HISTORY OF THE CIRCUIT SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS

The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is a famous circuit that hosts the Belgian Formula One Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Spa endurance race. In addition, the circuit contains one of the most famous and dangerous passages of any circuit in the motor racing world, the Eau Rouge passage. The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is a favourite of many drivers and fans.

The original circuit

The original 15 km long triangular-shaped circuit was designed and constructed by Jules de Theire and Henri Langlois Van Ophem on public roads between the Belgian municipalities of Francorchamps, Malmedy, and Stavelot. The Belgian Grand Prix was first run here in 1924.

At that time, Belgians were extremelyproud ofhaving a very fast circuit. As a result of the increase in the average speed of the cars, a modification was made. The uphill corner at the exit of the Eau Rouge valley, called Ancienne Douane, was “removed”from the circuit. This created the faster curved corner of Raidillon. Until 2000, the circuit could still be used by the public as it was still a public road. At Eau Rouge, southbound traffic passed through this famous section. Traffic in the opposite direction used the Ancienne Douane, not used by racing. It returned to the track on the exit from the valley.

Circuit layout

The old circuit then continued along the Les Combes section towards the village of Burnenville. Around this village, the road took a fast right-hand curve. The long Masta straight began at Malmedy, interrupted only by the fast Masta curve between farmhouses before reaching the village of Stavelot.

The Masta was one of the scariest passages of any circuit in the world. Its successful passage required skill and courage on a sufficient scale. After a long drive from Malmedy, the cars reached top speeds. They had to negotiate the Masta, a fast left-right chicane, and a well-speed exit, followed by another long straight leading to the village of Stavelot.

Formula One lost Mast after the 1970 race, partly through its own fault. Jackie Stewart’s efforts to improve driver safety during the races were set in motion after his crash at this location in 1966 when his BRM ended up upside down in the basement of a house located near the track with fuel leaking from the car’s tank onto Stewart, who alsobroke his ribs. Another similar tragic incident happened here in 1973 during the Spa 24 Hours, killing three drivers.

The Mast was followed by the Hollowell straight, at the end of which was a sharp bend on the approach to the village of Stavelot itself, which was later replaced by a faster right-hander. The next fast section of the circuit led through the woods to Blanchimont. Here the shorter 1979 track joins the original circuit.

The original Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps was the site of 18 Belgian Grand Prix. It was boycotted by Formula One in 1968before a circuit redesign consigned it to history in the late 1970s. The record for the old circuit is held by French driver Henri Pescarolo, who achieved an average speed of 226 km/h here.

Raidillon in the Eau Rouge Valley

The new circuit

For 2007, a new pit lane and buildings were built for the entire paddock, and the famous Bus Stop passage was rebuilt, including the entrance to the finishing straight. In previous years, many modifications were made to the track, as well as shortening it to the current 7004 m. It is now a fast and hilly track through the Ardennes, where speeds often climb to 330 km/h. Since the early days of racing here, Spa-Francorchamps has also become known for its unpredictable and changeable weather. Among other things, there can be situations where one part of the track is dry while another part can have rain.

Fans and drivers love the races here, and a boring race here is very rare. Most current drivers say that, along with Suzuka in Japan, it presents one of the biggest challenges for drivers worldwide. Spa-Francorchamps itself demonstrates the importance of driver skill more than any other circuit. The Eau Rouge and Blanchimont corners, in particular, demonstrate this. Indeed, both have to be driven very steeply to make the exit onto the following long straights, which helps the drivers’lap times and overtaking.

Many Formula 1 drivers have had memorable battles and victories here, including Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill, Mika Häkkinen, and Kimi Räikkönen.

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