Belgian F1 Grand Prix
Circuit Information Page
Location: Francorchamps Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
Start Time - Local : 14:00 - GMT : 12:00
Lap : 7.004kms / 4.352miles | Race : 44 laps (308.052kms / 191.410miles) | Offset : 0.124kms
The Circuit :
Whenever motor racing fans gather to discuss the merits of Formula One over Indy Car racing one corner of a single circuit can usually silence the Indy Car fans - Eau Rouge at Spa. Although it can be described as a stretch of road that goes downhill and then uphill left, right, and left Eau Rouge is much more than that. To many purists it encapsulates the essence of Grand Prix racing as it tests drivers' skill, nerve and commitment - all in a matter of seconds.
In the 1920s two people, one the Chairman of the Sports Commission at the RACB (Royal Automobile Club Belgium) and the other a manager of a newspaper linked the roads between Malmedy, Stavelot and Francorchamps. The triangle roads created a 14km race circuit. The first event was cancelled due to just one car being registered for the race. However in 1922 motorcyclists started using the track layout and in 1924 the now famous 24 Hours of Francorchamps was held. After World War II in 1947 racing became popular again. Motorcycles, single seaters and occasionally the 24 Hours of the RACB were held on the long 14km track. In 1939 an artificial curve was made in Francorchamps - the " raidillon " or steep rise was to be passed at a very high speed. The circuit was made into one of the fastest tracks in Europe. This long track was shortened in the 1970s, due to safety concerns amongst the racers, and a new 7km was formed. When the new Spa circuit opened in 1974 for the annual 24-Hour race there were strong worries that the circuit would be nothing more than a shadow of the old eight mile blast through the Ardennes. Fortunately the new sections had been built in character with the original and Spa is now universally acknowledged as the finest circuit visited by the Grand Prix circus.
A Quick Lap:
From the start, the corner at La Source comes very quickly and is a hairpin that is taken in 2nd gear at around 40 mph after which drivers have two long straights that are separated by Eau Rouge - which amounts to a small kink in the circuit. Accelerating to 180 mph along the first section, Eau Rouge can be taken in 6th gear with only a slight loss of speed (165 mph) as it goes downhill and then uphill left, right, and left. Cars exit at Raidillon and then encounter the fastest part of the course along the Kemmell straight at 190 mph.
As the track bears round slowly to the right, there exists good overtaking possibilities at Les Combes due to the wide run-off areas. The right-left combination chicane is taken in 3rd gear and 85 mph and is exited at Malmedy, which is a right-hander taken at 100 mph. Rivage is a virtual hairpin which, due to being off camber and downhill, causes cars all sorts of steering problems. It is approached in 4th gear at 155 mph, taken in 2nd at 60 mph and exited in 3rd at 110 mph. Out of Rivage the cars sweep along a short straight at 155 mph before the track veers left at 90 mph and on to Pouhon at 100 mph, a double left-hander. Also off camber, it is entered and exited in 4th gear at an average of 140 mph. On exit, cars power through the gears to 180 mph before slowing at Fagnes - a right-left chicane which is taken in 3rd gear at 100 mph.
Stavelot is a double right-hand loop, turning the cars through 180 degrees as they go downhill. Entered in 3rd with 4th (135 mph) being engaged in the middle, but it is bumpy and cars tend to skip about a bit as cars speed-up to 150 mph on exit. Blanchimont is a long, sweeping left-hander taken full-out in 6th gear at 185 mph. With the Start-Finish line almost in sight, Bus Stop Chicane appears, a sharp right-left-right chicane that slows the cars right down to a 2nd gear 45 mph before they emerge on to the pit straight at 170 mph.