The famous ‘Mas du Clos’ track reopens!
Volume 48 Issue 7
Apr 8, 2023
Mas du Clos, the private playground of the late Pierre Bardinon reopens with new updated safety features. Ferraris once again echo through the countryside.
“Mas du Clos”: three very evocative words for every Ferrari enthusiast all over the world.
Indeed, it is the place, located in the small village of Saint-Avit-de-Tardes, on the foothills of Massif Central in the heart of France, where Pierre Bardinon, a French industrial involved in the leather business, founded one of the most significant Ferrari collections in the world.
He was also famous for the creation of a private track in 1963, right next to his castle and collection.
This 3.1 kilometres (1.9 miles) long track probably features one of the most beautiful courses in the world, playing with the natural uneven relief of this mountainous region. Magnificent trees, grazing cows, green meadows and panoramic views give this track a very unique atmosphere.
It was, in the past, a special place for every car enthusiast, and probably even more for Ferrari owners.
Indeed, the track hosted many events directly linked to Ferrari, for example with annual Club Ferrari France meetings and even for 250 GTO anniversaries in the 1980s (1982 and 1987) and 1990s (1997).
For decades, car brand clubs, private and official competition teams, and even car manufacturers have used this unique infrastructure for driving days or car testing.
The Matra Sports team, with its pilot stars François Cevert, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo, was one of the first official teams to wear the asphalt of one of the most famous private circuits in the 1970s.
Due to safety standards, the track was forced to close in 2010 after a judicial marathon. It threw the whole car enthusiasts world into deep disarray.
Recently Alexandre Bardinon, Pierre’s grandson, and like his father Patrick, a racing driver, decided to invest in the track to bring it back to compliance with security rules.
Fourteen kilometres of up-to-date standard guardrails are replaced, a full perimeter fence was installed securing the entire site, and specific fences with reinforced wiring that resists the embedding of cars were also installed in July 2022.
The paddock is also fenced to prevent the public from accessing the track. A new curve is drawn because the famous “restaurant curve” was passing too close to the building.
The clearance of several turns is also modified, a part of the asphalt is resurfaced, then the track is equipped with around forty surveillance cameras as well as electronic panels, similar to those that can be seen on recent Formula One circuits.
After these intense months of work, the determination of Alexandre Bardinon ends up paying forward and on the 18th of October 2022, the circuit obtained its new approval.
The next step was to organize an official reopening and spread the wonderful news to the world.
After a first attempt for the end of 2022, not possible due to administrative reasons, the first weekend of March 2023 was chosen.
For this official reopening ceremony, Ferrari presence was obvious, given the historical link between the Bardinon family history (Pierre Bardinon was arguably the greatest collector ever of historic Ferraris in the world) and the Prancing Horse manufacturer.
Alexandre Bardinon worked with Sport & Collection team (organizers of ‘500 Ferrari contre le cancer’ event, held each year on Circuit du Val de Vienne) and Club Ferrari France to organize the opening ceremony.
Henri Pescarolo, four time Le Mans 24h winner was a natural sponsor for the rebirth of this private track that he has loved for decades.
Pescarolo was then chosen to cut the inaugural ‘French-flagged’ ribbon alongside Alexandre Bardinon.
This official re-opening was held on Saturday morning on the pit straight with local official representatives.
Beside motorsport interests, this reopening is of importance for the local economy, as the track activities used to be in the past and are expected to be in the near future a source of local attractivity, with several thousands of bed nights in hotels or bed and breakfasts.
It is also a source of local employment in a rural area in loss of inhabitants and attractivity.
After this very official moment, it was the time for the parades.
A first parade ended on the pit straight allowing commemorative pictures, including Alexandre Bardinon, Jean-Pierre Doury and Henri Pescarolo posing in front of the grid full of Ferraris and beside Henri Pescarolo’s own helicopter in which he arrived by air.
The Ferraris were nicely placed on the grid and for the parade from the oldest to the most recent one.
Then the cars were parked on the famous ‘restaurant curve’ for a picture for posterity, remembering for the oldest the events of yesteryear.
Seeing so many old Ferraris parked on this mystical place of the Mas du Clos circuit was a highlight of the weekend.
On Saturday afternoon and on Sunday, the drivers were able to practice on the track in different classes related to cars’ era and power.
On Sunday morning an intense freezing fog, not so surprising for the area and year period, delayed the sessions by a few hours but did not alter driver’s pleasure to be there and celebrate this track rebirth.
This event gathered more than sixty-five Ferrari, including a large number of vintage ones.
The panel of cars covered more than seven decades of Ferrari history.
The oldest Ferrari on track was a 1951 212 Inter Touring Berlinetta, S/N 0167 EL, from ‘Anna-Lisa’ French collection, a car with South America race and ownership history.
The second oldest was one of the very first 250 GTE sold new in France by first French Ferrari dealer Franco-Britannic* (S/N 2229 GT) and with a comprehensive French history.
Three different 250 GTE gathered there, as well as three 275 GTB (two longnose and one shortnose).
One of the two dark red longnose 275 GTB, S/N 08507 is, like 250 GTE S/N 2229 GT, a car originally delivered to France and with very long ownership history, as the registration plate of the car dates from 1983.
A wonderful black with red interior 250 GT Lusso, S/N 4503 GT, was also one of the car highlights of the weekend. The black colour of this Pininfarina classic design fitted perfectly with the contrasting red leather interior.
The 365 series was well represented with two models of 365 GT 2+2 and an astonishing lineup of eight 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’, four of which with the rarer Plexiglas headlights (first examples produced).
A few more “modern” Ferrari race cars were also present, with the famous race-modified Mondial ‘Moneytron’ duo (S/N 79509 and S/N 79573), two 308 Competition (conversions), two F355 Challenge and a 488 Challenge.
On the supercars side: two F40 (one of which with only 5,000 kilometres on the odometer), the F12 TdF pace car and no less than two brand new 812 Competizione coupés made the show.
In brief, a nice overview of Ferrari history was displayed for the greatest pleasure of the lucky participants.
Alongside the Ferrari, some cars of other brands were also present for this inauguration.
Let’s quote among rarities a very rare Berliet (the oldest car on site), a trio of old Bugattis from the 1920s, many Porsche including a rare 918 Spyder, Alpines and two Venturis (a French sportscars manufacturer).
This weekend was emotional for the privileged few who were able to participate.
It marks an important moment in French Motorsport history, which has been waiting for it for more than 10 years.
We can only wish a long (new) life to this fantastic circuit. The bet seems won for the Bardinon family, since the circuit has already received many requests and reservations for the coming months.
* In case you are interested in the beginnings of Ferrari in France, I encourage you to discover the excellent work done by French Ferrari historian Cyrille Jaquinot in the book “Franco-Britannic Autos Ltd” now available in English version.
Additional photos from the event