MotorSport Vision chief Jonathan Palmer has laid out his plans to turn his newly acquired French air force base into an expansive automotive complex for motor racing and high-speed road car driving.
Palmer confirmed earlier this week that he had successfully concluded negotiations for the freehold purchase of Laon-Couvron aerodrome, a former military airbase located five miles north-west of the city of Laon in the Picardy region of France, just north of Reims.
The site extends to 1263 acres and includes two former runways - one of which is 3000m long - together with extensive perimeter roads and apron areas.
A subsidiary company called MSV France will redevelop the army base into a motorsport village, Laon Autodrome, with the focus being a five-mile circuit that will feature a 1.5-mile main straight where top speeds in excess of 200mph will be possible.
The driving facilities will include a number of circuits as well as a 1000m asphalt oval track, drag strip, rally stages, 4x4 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.
Palmer - whose company already owns Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Snetterton, Cadwell Park and Bedford Autodrome in the UK – said the facility will be a mecca for drivers of supercars and other high-performance vehicles.
"Driving activity at Laon Autodrome will mainly feature high performance road car driving, with track days and manufacturer promotional events, but also a new PalmerSport Europe corporate/private driving event,” explained the former F1 racer. "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."
“Clever motor manufacturers are continuing to produce ever more brilliant super-high-performance cars and yet there is hardly anywhere to truly savour their amazing performance in safety and without excessive running costs.
“Laon Autodrome will be the perfect place with a very long straight to enable top speeds to be achieved, the exhilaration of fast sweeping corners to be enjoyed, but with no tight hairpins or chicanes which, though producing great overtaking on an F1 circuit, expensively stress and fade brakes on road cars.
“Of course there will be many other activities too, such as some racing and corporate events, but this will be the track’s unique selling point.
“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."
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.
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, with an expanded and rebuilt airbase opening 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 more than 1000 personnel there until the facility finally closed in 2012.