Driving The Original Belgian Grand Prix Circuit + A Great Place To Watch The Race

TODAY: driving the original Belgian Grand Prix circuit + a great place to watch the race.

Also, another car-jacking in Spain. A Latvian gang is busted for stealing BMWs en-masse in Northern Ireland. Overnight maintenance starts at the Gotthard Tunnel next month. New EU emissions regs will see a Barfleur sized hole in Brittany Ferries’ timetable next year. Truck queues at the Serbia-Croatia border crossing show no signs of abating. And, a video from Dover detailing recent and upcoming improvements at the port.

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DRIVING THE OLD SPA FRANCORCHAMPS CIRCUIT

Most of the original circuit remains, on roads open to the public.

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Bearing in mind its fearsome reputation, it’s surprising that the original Spa Francorchamps circuit survived basically unaltered until 1978.

Apart from some Armco barriers installed in 1970, and a few corners trimmed here and there over the years, the track that held that year’s Spa 24 Hours was the more or less the same one that hosted the same race in 1922.

The first 9.3 mile circuit was roughly in the shape of a triangle between the villages of Francorchamps in the north, Malmedy in the east and Stavelot in the west.

The three points were connected by more or less flat out straights. Even in 1937, Herman Lang lapped at an average 110mph. By 1973 Henri Pescarolo had bumped that up to 163mph, too fast for modern motor sport. F1 had already departed in 1969 after a decade in which ten drivers had died at Spa. The current version, now 4.3 miles long, was unveiled in 1981.

Where the new circuit hangs hard right for the plunge down to the Rivage hairpin, the old circuit went left in a sweeping S curve on what is now the N62 towards Malmedy.

N62 doubles back on itself through the town at a roundabout but, straight on, the now N68 is the first part of what was the Masta straight where 1960’s Grand Prix cars hit 190mph.

The famous Masta Kink – where Jackie Stewart ended up upside down, drenched in petrol, in a farmhouse basement in 1966 – has been slightly smoothed off now but the original profile remains, at the same point, around the outer edges of the layby just before the little hamlet.

Those wanting to be truly historically accurate would stay on N68 until the T-junction in Stavelot then turn right onto Route de l’Eau Rouge. Otherwise, about two hundred yards before, fork right onto (the one-way) Pont de Cheneux, a tightish right hand curve added just after WW2.

Route de l’Eau Rouge heads back through woodland towards the current circuit via the former La Carriere curves.

But for wire fencing and an admission gate it would meet the modern layout at Courbe Paul Frere, ahead of the magnificent full-throttle Blanchimont.

Drivers these days have no choice but to U-turn over the little Eau Rouge stream and make their way back to Stavelot.

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Kimi Raikkonen from the inside of the Rivage hairpin at the top of Spa Francorchamps circuit, Belgian Grand Prix 2013. Photo @DriveEurope.

Belgian Grand Prix, a great place to watch the race: even humble general admission ticket holders can – by craning their necks – watch the cars through Eau Rouge, or, as they sweep through the top speed Blanchimont then brake super late for the ace passing place Bus Stop chicane. Unsurpassed however, in our experience of Grand Prix tracks, is the view from inside the Rivage hairpin at the top of the circuit. There’s an unencumbered, close quarters view as the cars pop, spit, bang and grind their way around the outside. Fantastic. Here, Kimi Raikkonen, Belgian Grand Prix 2013. Photo @DriveEurope. Spectating top tip: those bringing their own seat should not forget bungee cords. Perfect for looping around the fence to rest ankles on. Feet take a real pounding around the hilly Spa Francorchamps circuit.

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roundup: SPAIN. Three armed car-jackers are on the run after holding up a vehicle containing two undercover police in Murcia last week. They escaped in a while Ford Focus, reg. XX 12 FMX, and a black Seat Leon, XX 53 FHC. The UK Foreign Office warned earlier this year about car-jackings in Spain. THEFT. 120 BMWs were allegedly stolen and dismantled in Northern Ireland ready to be shipped to Latvia. Four Latvian men have been charged. The gang reportedly employed a ‘sophisticated cross-border key cloning racket’. SWITZERLAND. The Gotthard Tunnel’s autumn maintenance starts in early September. For three weeks starting 8 September the tunnel will close Monday to Thursday overnight, 19:30-05:00. Alternatives include the A13 via Chur, the Gotthard Pass, or the Lukmanier Pass from Biasca. POOLE-CHERBOURG there will be a gap in the service from 16 March – 29 April next year as Brittany Ferries’ Barfleur has emissions-abating ‘scrubbers’ installed to conform with new EU rules. The ship actually returns on 16 May but the company will operate a fast ferry on the route over the early May Bank Holiday period. Meanwhile, Brittany Ferries has some tempting autumn package offers: 4-7 nights around northern Spain from £179pp including B&B, return crossings and cabin, two+car. SERBIA. After long delays over the weekend, most crossings are back to normal but the truck queue at the Batrovci crossing with Croatia reached twelve hours today.

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DOVER: a video from Port of Dover detailing recent and upcoming redevelopment at the port and how it will impact (and improve) the town. Fast forward to around 2m00 for the specifics at the port or read more here.

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GIBRALTAR FRONTIER WATCH: max 20mins during the day, up to 60mins in the evening.

CALAIS MIGRANT CRISIS PETITION: 3,215 signatures since 15.7. See @Justice4Trucker.

CONDOR FERRIES rescheduled services, Commodore Clipper on course to return 22 August.

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