas du Clos such a wonderful venue is its large elevation changes and fast swooping curves, allied to a tight technical section which threads its way alongside the restaurant and swimming pool. There's even an uphill banked corner, which sits at the top of the course and certainly grabs your attention...
New laws in France effectively curtailed the use of private tracks which did not also meet homologated circuit safety standards and Bardinon was understandably unwilling to invest the sorts of sums required to meet such requirements, with 2010 being the last year to witness any major events. It was a sad end to such a magical setting, though the circuit remains in place, as well tended as ever as a run-out venue for the Bardinon collection, though the man himself passed away in 2012.
The circuit does still see occasional use for filming and photography and is the base for the Mas du Clos racing team.
This is a historic circuit which is no longer in operation.
Rate This Circuit
The circuit, though no longer in active use, is still located in the village of Les Puids, near to the town of Aubusson in the Creuse department of Limousin, France. Today, it is essentially a private road, used for occassional run-outs for the remaining vehicles in the Bardinon collection.