The Paul Ricard track on the French Riviera returned to the F1 calendar in 2018 following an 18-year absence, but lost its place after just four events.
France has an illustrious motorsport history and hosted the first ever Grand Prix back in 1906. No less than 16 different venues have played host to the French Grand Prix since then. Located in Le Castellet on the French Riviera, the Circuit Paul Ricard, commissioned by the pastis magnate of the same name, was opened in 1970. The track hosted the French Grand Prix 14 times between 1971 and 1990, before the event moved to Magny Cours. Following the withdrawal of funding from the French Motorsports Federation, the French Grand Prix was removed from the F1 calendar in 2008. After a ten-year absence, the event returned in 2018 at the Paul Ricard track.
The original Paul Ricard track featured the 1.8km Mistral Straight, which, paired with the other high-speed sections of track, made life difficult for engines. After the death of its namesake, and following F1’s departure to Magny Cours, the track was bought by a company owned by Bernie Ecclestone, who turned the track into a testing venue at the turn of the millennium. Built on a plateau, the track offers a massive 167 different configurations in total! The circuit has distinctive markings in the run-off areas, with blue and red strips designed to minimise braking distances.
The circuit held the French motorcycle Grand Prix on 13 occasions, most recently in 1999. It’s also a popular venue for F1 tyre testing. The track’s 2018 return wasn’t without difficulty – poor traffic management meant fans were stuck outside the circuit for most of the first day’s action. Luckily, a proper mobility plan was put in place for 2019. Paul Ricard will remain on the F1 calendar until at least 2021.
The 2020 French Grand Prix was cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but returned in 2021. The 2022 French Grand Prix was the final race on the current F1 race contract, which has not been renewed.
Upcoming motorsport events at Circuit Paul Ricard
- April 7-9: French Historic Grand Prix
- June 2-4: Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe 2023 (Sports Cars)
- July 14-16: 4 Hours of Le Castellet 2023 (European Le Mans Series)
- July 21-23: International GT Open 2023
- September 14-17: Bol d’Or 2023 (24 hour motorcycle endurance race)
- October 6-8: SRO Racing Festival 2023
- View all events on the Circuit Paul Ricard website
How to get there
The Circuit Paul Ricard is located in the Le Castellet commune, around 40km east of Marseilles, in south eastern France.
The best airport to fly into is Marseille Provence (MRS), around 65km from Paul Ricard. The closest airport is Toulon Hyères (TLN), 55km from the circuit, but this only serves limited routes.
How to get to Circuit Paul Ricard:
- Car: One of the easiest ways to get to the circuit is to drive yourself there. From Marseilles, the journey on the A50 autoroute (using exit 11) should take around 45-60 minutes – though the 2018 French Grand Prix was dogged by long tailbacks.
- Taxi: Taxis are generally not recommended to get to Paul Ricard as they can be expensive. A better option may be to take the train to the nearby Bandol or Aubagne stations, then take a taxi for the remaining 20km of the journey.
More information about getting to Paul Ricard for the French Grand Prix can be found on F1Destinations: Getting There & Around – French Grand Prix.
Where to stay
Circuit Paul Ricard is a rural circuit with a limited amount of nearby accommodation, aside from camping and boutique hotels.
Two hotels are located within a short walk of the Circuit Paul Ricard entrance – the 5-star L’Hotel & Spa du Castellet and the 3-star Grand Prix Hotel & Restaurant. Both hotels are highly unlikely to be available on French Grand Prix weekend or other major race weekends, but can be a good option when visiting for track days or off-season circuit visits. View all accommodation close to Circuit Paul Ricard. For larger events, we recommend staying in the larger cities of Marseille or Toulon.
In the summer months, you can also stay at one of the many campsites in the area around Le Castellet. Many of these campsites have large grounds with swimming pools and other facilities. Temporary trackside camping is also offered on French Grand Prix weekend. The following campsites are closest to Circuit Paul Ricard:
- Camping Arbois du castellet: 4km from the circuit entrance (map)
- Le Grands Pins: also within walking distance of the circuit (map)
- Castillon de Provence: a naturist campsite 10km south of Paul Ricard (map)
- Camping Parc Magador: near the beach between Bandon and Sanary, 20km south of Paul Ricard (map)
More information about where to stay for the French Grand Prix can be found on F1Destinations: Accommodation – French Grand Prix
In addition to guided tours, you can also check out the X-Trem Park with various fun activities.
- Circuit Tours: Circuit Paul Ricard offers different guided tour options, including a 40-minute Classic Shuttle tour (€ 15 per person), which includes visits to the Paddock, the Pit Bulding hall, Media Center and Panoramic Restaurant. Tours are also available via Segway and Mini Moke!
- Other Circuit Activities & Facilities: Opened in 2015, the X-Trem Park at Circuit Paul Ricard offers activities such as a zipline and bungee jumps. Open Wednesday to Sunday (+ public holidays) from 10:00-18:00. Other activities at the circuit include quad biking, go-karting and simulators. You will also find the Grand Prix Burger fast food restaurant with circuit views and a circuit shop.
- More information & Online Bookings: click here or call +33 4 94 98 28 72
Circuit Paul Ricard offers an international standard go-kart track, regular track days and various driving experiences.
- Track Days: the circuit is opened at regular intervals throughout the year for car and motorbike track days, most of which are organized by clubs. Learn more and check schedules here.
- Karting: it’s possible to rent go-karts at the Paul Ricard karting circuit, which also offers tuition to young drivers (7-15 years old) via the French School of Karting. Click here for more information (French language only)
- GT Drive Experience: get behind the wheel of a supercar such as a Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche 911 or Audi A8. Prices start from under 100 for 2 laps. More info here (French language only).
- Driving Experiences: various companies also offer driving experiences at Circuit Paul Ricard, including the chance to drive single-seaters and even a Formula 1 car! Reputable companies include the Winfield Racing School, LRS Formula and AGS Formule 1.
2 thoughts on “Circuit Paul Ricard”
My husband and I were to be at the French Grand Prix in 2020 … hopefully we will get there next year but in the mean time can you give me the history of the animal sculptures that are placed around the track. Looking forward to hearing back from someone and being there in person in 2022.
Hi Diana, the sculptures were designed by French artist Richard Orlinski, who also designed the trophies for the event. There’s a good interview with him about his artwork here: https://www.euronews.com/green/2018/07/02/sitting-down-with-the-world-s-best-french-contemporary-artist. Hope you get to be there for next year’s race!