The Circuit of Snails! MSV to build 200mph race facility in France.

MSV have snapped up a former French Army (yes, France has an Army!) camp and plan to build 200mph circuit.

Major UK motor racing circuit owner MotorSport Vision (MSV) has completed the freehold purchase of a substantial former military airbase in north-east France, which it will develop into a major international motorsports complex. The Laon-Couvron aerodrome is located 5 miles north-west of the city of Laon, in the Aisne department of the Picardy region, just north of Reims. The site extends to 1263 acres and includes two former runways, the largest being 3000m long, together with extensive perimeter roads and apron areas. Over 60 buildings on the site include many vehicle workshops, personnel accommodation buildings, a sports centre, restaurant, cinema, rifle range and an equestrian centre, with a total building area of 1.5 million square feet.

MSV France (MSVF) will redevelop the army base into a huge motorsport village, Laon Autodrome, with the focus being a magnificent 5 mile circuit, featuring a uniquely long 1.5 mile main straight where top speeds of over 200 mph will be possible, together with fast flowing corners and extensive run off areas to provide an absolute mecca for drivers of supercars and other high performance vehicles. The driving facilities will include a number of circuits as well as a 1000m asphalt oval track, drag strip, rally stages, 4×4 courses, and an extensive urban road driving centre for young driver and professional driver training. Vehicle workshops and garages will be available for permanent and temporary use, together with hospitality facilities, restaurants and guest accommodation both as hotels and apartments for lease or sale.

MSV, a private company owned by former F1 driver Jonathan Palmer and Sir Peter Ogden, already owns and operates five UK motorsport circuits – Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Snetterton, Cadwell Park and Bedford Autodrome. The world renowned PalmerSport corporate hospitality event is operated by MSV and has been based at Bedford Autodrome since 1999.

MSV Chief Executive Jonathan Palmer said: “Our purchase of the Laon-Couvron airbase is a tremendously exciting landmark for MSV and one which will substantially grow our business over the next 10 years. We have been eager to expand into Europe and had targeted this area, midway between Paris and Brussels, so that our new Laon Autodrome circuit will serve not just the French market but equally importantly the whole of northern Europe. Location and easy access is key – our circuit will be just 75 miles from Paris, 90 miles from Brussels and within easy driving range of London, Amsterdam and Cologne, for example. Furthermore our plans include an international private airport, capable of accommodating any size of aeroplane.

“Driving activity at Laon Autodrome will mainly feature high performance road car driving, with trackdays and manufacturer promotional events, but also a stunning new PalmerSport Europe corporate/private driving event. We are also planning on four race weekend events each year, slated for GT and sports prototype cars, historic cars, general club racing and motorcycles. With the extensive engineering workshop space available alongside the driving circuits, we also believe Laon Autodrome will prove a very attractive base for automotive engineering companies and race teams who value an accessible, central European base.”

Laon-Couvron airfield opened originally in 1938 as a French Air Force base but by 1940 it was under the control of the Luftwaffe. After the war the US Air Force took over Laon Couvron and a totally expanded and rebuilt airbase opened in 1954, used for nuclear deterrent bomber activity. The USAF pulled out in 1967 and in 1980 the airbase was then occupied by the French Army which located over 1000 personnel there until the base finally closed down in 2012.

Phase one of the Laon Autodrome circuit complex is planned to open in April 2018, with construction starting in Spring 2017, after completion of the studies for the required authorisations and permits.

The idea of a ‘foreign’ track day appeals to everyone and the location of this one could be perfect. If you live in Penzance, it’s only a 100 miles further away than Snetterton, plus you get to use your passport and ride on a ferry. There’s little talk of if this circuit could feature on the BSB calendar, but MSV has an impressive circuit safety programme and it makes no sense to build a brand new track without making it compliant with as many race series as possible. We hope this works and will be backing it all the way.