1959, a project on table

From several years now Jean Bernigaud, young Magny-Cours' mayor since 1957, is thinking about building a racing circuit in his town. This idea probably came when he went to the ACF (Automobile Club de France) Grand Prix (Automobile Club de France) in July 4, 1954 in Reims.


Came as a spectator, Jean Bernigaud discovers that it is possible to use the roads to create a high-speed circuit. Fond of speed and extreme sports, he decides to follow the process through, at home, in Magny-Cours.

J. Bernigaud (on the left) and C. Ardoin, his partner (on the right)    

However, by considering a little bit more the situation, he realizes that regulations are draconian, the fitting-out is expensive and in addition of this, authorities do not promise him a long term authorization. This failure does not stop him, he finds another idea: to create a high-speed track. He already found the site, he has the necessary place in his domain of Bardonnay in "Les Gaillères".

This project has three objectives::

  • he wishes to create a "motor stadium" open to the practice of all motorsports : car, mortorcycles, motocross and karting.

  • he also wishes this site to be always open and propose a maximum of animations.

  • and finally he would give to this site an educational vocation.


1960, the karting circuit is inaugurated

The keen interest for karting, came from the United-States, seems to grow up in France. In Nevers, the first club is born, its name is Karting Club Nivernais.

The training sessions of this club attract lots of people, Jean Bernigaud and Charles Ardoin his partner understand that the « Motor Stadium » project has to start with a karting track..

Air view of the karting circuit in 1960

The track of 510 meters long, 6 meters wide with 7 bends is built in the same breath. On August the 7th, 1960, the Motor Stadium Jean Behra (honouring the French pilot recently dead) is inaugurated. 24 karts, 48 pilots, 8 clubs et 2,500 spectators are present.


1961, the car-moto circuit realised

The Motor Stadium is growing up, in addition of the karting track, Jean Bernigaud decides to build a car-moto track of 2,000m, a motocross track of 1550m, galleries, security boxes and car parks.

Air view of the Motor Stadium in 1961

The new speed track is inaugurated on March 12, 1961, 5,000 spectators were present this day in the Motor Stadium.


1965–1971, improvement years

On November the 19th, 1965, at the end of the "Volant Shell", Jean Bernigaud decided to gather personnalities present for the event in order to present his elargement project for the circuit. It is the starting point of 6 years of labour.
In April 1966, the building of the bridge is done. This bridge enables cars to access the heart of the circuit without crossing the track.

The Stévenot-Routier bridge being built in 1966

It was built in a record time of 8 days by the Stévenot-Routier company.

  End of April 1967,   the work goes on , we start the construction of a new tower and of the new building of the Winfield School.

At the beginning of 1968, the work regarding the school is done, we redid the ballast of the 5th bend using a bulldozer and we settled a gallery.  
Circuit's entry >

The year 1969 marks a year of great progress in the work : the track is widened (from7 to 9 meters) and 5 stands are built. Painters finish their last work on the building.

The new track and the school , end of April 1969

The enlargement project becomes clearer on the right of the circuit, a new track in dirt is made in addition of the former track. These are the bases of the new track.

View of the circuit, end of October 1969. On the right the enlargement progress with the track in dirt.

In 1971, the new Magny-Cours track is done. Now it is 3. 850 km long and 9 meters wide, ready to welcome races of 30 cars or 40 motorcycles..

View of the enlargered circuit in 1971

This new circuit is inaugurated on May 2 during the 11th "Circuit de vitesse automobile".


Constant evolution

The Magny-Cours site keeps growing. In March 1979 the tared paddock is created.

In 1980, the track is again modificated : a new bend is added at the level of the current "Grande Courbe".

In March 1984, the new giant car park is fitted out in the grassland under the circuit.

View of the new giant car park fitted out in the grassland under the circuit in 1984

Still in March, but of the year 1985 this time, the work on the circuit goes on since new offices are created in addition of a press box above the stands.


1986, hands changing

In 1986, the department coucil of Nièvre buies the circuit to the Bernigaud's family having in mind to build a F1 track. The Jean Behra circuit will finally be teared down in 1988 to leave the place to the new circuit of Nevers-Magny-Cours.


1989, beginnings of the Formula 1 era

In 1989, the circuit officialy probated to welcome the French Formula 1 Grand Prix is inaugurated in April, the 29th. A page is turned and a new story starts.

View of the circuit in 1991

The first F1 French Grand Prix on the Nevers Magny-Cours circuit is held on July the 7th, 1991.

During the 1990's, several fitting-outs are realised, mainly regarding security aspects or welcoming structures for the public.

In 1992, we suppress the « Esse » curve just after the hairpin bend « Adélaïde » for sports and security reasons related to F1.

In 1994, la nouvelle piste de karting est créée puis il faudra attendre l’an 2000 pour assister à la création de la « piste club » réservée aux stages de pilotage.

The Grand Prix track is once more modificated in 2003 at the « Château d’Eau » and « Lycée » bends to make the circuit less dangerous and the passings easier. The « piste club » building is also built.

Since 2007, following the repetitive threats to suppress the F1 GP from the Magny-Cours circuit expressed by Bernie Ecclestone, a « modernisation-standardisation » project called Magny-Cours 2 is under consideration.


Track's evolution

Source and acknowledgment: Jean-Louis BALLERET (1993)
Magny-Cours 30 ans de courses ! , S.I.N. PHOBOS Edition