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Spa-Francorchamps

GrandPrix Circuit Belgium 2006.png
Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps
Location Spa, Belgium
Events Formula One; Spa 24 Hours; 1000km Spa; GP2; F3; DTM
Length km 6.968
Length mi 4.333
Turns 21
Record time 1'45.108
Record driver Kimi Räikkönen
Record team McLaren Mercedes
Record year 2004
The old version of the circuit used between 1957 and 1978.

The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is the famous venue of the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix and the Spa 24 Hours endurance race. It is considered to be one of the most challenging race tracks in the world, mainly due to its fast, hilly and twisty nature. The circuit features one of the most famous and dangerous sections of any racing track in the world, the Eau Rouge complex. Spa is a favourite circuit of many racing drivers and fans.

The track

The triangle

Designed by Jules de Their and Henri Langlois Van Ophem, the original 15 km (9.3 mile) triangle shaped- course used public roads between the Belgian towns of Francorchamps, Malmedy and Stavelot. The Belgian Grand Prix was held at Spa-Francorchamps for the first time in 1924.

Back then, the Belgians took pride in having a very fast circuit, and to improve average speeds, the former slow uphill U-turn at the bottom of the Eau Rouge creek valley, called the Ancient Douane, was cut short with a faster sweep straight up the hill, called the Raidillon. Until 2000, it was possible to travel over the race track when it was still a public road. At Eau Rouge, southbound traffic was allowed to use the famous uphill corner, while the opposite downhill traffic had to use the old road and U-turn behind the grand stands, rejoining the race track at the bottom of Eau Rouge.

The old race track continued after Les Combes towards Burnenville, passing this village in a fast right hand sweep. Near Malmedy, the Masta straight begins, which is only interrupted by the fast Masta Kink between farm houses before arriving at the village of Stavelot. Here used to be a sharp turn in the village itself, which was bypassed by a quicker, banked right hand corner. Another fast section of road in the forest leads to Blanchimont. Here, the new short Grand Prix track of 1979 joins the old layout, which was boycotted by F1 in 1968 for the first time.

New layout

Over the years, the Spa course has been modified several times and today it has been shortened to 6.9 km (4.3 miles) and is a fast and hilly route through the Ardennes where speeds in excess of 330 km/h can be reached. Since inception, the place has been famous for its unpredictable weather. Frequently drivers confront a part of the course that is clear and bright while another stretch is rainy and slippery.

Drivers and fans alike love races at Spa-Francorchamps. A dull race at Spa is very rare, and most drivers today say that the course is one of the two most challenging race tracks in the world (alongside Japan's Suzuka Circuit).

The circuit probably demonstrates the importance of driver skill more than any other in the world. This is largely due to the Eau Rouge and Blanchimont corners.

Eau Rouge

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The "raidillon" in the Eau Rouge valley

The most famous part of the circuit is the Eau Rouge / Raidillon combination. Having negotiated the La Source hairpin, drivers race down a straight before being launched steeply uphill into a sweeping left-right-left collection of corners (the first of which is the actual Eau Rouge bend, the rest of the climb being called Raidillon) with a blind summit. The challenge for drivers has always been to take Eau Rouge-Raidillon flat out, at speeds exceeding 300km/h. However, this is now considered rather normal thanks to modifications made to the circuit, and the high downforce of modern Formula One cars. Still, a loss of control in this section often leads to very heavy shunt as usually the rear-end of the car is lost and the impact is most of the times lateral.

Recent turmoil

Due to the introduction of a new legislatory order in Europe, new bans in tobacco advertising have been imposed and as of special case the Formula 1 is facing a major threat regarding this point. Due to this political and legislatorial circumstances the Grand Prix in this circuit was left out of the 2003 calendar as a response to the internal tobacco legislation in Belgium. The event was tagged as a World Class event within the national senate thus it was saved for the 2004 Formula One season. The section known as the Bus Stop chicane was reprofiled for 2004 with an additional sweep to the right. Some wondered whether it was possible to overtake at the new chicane, but in racing conditions it proved possible but difficult.

Spa was dropped from Formula 1 calendar in 2006. The organiser of the event went bankrupt in late 2005, and therefore the planned improvements of the race track and the paddock have not been made. The Wallonia government has stepped in and provided the necessary funds, but too late for the 2006 race to take place. The renovation will start on November 6 and will finish in 6 months time, costing around €18,85 million. [1]

The FIA has announced that the race on the track of Spa-Francorchamps is back on the 2007 Formula 1 calendar, with once again a slightly changed track layout. The Bus Stop chicane towards the end of the lap will move back towards Blanchimont and the La Source hairpin will move forwards more, to allow more space for the new pit/paddock complex. This will mean a longer start/finish straight.

See also

External links



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