Driving to the Belgian Grand Prix

At 325 miles from London, the Belgian Grand Prix is the second biggest British motorsport exodus after Le Mans, but there are more ways to get there than via the notorious Brussels ring road.

Comparing and contrasting routes via Brussels or Charleroi on the motorway, or cross-country on the hidden-gem N-road network, including the legendary Masta Kink.

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Fernando Alonso at Fagnes, Belgian Grand Prix 2013. Photo @DriveEurope

Fernando Alonso at Fagnes, Belgian Grand Prix 2013. There’s no better place than Spa to get an unimpeded view of the cars. More photos and map below. Photo @DriveEurope

If only the Belgian Grand Prix was held a couple of weeks earlier.

For most of the summer Belgian roads are quiet but by mid-August everybody is back at work and raring to go.

Last Friday, funnily enough, the R0 Brussels ring road saw its first proper traffic jam in more than a month.

But don’t worry, there is another way to the grand prix track at Spa Francorchamps, south of Liege in east Belgium, which misses out the capital city’s notorious ring road.

Like the A16 from Calais to the Belgian border, the A25 from Dunkirk to Lille is toll free too. Pick up the E42 at Lille and head east to Liege via Charleroi.

SatNavs send you the Brussels way because it’s shorter, 184 miles v 201 miles between Calais and Liege, but that advantage can be eaten up in a routine Brussels jam.

The A25-E42 way is not guaranteed congestion free either but since the major road works at Charleroi finished a few weeks ago it’s much more reliable.

If time is not tight consider N90 which runs parallel to E42 for the ninety miles between Mons and Liege.

The N roads are the hidden gems of the Belgian road network. Less isolated from the surrounding countryside, which becomes increasingly rolling the further east you go, and often dual carriageway, they are much less crowded, and less frenetic, than the motorways.

N90 is actually mainly single lane, with some 2+1 sections for overtaking, but the latter half especially, running beside the wide River Meuse, verges on the extremely pretty.

It even has sheer cliff faces to one side, believe it or not.

For those staying south of the track – e.g. the campsite at Les Coombes – the N4, from either E42 or N90 at Namur, could be handy.

This great road heads south east towards Bastogne, rolling along with fast sweeping corners through open country with only the occasional town or village to slow you down.

After 60km, head north east again on the N89 ‘Route de Beausaint’ at Journal towards Baraque Fraiture. This hits the historic N68 at Salm-Chateau after another 40km.

Turn left on N68 towards Trois Point which, after Stavelot, is the original grand prix circuit, complete with Masta Kink.

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R0 Brussels ring road (east>west): If you do go the Brussels way – and why not, this is the way the @MercedesAMGF1 team go - try to avoid it at rush hour, i.e. 07:30-09:30 and 15:30-18:30. Good luck!

R0 Brussels ring road (east>west): if you do go the Brussels way – and why not, this is the way the @MercedesAMGF1 team go – try to avoid it at rush hour, i.e. 07:30-09:30 and 15:30-18:30. Good luck!

No-one would call the E42 via Charleroi pretty exactly but, lined with trees, it is better looking than the E40 to Brussels, and - generally - significantly quieter.

No-one would call the E42 via Charleroi pretty exactly but, lined with trees, it is better looking than the E40 to Brussels, and – generally – significantly quieter.

N4 southbound from Namur to Bastogne. Enough said.

N4 southbound from Namur to Bastogne. Lovely fast sweepers like this more or less all the way.

N90 on the way into Namur, beside the River Meuse. The road takes you through the centre of many of the town and villages so at least you get to see some of Belgium.

N90 on the way into Namur, beside the River Meuse. The road takes you through the centre of most of the town and villages, so at least you get to see some of Belgium.

The main entrance to the circuit is off the E42 south from Liege via Verviers. Traffic management on practice, qualifying and race day means there’s only one way to go so don’t worry about directions. Try not to do what we did and think ‘official parking’ is the parking laid on by the circuit, as opposed to parking for officials which is what it really is…

The main entrance to the circuit is off the E42 south from Liege via Verviers. Traffic management on practice, qualifying and race days means there’s only one way to go so don’t worry about directions. Get there early; the queues can be massive. Try not to do what we did and think ‘official parking’ is the parking laid on by the circuit, as opposed to ‘parking for officials’ which is what it really is…

Spectator tip: can’t think where else spectators can get closer to F1 cars in action than from the inside of the Rivage hairpin at the top of the circuit. Nico Roseberg, 2013.

Spectator tip: can’t think where else spectators can get closer to F1 cars in action than from the inside of the Rivage hairpin at the top of the circuit. Nico Roseberg, 2013. Have fun!

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