A secret photoshoot at the former home of the French Grand Prix – evo Archive

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Number 145 of evolution (July 2010) was dominated by the McLaren F1, celebrating 20 years of the famous three-seater. But that meant a feature celebrating a record-breaking three-wheeler flew a bit under the radar. Still, driving a Morgan Aero SuperSports to Montlhéry remains one of my most memorable road trips. Largely because it was almost a complete waste of time.

The old circuit is south of Paris and I remember it was a beautiful sunny summer drive from Calais. Photographer Matt Howell and I decided to avoid the freeways and stick to the D and N ratings, blasting along mostly straight roads with the side exhausts rumbling. We got lost because we were using a map. We also spent some time in a Carrefour car park trying to disassemble and store the two removable roof sections.

Suffice to say that it was early evening when we arrived at Linas-Montlhéry autodrome. However, the idea of ​​making the most of the beautiful “golden hour” light died out with the abruptness of a racing engine when we saw the entrance. It was clearly not like those other French historical circuits of Reims and Le Mans, on which you can roam freely over large portions. This one had a high fence with aggressive barbed wire, while the entrance was barred with a red and white post and a military-flavored guard. Turns out the place was France’s equivalent of Millbrook (which it actually merged with in 2020) for the past 50 years and was used for manufacturer and military testing. Guests were about as welcome as a dog in a cattery.

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Shit was, I think, the right word, and my French didn’t extend much further. Still, I rolled up my GCSE language sleeves and strolled over to the khaki-clad young man. It wasn’t the smoothest conversation, but I let it go and made sure to smile and nod where I thought the right places were. As such, I didn’t lie, maybe I just failed to provide him with the truth…

You see, he thought the curvaceous car we had arrived in was part of a shoot that was already happening at the track that night. So he let us in. Matt and I expected to hear a scream behind us as we drove, but none came. We had no idea how long we would have before we were discovered, but we tried to avoid any CCTV and make the most of the opportunity.

“I had barely heard of the place before going there,” Matt recalls, “but I remember being blown away by how big it was. It was magnificent and rather monumental.

It’s an 8 mile circuit in total, but we mostly stayed in the area around the banked oval, where a Morgan three-wheeler had broken speed records in the 1920s (and now famous as the stage of Ken Block’s Gymkhana 3, which was filmed there later in the same year we visited). In one hour, Matt pulled off the incredible feat of filming enough to fill a nine-page article. Every other person we saw in the distance, we waved cheerfully but nonchalantly on the principle of making it look like we were meant to be there.

Once the photos were in the bag, we hid the memory cards in case we were stopped, then drove the rest of the circuit, at which point we stumbled upon the film set which our friendly guard had assumed we were part of. Not daring to stop, we simply crossed the middle. You can’t sneak when you’re powered by a 4.8-liter V8, so we waved at the food truck, smiled at the stars and nodded to the director before hoping no one rang the bell. alarm before returning to exit.

We could see the guard was on the phone as we approached the barrier and thoughts of breakfast at the Bastille rivaled calculations as to what percentage of the car would pass under the scratched post. Then, miraculously, the barrier rose. About a mile later we started laughing and I think we laughed most of the way to Calais.

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