In the middle of the vineyards, at the foot of La Cadière-d’Azur, stands the Château Vannières. The song of the cicadas, nestled in the surrounding pine forests, barely disturbs the ambient tranquility. It was in this idyllic setting that Eric Boisseaux experienced the golden age of Formula 1 at the Circuit Paul-Ricard in the heart of the 1980s. Behind his blue-rimmed glasses, this enthusiast’s eyes sparkle when it evokes that golden period. “Another era, another eratake a smile. We had a great time. For an enthusiast like me, it was extraordinary. I was able to access that environment thanks to the circuit.”
Originally from Burgundy, Eric Boisseaux quickly developed a passion for motor sports. He then befriends the pilots and finds his place in this universe. Until his arrival in the Var. His family has owned the Vannières estate since 1956. While regularly traveling back and forth between Burgundy and the Var, the wine grower settled permanently in La Cadière in the 1970s. At this time when Paul Ricard he concretized his crazy idea of creating a circuit. on the Castellet plateau. “From the beginning, it was something extraordinary”remembers Eric Boisseaux.
Close to Jean-Pierre Beltoise (former driver), he very quickly integrated the microcosm of the circuit. “Everything was easier to access, we came back much easier”remember the sexagenarian.
Before delivering a first anecdote: “At the time, I had a truck, I’d take wine to the pits. I’d have a pass, I’d put mates on the back of the J7 and unload everybody. If one of us got stuck, he’d go out the side and always finish returning. If not, we had one pass and then did fifteen more on the photocopier, I still wonder how we could pass!
A time when safety standards were not the same. “I also remember one person who rented a truck and drove around the circuit in the emergency lanes and served snacks in the back. One year, Camel cigarettes set up a VIP area with an inflatable pool and gave out t-shirts. We go for a swim. watch the Grand Prix.”
When Marlboro changed its own game
Perfectly integrated into this universe, Eric has an idea. “When there were big races, he wanted to gather the riders at the estate and offer them their weight in wine. It was fun!” Very quickly, the appointment becomes institutionalized.
At the end of the 80s, under the impetus of Gérard Larousse (see next), who had launched his own stable, Château Vannières became the host of the evenings of the French Grand Prix. “We received 300 people, served on the plate in the patio”, remembers the master of the place. This was followed by an awards ceremony. “It was a very popular evening. So much so that Marlboro, who were having a party for the French Grand Prix in Bandol on Saturday evening, with all the F1 bosses, ended up calling me towards the end to ask if I was still I was doing it. my party on Saturday night and in that case, they’d change theirs to Friday! There, I said to myself, if Marlboro asked me to do that… it was a hit!”
The show Collaro a casa
party “good boy”, where it was not unusual to meet celebrities far beyond Formula 1. “I was very good friends with Stéphane Collaro, who was a TV star at the time. With all his team, there were ten of them! Here they stayed everywhere, at the pool, it was a bit like camping. They came for the four days and it was a bit of a party! We had some really nice afternoons.” Thus, at the bend of the castle’s swimming pool, you could also meet politicians like Jean Glavany, François Mitterrand’s chief of staff. “There were a lot of people I didn’t know personally. It was nice.”
The pilots themselves, even if they were “Much more relaxed than today, I haven’t been drinking.
On the other hand, it was not unusual to meet the ball aces during the day. “Getting off the circuit, around 4-5 p.m., the riders came home to bathe.”
Stars such as Patrick Tambay, Jacques Laffite, René Arnoux, Jean-Pierre Jarier, Yannick Dalmas have passed through the property.
Meet the pilots
Beyond Formula 1, Château Vannières becomes a true institution during every circuit event. “The drivers went to the hotel-restaurant chez Bérard in La Cadière, then they came to see me. Around every circuit, there are habits. That’s how word of mouth worked.” Out of season, it was also not unusual to meet some regulars on the circuits of the steps of Château Vannières. Guy Ligier came to sleep there between two test sessions in the winter. Another era.