Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps

The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps (French pronunciation: [siʁkɥi spa fʁɑ̃kɔʁʃɑ̃]), informally referred to as Spa,[1][2] is a 7.004 km (4.352 mi) motor-racing circuit located in Francorchamps, Stavelot, Wallonia, Belgium, about 8 km (5.0 mi) southeast of Spa. It is the current venue of the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix, hosting its first Grand Prix in 1925, and has held a Grand Prix every year since 1985 except 2003 and 2006.

Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps

LocationStavelot, Belgium
Time zoneCET (UTC+1)
Coordinates50°26′14″N 5°58′17″E / 50.43722°N 5.97139°E / 50.43722; 5.97139
FIA Grade1 (GP)
2 (Motorcycle)
6R (Rallycross)[a]
OpenedAugust 1921; 102 years ago (1921-08)
ArchitectJules de Thier & Henri Langlois van Ophem
Major eventsCurrent:
Formula One
Belgian Grand Prix (intermittently 1925–1970, 1983–present)
Intercontinental GT Challenge
Spa 24 Hours (1924–1934, 1936, 1938, 1948–1949, 1953, 1964–present)
FIA World Endurance Championship
6 Hours of Spa (1953, 1963–1975, 1981–1990, 1999–present)
FIM Endurance World Championship
24H Spa EWC Motos
(1973–2001, 2022–present)
TCR World Tour (2023)
European Le Mans Series
(2004–2011, 2016–present)
Grand Prix motorcycle racing
Belgian motorcycle Grand Prix (1949–1979, 1981–1986, 1988–1990)
FIA World Rallycross Championship
World RX of Benelux (2019, 2021–2022)
Race of Belgium (2005, 2014)
World SBK (1992)
DTM (2005, 2020, 2022)
FFSA GT Championship (1998, 2008, 2013–2015, 2019, 2021–2022)
Grand Prix Circuit (2007–present)
Length7.004 km (4.352 miles)
Race lap record1:46.286 (Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W09, 2018, Formula One)
Motorcycle Circuit (2022–present)
Length6.985 km (4.341 miles)
Race lap record2:20.578 (Sylvain Guintoli, Suzuki GSX-R1000, 2023, FIM EWC)
Grand Prix Circuit (2004–2006)
Length6.976 km (4.335 miles)
Race lap record1:45.108 (Kimi Räikkönen, McLaren MP4-19B, 2004, Formula One)
Grand Prix Circuit (1995–2003)
Length6.968 km (4.330 miles)
Race lap record1:47.176 (Michael Schumacher, Ferrari F2002, 2002, Formula One)
Grand Prix Circuit with chicane at Eau Rouge (1994)
Length7.001 km (4.350 miles)
Race lap record1:57.117 (Damon Hill, Williams FW16B, 1994, Formula One)
Grand Prix Circuit (1981–1993)
Length6.940 km (4.312 miles)
Race lap record1:51.095 (Alain Prost, Williams FW15C, 1993, Formula One)
Grand Prix Circuit (1979–1980)
Length6.947 km (4.317 miles)
Race lap record2:48.800 (Gordon Spice, Ford Capri III 3.0S, 1979, Group 1)
Old Circuit (1939–1978)
Length14.100 km (8.761 miles)
Race lap record3:13.400 (Henri Pescarolo, Matra-Simca MS670B, 1973, Group 5)
Original Pre-War Circuit (1921–1938)
Length14.982 km (9.310 miles)
Race lap record5:04.100 (Hermann Lang, Mercedes-Benz W125, 1937, GP)

Spa also hosts several other international events including the 24 Hours of Spa, the World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. It is also the host of the Uniroyal Fun Cup 25 Hours of Spa, one of the longest motor races in the world.

The circuit has undergone several redesigns through its history, most extensively in 1979 when the track was modified and shortened from a 14.100 km (8.761 mi) circuit using public roads to a 6.947 km (4.317 mi) permanent circuit due to safety concerns with the old circuit.[3]

Track configurations edit

Original layout edit

The original 14.982-kilometre (9.309 mi) track layout

In 1918, German headquarters were in Spa, and in 1919, the Treaty of Versailles separated the Eupen-Malmedy region from Prussia and the German Empire. Between January and June 1920, a plebiscite was held, without a secret ballot and under other questionable circumstances. As a result, the Transitional Government prepared for the unification of Eupen-Malmedy with Belgium in June 1925.

Jules de Thier, owner of the Liège newspaper La Meuse, was looking for a site to host a race, and following a meeting at the Hotel des Bruyères in Francorchamps, with burgomaster Joseph de Crawhez and racing-car driver Henri Langlois van Ophem, it was decided that the roads from Spa-Francorchamps to the former German Malmedy, to Stavelot, and back towards Francorchamps constituted an ideal triangle-shaped circuit with few tight corners and long fast sections.[4] Eau Rouge creek was the Belgian-German Empire border[5][6] until 1920, with the Ancienne Douane customs office being rather recent than ancient. After passing through former German Bürnenville, the track crossed the former border again halfway on the road between Malmedy and Stavelot, at the junction of the Meiz road. In Stavelot, there was a sharp right-hander, later replaced with a sweeping bypass.

The quicker 14.1-kilometre (8.8 mi) track layout used from 1939–1978

The track's inaugural race was planned for August 1921, but was cancelled when only one driver entered.[4] The first car race was held at the circuit in 1922, and 1924 saw the first running of the now famous 24 Hours of Francorchamps race.[4] The circuit was first used for Grand Prix racing in 1925.[4]

The original Spa-Francorchamps circuit was essentially a speed course, with drivers managing higher average speeds than on other road race tracks. At the time, the Belgians took pride in having a very fast circuit, and to improve average speeds, in 1939 the former Ancienne Douane slow uphill U-turn after the bottom of the Eau Rouge creek valley was cut short with a faster sweep straight up the hill, called the Raidillon. In public traffic until 2000, 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 grandstands, rejoining the race track at the bottom of Eau Rouge. Around 2001, a new bypass road N62c was built to the East, and the track was closed to the public as the road from Stavelot to Blanchimont became a cul-de-sac.

The old race track continued through the dynamic Kemmel curves (straightened in 1979) to the highest part of the track (104 m (341 ft) above the lowest part), then went downhill into Les Combes, a fast, slightly banked downhill left-hand corner towards Burnenville, passing this village in a fast right hand sweep. Near Malmedy, the Masta straight began, which was only interrupted by the Masta Kink between farm houses before arriving at the town of Stavelot. Then, the track progressed through an uphill straight section with a few bends called La Carriere, going through two high-speed turns (the former being an unnamed right-hand turn, and the latter named Blanchimont) before braking very hard, for the Bus Stop chicane that was added later, and for La Source hairpin, that rejoined the downhill start finish section (as opposed to today where the start–finish section is before La Source).

Eau Rouge and Raidillon in 1997, with a maximum gradient in excess of 18%

Spa is located in the Belgian Ardennes countryside, and the long old circuit was, and for most parts still is, used as an everyday public road, and there were houses, trees, electric poles, fields and other obstacles located right next to the track. Before 1970, there were no safety modifications of any kind done to the circuit and the conditions of the circuit were, aside from a few straw bales, virtually identical to everyday civilian use. Former Formula One racing driver and team owner Jackie Oliver was quoted as saying "if you went off the road, you didn't know what you were going to hit".[7]

Spa-Francorchamps was the fastest road circuit in Europe at the time,[when?] and it had a reputation for being dangerous and very fast – it demanded calmness from drivers, and most were frightened of it. The old Spa circuit was unique in that speeds were consistently high with hardly any let-up at all for three to four minutes. This made it an extraordinarily difficult mental challenge, because most of the corners were taken at more than 290 km/h (180 mph) and were not quite flat – every corner was as important as the one before it. If a driver lifted the throttle more than expected, then whole seconds, not tenths, would be lost. The slightest error of any kind carried multiple harsh consequences, but this also worked inversely: huge advantages could be gained if a driver came out of a corner slightly faster.

Like the Le Mans circuit, which also ran on public roads, Spa became notorious for fatal accidents. At the 1960 Belgian Grand Prix, two drivers, Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey, were killed within 15 minutes (although Stacey's accident was caused by a bird hitting him in the face) and Stirling Moss had crashed at Burnenville during practice and was severely injured. When Armco crash barriers were added to the track in 1970, deaths became less frequent, but the track was still notorious for other factors. The Ardennes forest had very unpredictable weather and there were parts where it was raining and the track was wet, and other parts where the sun was shining and the track was completely dry. This factor was a commonality on long circuits, but the unpredictable weather at Spa, combined with the fact that it was a track with all but one corner being high-speed, made it one of the most dangerous race tracks in the world (if not the most). As a result, the Formula 1 and motorcycle Grands Prix and 1000 km sportscar races saw smaller than usual fields at Spa because most drivers and riders feared the circuit and did not like racing there. Multiple fatalities during the 1973 and 1975 24 Hours of Spa touring car races more or less sealed the old circuit's fate, and by 1978, the last year Spa was in its original form, the only major races held there were the Belgian motorcycle Grand Prix and the Spa 24 Hours touring car race; the 1000 km World Sportscar Championship race no longer took place after 1975 and did not come back until 1982. [citation needed]

In 1969, the Belgian Grand Prix was boycotted by the F1 drivers because of the extreme danger of Spa. There had been ten car racing fatalities in total at the track in the 1960s, including five in the two years previous. The drivers demanded changes made to Spa which were not possible on short notice, so the Belgian Grand Prix was dropped that year. Armco barriers were added to the track and sections of it were improved (especially the Stavelot and Hollowell sections), just like they had been added for the 1969 Le Mans race. One last race there the following year on the improved track was still not satisfactory enough (even after a temporary chicane was added at Malmedy just for that race) for the drivers in terms of safety, and even with the chicane, the drivers averaged over 240 km/h (150 mph) during the race. For the 1971 race, the track owners and authorities had not brought the track up to date with mandatory safety measures, and the race was cancelled. Formula One would not return to Spa until 1983 on the modern track.

Masta Kink edit

Map of the old and new (2004–2006) Spa circuits, overlaid

The Masta Kink "was by far the most difficult corner in the world", according to Jackie Stewart,[8] requiring skill and bravery in equal measure to get it right. After a long run from Malmedy, the cars would reach top speed before having to negotiate Masta, a high speed left-right chicane, and a good exit speed was vital as it was followed by another long straight run to Stavelot. This was a very fast and very dangerous corner, as it was situated right in the middle of two long unbroken straights, both about 1.5 mi (2.4 km) long. The speed in this sector could reach 310 km/h (190 mph).

Masta was removed from F1 racing after the 1970 season. Jackie Stewart's crusade to improve safety in racing was set in motion by his crash there in 1966, when his BRM ended upside-down in a ditch near a farmhouse on the outside of the corner, with fuel gushing out of the tank onto Stewart, who had broken ribs. At this point, many of the Formula One drivers disliked Spa (including Stewart and Jim Clark, who had some of his greatest wins there) because of the immense speeds that were constant on the track. While he was spectating at the 1972 12 Hours of Sebring, Stewart attempted to organise a boycott of the Spa 1000 km race that year, a move that was not respected by many of the drivers, because Spa was still popular with racing drivers outside of Formula One. Stewart later described the old Spa circuit in 1986 as being as "ferocious as a tiger", and he later described Masta in an interview in 2011 as perhaps the hardest corner on any racetrack he raced on in his career; even more so than Eau Rouge.[9]

A Porsche 904 GTS turning into La Source in 1965

Another particularly gruesome story comes from the 1972 24-hour touring car race.[10] During one of his pit stops at night, Hans-Joachim Stuck shouted to his co-driver Jochen Mass over the noise from the cars that he should "look out for body parts at the Masta Kink". Mass arrived there expecting to see pieces from cars all over the road but was appalled to discover it was in fact the remains of a marshal.[11]

After Masta, and at the end of the subsequent Hollowell Straight, there used to be a sharp hairpin at the entrance to the town itself, which was later 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.

Eighteen Formula One World Championship Grands Prix were run on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit's original configuration, which was boycotted by F1 in 1969,[12] before the revised circuit banished it to the history books in 1979. The lap record of the old triangle-shaped track is 3 minutes and 13.4 seconds, held by the French driver Henri Pescarolo, driving a Matra at the 1973 Spa 1000 km World Sportscar Championship race at an average speed of 262 km/h (163 mph), but the fastest ever recorded time of the old Spa circuit was the pole position time for the same race—3 minutes and 12.7 seconds by Jacky Ickx in a Ferrari 312PB.

New layout edit

A satellite view of the modern circuit

Over the years, the Spa course has been modified several times. The track was originally 14.982 km (9.309 mi) long, but after World War II, the track underwent some changes. In 1930, the chicane at Malmedy was eliminated and bypassed, making the course even faster, but the chicane was re-installed in 1935, albeit slightly different. In 1939, "Virage de l'Ancienne Douane" was eliminated and cut short, thus giving birth to the Eau Rouge/Raidillon uphill sweeping corner. In 1947, the chicane at Malmedy was again eliminated and bypassed, and was made part of the Masta Straight. The slight right-hander that was originally Hollowell (the corner before Stavelot after the second Masta Straight) was eliminated. And finally, instead of going through a slight left-hander that went into the town of Stavelot and a sharp right-hander at a road junction in Stavelot, a shortcut was built that became a very fast, very wide right-handed turn that bypassed Stavelot. All these changes made the final configuration of the old Spa circuit 14.100 km (8.761 mi) long, and also made Spa the fastest open road circuit in the world. In the final years of the old circuit, drivers could average 240 km/h (150 mph). The biggest change, however, saw the circuit being shortened from 14.100 to 6.947 km (8.761 to 4.317 mi) in 1979. The start/finish line, which was originally on the downhill straight before Eau Rouge, was moved to the straight before the La Source hairpin in 1981. Like its predecessor, the new layout is still a fast and hilly route through the Ardennes where speeds in excess of 330 km/h (210 mph) can be reached. Since its inception, the place has been famous for its unpredictable weather, where drivers are confronted with one part of the course being clear and bright while another stretch is rainy and slippery.

The "Raidillon" in the Eau Rouge valley
Red water ("Eau rouge" in French) on the banks of the river close to the circuit

Eau Rouge edit

The most famous part of the circuit is the Eau Rouge and Raidillon combination. Having negotiated the La Source hairpin, drivers race down a straight to the point where the track crosses the Eau Rouge stream for the first time, before being launched steeply uphill into a sweeping left-right-left series of corners with a blind summit. Properly speaking, the Eau Rouge corner is only the left-hander at the bottom. The following right-hander that leads steeply uphill, which was introduced in 1939 to shortcut the original Ancienne Douane hairpin, is called Raidillon [fr]. The corner requires an amount of skill from the driver to negotiate it well and the long Kemmel straight ahead produces good overtaking opportunities for drivers at the following "Les Combes" corner. The corner was tighter and narrower before 1970, allowing drivers to take the corner faster.

Double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso explained:

...You come into the corner downhill, have a sudden change [of direction] at the bottom and then go very steep uphill. From the cockpit, you cannot see the exit and as you come over the crest, you don't know where you will land. It is a crucial corner for the timed lap, and also in the race, because you have a long uphill straight afterwards where you can lose a lot of time if you make a mistake. But it is also an important corner for the driver's feeling. It makes a special impression every lap, because you also have a compression in your body as you go through the bottom of the corner. It is very strange – but good fun as well.[13]

A challenge for drivers has always been to take Eau Rouge/Raidillon flat out. Touring cars can take the corner at 160–180 km/h (99–112 mph), and Formula One cars at over 300 km/h (190 mph) due to high downforce.[14] World Champion Jacques Villeneuve once spoke of the effects of downforce, saying that to get through the corner the drivers have to drive faster, because downforce increases the faster a race car goes. Without lifting the throttle through Eau Rouge, a car would be flat out from La Source, along the Kemmel straight to Les Combes, a total distance of 2.015 km (1.252 mi).

A loss of control through this section can often lead to a very heavy shunt, as usually the rear end of the car is lost and the resulting impact is often lateral. Several famous racing drivers have crashed while driving through Eau Rouge/Raidillon, including Stefan Bellof in a Porsche sportscar, Guy Renard during the 1990 24h of Spa-Francorchamps in a Toyota Corolla GT, and Alex Zanardi in a season-ending crash during a practice session of the 1993 Belgian Grand Prix in a Lotus. Jacques Villeneuve suffered a spectacular crash at the top of Raidillon in qualifying during the 1999 Belgian Grand Prix which he described as "My best-ever crash". His teammate Ricardo Zonta followed Villeneuve by having a similar accident later in practice, leading cartoonist Jim Bamber to show BAR boss Craig Pollock telling Zonta: "Jacques is the quickest through Eau Rouge, so go out there and do exactly what Jacques does…" It was revealed later that Villeneuve and Zonta had a personal bet to see if either could take the corner flat out.[15]

Following the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994, the following F1 races saw the introduction of chicanes made up from stacked tyres. The entry to Eau Rouge was obstructed in such a way in 1994, although it was returned to its previous configuration the following year. The corner was slightly modified for the 2002 Belgian Grand Prix.

When fans first got to see the course configuration at the start of the weekend of the 2005 Turkish Grand Prix, they noted that an uphill kink on the back straight was very similar to Eau Rouge; the kink was therefore jokingly dubbed "Faux Rouge" (a pun on the name of the original Spa corner using the French word "faux", meaning "false").[16]

Video of the Kemmel Straight

Blanchimont edit

The Blanchimont high-speed left-hand turn, present in both the old 14.100 km (8.761 mi) circuit and the new, shorter, 7.004 km (4.352 mi) track, is the final sweeping corner of the track before the chicane, which leads to the pit straight.

This turn and the approach to it have been the scene of serious accidents over time, the most recent being in 2001, when Luciano Burti lost the front wing of his Prost due to a clash with Eddie Irvine's Jaguar, losing front downforce and steering, leaving the track at 298 km/h (185 mph) and piling into the tyre wall, the impact knocking him out and burying the car into a mound of tyres. Problems have also occurred in lower classes of racing with Tom Kristensen having a very violent crash in a Formula 3000 car in 1997 after running wide on the entry to the Blanchimont turn and subsequently hitting the wall, throwing the monocoque back out in the middle of the track, where it was hit by numerous cars before coming to a complete halt.[17]

The run-off area is narrower than in other turns taken at this speed, and behind the protective barriers there is a 7–8 metre drop. This is the first turn taken by the cars after the new track rejoins the route of the old 14.100 km (8.761 mi) track. Blanchimont was also the scene where in 1992 after Érik Comas had crashed heavily during Friday's session, Ayrton Senna stopped, disembarked his car and sprinted to help the injured driver, with other cars driving past at racing speeds.

Jacky Ickx corner edit

From the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix turn 11 has been called the Jacky Ickx corner as a tribute to his career.[18] The corner was formerly known by most drivers as "speakers corner" because the circuit's public address announcer could see the cars for the first time after the cars disappeared into the forest past Raidillon. There are two versions of Jacky Ickx as of 2022, the car turn and a turn inside of it for motorcycles.

Problems and renovations edit

Due to the introduction of the Television Without Frontiers Directive (1989),[19] tobacco advertising and sponsorship on television were banned within the European Union from 1991. Formula One faced a major threat regarding races in its historical European heartland. Due to these political and legislative circumstances, the Grand Prix at Spa 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, and thus it was saved for the 2004 Formula One season. The final Bus Stop chicane was reprofiled for 2004 with an additional sweep to the right.

Spa was dropped from the Formula One calendar in 2006. The organiser of the event went bankrupt in late 2005, and therefore the planned improvements to the race track and paddock had not yet been made. The Wallonia government stepped in and provided the necessary funds, but too late for the 2006 race to take place.

Redevelopment for the 2007 season edit

With a new financial backer, the renovation started on 6 November 2006 and finished in May 2007, costing around €19 million.[20] Formula 1 returned to Spa for 2007, with a modified track layout. The Bus Stop chicane was moved back towards Blanchimont and the La Source hairpin moved forward. This allowed more space for the new pit lane, and gave a longer start/finish straight.

Modifications edit

New asphalt runoff was added to the inside and outside of Les Combes for the 2010 race, in line with the prevailing trends at other Formula One circuits. Prior to the 2013 race, drainage grooves were cut into the asphalt on the start–finish straight, underneath the first 11 grid slots. Drivers were initially concerned[citation needed] that this would affect grip at the start.

Eau Rouge and Raidillon safety concerns edit

In Spa Francorchamps' tenure as a permanent racing facility, after it was removed from the public road network in 2000, there have been multiple accidents in the Eau Rouge/Raidillon combination. In the day and age where safety is paramount to many racing organizations and governing bodies like the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, these crashes, of which some noteworthy ones are listed below, opened up public debate whether the Eau Rouge/Raidillon combination was deemed unsafe. Criticism centred around the nature of the tyre barrier and run-off area of Raidillon, which tended to bounce out-of-control cars back onto the track rather than collect them.[21]

In October 2020 the circuit announced that gravel traps would be placed at La Source, Raidillon, Blanchimont, Les Combes and Stavelot. The runoff areas of some corners including Raidillon would be expanded. It was part of an €80 million upgrade to the circuit that would make it able to hold motorcycle races. The upgrade will also include a grandstand at the top of the Eau Rouge/Raidillon hill. The upgrades were completed in March 2022, ready for the FIM Endurance World Championship race, due to be held in June. The circuit is also shortened to 6.985 km (4.340 mi), as Jacky Ickx corner is bypassed in favour of a shorter section with more runoff for motorcycles.[22][23]

Fatal crash of Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert in 2019 edit

During the Formula 2 feature race in late August, a serious incident between Anthoine Hubert and Juan Manuel Correa occurred shortly after Raidillon on the Kemmel Straight. As the second lap began, Trident driver Giuliano Alesi lost control of his car as he climbed the Raidillon curve due to a puncture he had received earlier, causing his car to spin and hit the left wall of the circuit, tearing off his rear wing and spreading debris onto the track. As another Trident driver, Ralph Boschung reached the crest of Raidillon, he slowed down and moved towards the run-off area to avoid Alesi's damaged car and the field of debris. Hubert, who was following Boschung closely and had no view of what had happened to Alesi, moved right to avoid Boschung's slowing car, clipping Boschung's right rear wheel with his front wing. Hubert's car crashed into the tyre barrier on the right side of the track at an acute angle and was deflected sideways into the path of Charouz driver Juan Manuel Correa, who struck it on the left side in the driver seat area.[24]

The incident resulted in the death of Hubert and serious injury to Correa with the feature race being abandoned and the scheduled sprint race a day later being cancelled too, whilst the Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix went ahead.

2021 W Series and Formula One incidents edit

During the qualifying session of the W Series, rain started to fall, affecting the grip. This caused a serious incident that involved six cars crashing into each other. Sarah Moore was the first driver to lose control of her car, spinning into the barrier at Raidillon. Abbie Eaton also lost the car and spun into the same barrier. She bounced back into Moore at low speed. Beitske Visser lost the rear end, spun around and went straight into Eaton and Moore, causing Eaton to become airborne. Ayla Agren did the same as Visser, spinning and running into Moore and an airborne Eaton. Belén García then hit all four cars, causing Visser to become airborne and mount the tyre barrier. The final car of Fabienne Wohlwend then hit Beitske Visser head on, causing Visser to spin into the track and roll over.[25][26] The incident ended with cars all over the track and run off areas. All drivers were checked as a precaution, and Visser and Agren were sent to hospital for x-rays and further checks.[27] Eventually, all drivers were cleared and unharmed.[28]

Just one day after the W Series crash, Formula One held its qualifying session in heavy rain. In the third segment of qualifying, many drivers were complaining that the conditions were not safe and that the session should be delayed or red flagged. Lando Norris then had a snap of oversteer, and subsequently corrected but then aquaplaned into the tyre barrier at Raidillon. His McLaren then spun into the track while crossing the racing line.[29][30] Norris was taken to hospital for x-rays, but was cleared to race the next day.[31]

After this crash and the W Series incident just a day before, drivers from all series were calling for changes to that section of the track. Jack Aitken, who a month earlier suffered a broken collarbone and fractured vertebra after a crash at Raidillon in the 2021 24 Hours of Spa, said "everyone has gotten the picture of what needs changing"[32] on social media, regarding the W Series crash. Zhou Guanyu stated "Eau Rouge corner in Spa needs to making a change,"[33] while Pietro Fittipaldi said "they need to do something to Eau Rouge to make it safer."[34] Carlos Sainz Jr. insisted the "corner maybe needs a bit of fine-tuning still."[35] Sacha Fenestraz, Jake Hughes, Daniel Ricciardo and Toto Wolff all agreed changes need to be made immediately to make the circuit safer.[36][37][38][39]

Fatal FRECA crash of Dilano van 't Hoff edit

On 1 July 2023, a multi-car crash in the second race of the 2023 Formula Regional European Championship resulted in the death of Dutch racing driver Dilano van 't Hoff.[40] The crash happened at the exit of the Raidillon corner, at the beginning of the Kemmel straight. Dilano lost control of his MP motorsport car at the exit of the Raidillon corner, hitting the barrier on the left side of the track. The car was bounced back in the middle of the track, after which Adam Fitzgerald hit the cockpit of the car on drivers right side at full speed. Poor visibility due to heavy rain prevented the Irish racing driver from reacting in time to avoid the collision. Other drivers involved in the crash were Joshua Dufek, Emerson Fittipaldi Jr., and Enzo Scionti.

Other incidents edit

Multiple other incidents have happened at the Eau Rouge/Raidillon section of the circuit. These include crashes for Kevin Magnussen in 2016, where he managed to walk away with only minor injuries;[41] Pietro Fittipaldi in 2018, where he broke his leg[42] and Jack Aitken in 2021, where he broke his collarbone.[43] In May 2023, during the Franco Fun Festival, the driver Olivier Parigi, who was driving the car #508, crashed and died. According to a statement of the organizers "Excessive speed and then a loss of control on his own in the Speaker Corner. Minor accident but a chain of circumstances after breaking away in the car were fatal to our friend during his stay in Liège hospital."[44]

Redevelopment for the 2022 season edit

Ahead of the 2022 FIM EWC 24H Spa EWC Motos race and 2022 F1 Grand Prix, the circuit underwent a major facility and safety facility redevelopment which had been planned since 2020. Extra run-off was added to the Eau Rouge/Raidillon part of the course – changes made in response to several big accidents in recent years at that section of the track, including the fatal accident of Anthoine Hubert during the 2019 Spa-Francorchamps Formula 2 round.[45] In addition, gravel traps were added to and modified at various corners around the circuit including: La Source, Les Combes, Speaker's Corner, Pouhon, Stavelot and Blanchimont.[46][47] The track has also been resurfaced for this year's event altering track grip levels, with Max Verstappen the first driver to run a Formula One car around the renovated circuit in a Red Bull RB7.[48] Jarno Zeffelli, head of Dromo Circuit Design, the company who carried out the renovations, revealed twenty possible different iterations of Eau Rouge were evaluated, with the selected iteration chosen with the help of form of ex-Formula One drivers Thierry Boutsen and Emanuele Pirro and fine tuned with simulations for Formula One and GT cars.[49]

Spa-Francorchamps is part of the 2023 Formula 1 calendar.[50]

Other racing series edit

Besides Formula 1 other races in different motorsports classes are hosted at Spa-Francorchamps. The most notable ones are the FIA World Endurance Championship, FIM Endurance World Championship, European Le Mans Series, Intercontinental GT Challenge, GT World Challenge Europe, FIA Formula 2 Championship, FIA Formula 3 Championship, FIM Endurance World Championship, Sidecar World Championship, International GT Open and previously the FIA World Rallycross Championship, DTM, ADAC GT Masters and the WTCC. The most famous long-distance and sports car races are the Spa 24 Hours and the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. The circuit also hosts a 25-hour and 24-hour races for Citroën 2CV cars.[51]

Former events

Layout history edit

Lap records edit

The unofficial all-time track record set during a race weekend is 1:41.252, set by Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance, during final qualifying for the 2020 Belgian Grand Prix.[52][53] The official lap record for the current circuit layout is 1:46.286, set by Valtteri Bottas during the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix. As of September 2023, the fastest official race lap records of the modern Spa-Francorchamps circuit for several top series have been listed as:[54]

Category Time Driver Vehicle Event
Modern Grand Prix Circuit with New Pit Lane and Bus Stop Chicane: 7.004 km (2007–present)
Formula One 1:46.286[54] Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+ 2018 Belgian Grand Prix
GP2 1:56.731[54] Sergio Pérez Dallara GP2/08 2009 Spa GP2 round
LMP1 1:57.394[54][55] Mike Conway Toyota TS050 Hybrid 2019 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
FIA F2 1:59.871 Jack Doohan Dallara F2 2018 2023 Spa F2 round
Formula Renault 3.5 2:00.928[54][56] Jules Bianchi Dallara T12 2012 Spa Formula Renault 3.5 Series round
LMH 2:02.327[57] Kamui Kobayashi Toyota GR010 Hybrid 2023 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
LMP2 2:04.155[54][55] Pastor Maldonado Oreca 07 2019 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
LMDh 2:04.906[57] Richard Westbrook Cadillac V-Series.R 2023 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
Auto GP 2:04.921[54][58] Romain Grosjean Lola B05/52 2010 Spa Auto GP round
GP3 2:06.456[54][59] Daniil Kvyat Dallara GP3/13 2013 Spa GP3 round
FIA F3 2:06.865 Logan Sargeant Dallara F3 2019 2020 Spa F3 round
FTwo (2009–2012) 2:07.722[54][60] Markus Pommer Williams JPH1 2012 Spa FTwo round
Class 1 Touring Cars 2:08.715[54][61] René Rast Audi RS5 Turbo DTM 2020 2020 Spa DTM round
Euroformula Open 2:09.738[62] Yifei Ye Dallara 320 2020 Spa Euroformula Open round
LMP3 2:13.407[63] Wayne Boyd Ligier JS P320 2023 Spa Le Mans Cup round
International Formula Master 2:13.513[54][64] Fabio Leimer Tatuus N.T07 2009 Spa Formula Master round
LM GTE 2:13.658[54][65] Kévin Estre Porsche 911 RSR-19 2021 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
LMPC 2:14.933[66] Franck Lagorce[67] Oreca FLM09 2009 Spa Formula Le Mans Cup round
GT1 (GTS) 2:15.423[68] Oliver Gavin Chevrolet Corvette C6.R 2009 24 Hours of Spa
Renault Sport Trophy 2:15.795[69] Pieter Schothorst [nl] Renault Sport R.S. 01 2016 Spa Renault Sport Trophy round
GB3 2:16.176[70] Luke Browning Tatuus MSV-022 2022 Spa GB3 round
GT3 2:16.252[71] Miguel Ramos McLaren 720S GT3 2020 Spa International GT Open round
Formula Regional 2:16.438[72] Hadrien David Tatuus F.3 T-318 2022 Spa FREC round
Formula Renault 2.0 2:18.441[73] Matevos Isaakyan Tatuus FR2.0/13 2015 Spa Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 round
Lamborghini Super Trofeo 2:18.893[74] Loris Spinelli Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo Evo2 2022 Spa Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe round
Porsche Carrera Cup 2:21.706[75] Ayhancan Güven Porsche 911 (992) GT3 Cup 2021 Spa Porsche Carrera Cup Germany round
Formula 4 2:22.522[76] Rafael Câmara Tatuus F4-T-421 2022 Spa Italian F4 round
Ferrari Challenge 2:23.129[77] Thomas Fleming Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo 2023 Spa Ferrari Challenge Europe round
SRO GT2 2:23.301[78] Anders Fjordbach Brabham BT63 GT2 2022 Spa GT2 European Series round
JS P4 2:23.894[79] Mihnea Stefan Ligier JS P4 2023 Spa Ligier European Series round
Eurocup Mégane Trophy 2:25.504[80] Mirko Bortolotti Renault Mégane Renault Sport II 2013 Spa Eurocup Mégane Trophy round
TC1 2:26.579[54][81] Yvan Muller Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 2014 FIA WTCC Race of Belgium
Formula BMW 2:30.020[82] Jazeman Jaafar Mygale FB02 2009 Spa Formula BMW Europe round
TCR Touring Car 2:30.858[54][83] Santiago Urrutia Audi RS 3 LMS TCR 2019 Spa TCR Europe round
GT4 2:31.312[84] Antoine Potty Toyota GR Supra GT4 2022 Spa GT4 European Series round
ADAC Formel Masters 2:31.463[85] Jason Kremer Dallara Formulino 2013 Spa ADAC Formel Masters round
JS2 R 2:33.449[86] Mathieu Detry Ligier JS2 R 2022 Spa Ligier European Series round
Super 2000 2:33.788[87] Franz Engstler BMW 320 TC 2014 FIA WTCC Race of Belgium
Alpine Elf Europa Cup 2:34.453[88] Jean-Baptiste Mela Alpine A110 Cup 2021 Spa Alpine Elf Europa Cup round
Stock car racing 2:34.795[89] Ander Vilariño Chevrolet Camaro NASCAR 2012 Spa Racecar Euro Series round
Renault Clio Cup 2.49.236[90] Alexandre Finkelstein Renault Clio R.S. V 2023 Spa Renault Clio Cup Europe round
Motorcycle Circuit with Modified Speaker's Corner Curve: 6.985 km (2022–present)[91]
FIM EWC 2:20.578[92] Sylvain Guintoli Suzuki GSX-R1000 2023 24H Spa EWC Motos
Modern Grand Prix Circuit with Modified Bus Stop Chicane: 6.976 km (2004–2006)
Formula One 1:45.108 Kimi Räikkönen McLaren MP4-19B 2004 Belgian Grand Prix
Formula Renault 3.5 2:06.447[93] Miloš Pavlović Dallara T05 2006 Spa Formula Renault 3.5 Series round
LMP1 2:06.626[94] Jamie Davies Audi R8 2004 1000 km of Spa
GP2 2:07.563 Alexandre Prémat Dallara GP2/05 2005 Spa GP2 round
F3000 2:08.457[95] Marco Bonanomi Lola B02/50 2006 Spa Euroseries 3000 round
LMP2 2:08.781[96] Miguel Angel Castro Lola B05/40 2006 1000 km of Spa
DTM 2:13.134[97] Mika Häkkinen AMG-Mercedes C-Klasse 2005 2005 Spa DTM round
Formula 3 2:13.844[98] Lewis Hamilton Dallara F305 2005 Spa F3 Euro Series round
GT1 (GTS) 2:15.598[99] Jamie Davies Maserati MC12 GT1 2005 24 Hours of Spa
FIA Group 2 2:19.704[100] Marc Goossens Chevrolet Corvette C5-R 2004 24 Hours of Spa
Formula Renault 2.0 2:20.758[101] Scott Speed Tatuus FR2000 2004 Spa Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup round
N-GT 2:23.052[102] Romain Dumas Porsche 911 (996) GT3-RSR 2004 24 Hours of Spa
GT2 2:23.862[99] Emmanuel Collard Porsche 911 (996) GT3-RSR 2005 24 Hours of Spa
FIA Group 3 2:28.231[100] Xavier Maassen Dodge Viper Competition Coupe 2004 24 Hours of Spa
Porsche Carrera Cup 2:29.871[103] Wolf Henzler Porsche 911 (996) GT3 Cup 2004 Spa Porsche Supercup round
Formula BMW 2:30.983[104] Chris van der Drift Mygale FB02 2005 Spa Formula BMW ADAC round
Super 2000 2:32.302[105] Frank Diefenbacher SEAT Toledo Cupra 2004 Spa ETCC round
Modern Grand Prix Circuit with Original Bus Stop Chicane: 6.968 km (1995–2003)
Formula One 1:47.176 Michael Schumacher Ferrari F2002 2002 Belgian Grand Prix
F3000 2:07.133[106] Sébastien Bourdais Lola B02/50 2002 Spa F3000 round
LMP900 2:08.074[107] Tom Kristensen Audi R8 2003 1000 km of Spa
GT1 (Prototype) 2:12.058[108] Bernd Schneider Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR 1997 FIA GT Spa 4 Hours
Group C 2:12.167[109] Robbie Stirling Lola T92/10 1997 Spa Interserie round
GT1 2:16.978[110] Thierry Boutsen Porsche 911 GT1 1996 4 Hours of Spa
LMP675 2:17.051[111] Mirko Savoldi Lucchini SR2002 2002 FIA Sportscar Championship Spa
GT1 (GTS) 2:18.745[112] Andrea Piccini Ferrari 550 GTS Maranello 2002 24 Hours of Spa
FIA Group 2 2:22.940[113] Pedro Lamy Chrysler Viper GTS-R 2003 24 Hours of Spa
GT2 2:26.077[114] Jean-Pierre Jarier Porsche 911 GT2 1998 Spa FFSA GT round
N-GT 2:26.379[115] Andrea Bertolini Ferrari 360 Modena N-GT 2003 24 Hours of Spa
Super Touring 2:30.780[116] Peter Kox BMW 318is 1995 Spa STW Cup round
Silhouette racing car 2:31.642[117] Vincent Radermecker Opel Astra Coupé Silhouette 2001 Spa French Supertouring round
Super 2000 2:33.596[118] Andy Priaulx BMW 320i 2003 Spa ETCC round
Porsche Carrera Cup 2:34.014[113] Peter Scharmach Porsche 911 (996) GT3 Cup 2003 24 Hours of Spa
Group N 2:47.241[119] Thierry Tassin Honda Integra Type R 1998 Spa 24 Hours
Modern Grand Prix Circuit with Modified Eau Rouge Chicane: 7.001 km (1994)
Formula One 1:57.117 Damon Hill Williams FW16B 1994 Belgian Grand Prix
GT1 2:26.440[120] Anders Olofsson Ferrari F40 GTE 1994 4 Hours of Spa
F3000 2:32.388[121] Tarso Marques Reynard 94D 1994 Spa F3000 round
Super Touring 2:32.780[122] Johnny Cecotto BMW 318is 1994 Spa STW Cup round
Modern Grand Prix Circuit with Original Bus Stop Chicane: 6.940 km (1981–1993)
Formula One 1:51.095 Alain Prost Williams FW15C 1993 Belgian Grand Prix
Group C 2:06.211[123] Mauro Baldi Mercedes-Benz C11 1990 480 km of Spa
F3000 2:06.940[124] Pedro Lamy Reynard 92D 1993 Spa F3000 round
Formula Two 2:16.810[125] Geoff Lees Ralt RH6/81 1981 Spa F2 round
500cc 2:26.110 Kevin Schwantz Suzuki RGV500 1989 Belgian motorcycle Grand Prix
World SBK 2:29.890[126] Doug Polen[b]
Fabrizio Pirovano[b]
Ducati 888 SBK[b]
Yamaha FZR1000[b]
1992 Spa World SBK round
Jaguar Sport 2:31.420[127] Cor Euser Jaguar XJR-15 1991 Spa Jaguar Intercontinental Challenge round
250cc 2:32.060 Anton Mang Honda NSR250 1988 Belgian motorcycle Grand Prix
Group A 2:35.040[128] Anders Olofsson Nissan Skyline GT-R 1992 24 Hours of Spa
Group B 2:36.260[129] Uwe Alzen Porsche 911 Carrera RSR 3.8 1993 24 Hours of Spa
125cc 2:55.740 Hans Spaan Honda RS125R 1989 Belgian motorcycle Grand Prix
80cc 2:58.240 Stefan Dörflinger Zündapp 80 1984 Belgian motorcycle Grand Prix
Modern Grand Prix Circuit without Bus Stop Chicane: 6.947 km (1979–1980)
Group 1 2:48.800[130] Gordon Spice Ford Capri III 3.0S 1979 24 Hours of Spa
500cc 2:49.250[131] Kenny Blake Yamaha YZR500 1979 Belgian motorcycle Grand Prix
250cc 2:50.080 Eduard Stöllinger [de] Kawasaki KR250 1979 Belgian motorcycle Grand Prix
125cc 3:01.280 Jean-François Lecureux Morbidelli 125 GP 1979 Belgian motorcycle Grand Prix
Old Grand Prix Circuit: 14.100 km (1939–1978)
Group 5 sportscars 3:13.400[132] Henri Pescarolo Matra-Simca MS670 1973 1000km of Spa
Group 5 3:14.600[133] Jo Siffert Porsche 917K 1971 1000km of Spa
Formula One 3:27.400 Chris Amon March 701 1970 Belgian Grand Prix
Group 6 3:37.100[134] Brian Redman Porsche 908 LH 1969 1000km of Spa
Group 2 3:49.400[135] Chris Amon BMW 3.0 CSL 1973 24 Hours of Spa
500cc 3:50.300[136] Barry Sheene Suzuki RGA500 1977 Belgian motorcycle Grand Prix
Group 3 4:04.500[137] Phil Hill Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe 1964 500 km of Spa
250cc 4:05.400 Walter Villa Harley-Davidson RR250[138][139][140] 1977 Belgian motorcycle Grand Prix
Group 5 touring cars 4:11.200[141] Chris Tuerlinx [de] Chevrolet Camaro 1969 24 Hours of Spa
Sidecar (B2A) 4:13.500 Rolf Steinhausen Busch-Yamaha sidecar 1977 Belgian motorcycle Grand Prix
Group 1B 4:19.000[142] Loek Vermeulen Chevrolet Camaro Z28 1978 24 Hours of Spa
125cc 4:22.200 Angel Nieto Morbidelli 125 GP[143][144][145][146] 1977 Belgian motorcycle Grand Prix
Sports car racing 4:44.000[147] Giuseppe Farina Ferrari 375 MM 1953 Spa 24 Hours
50cc 5:07.400 Eugenio Lazzarini Kreidler 50cc GP[148][149][150][151] 1977 Belgian motorcycle Grand Prix
Pre-war Grand Prix Circuit: 14.58 km (1939)
GP 5:19.900[152] Hermann Lang Mercedes-Benz W154 1939 Belgian Grand Prix
Pre-war Grand Prix Circuit: 14.95 km (1934–1938)[153][154]
GP 5:04.700[155] Hermann Lang Mercedes-Benz W125 1937 Belgian Grand Prix
Pre-war Grand Prix Circuit: 14.86 km (1930–1933)[156]
GP 6:00.000[157] Tazio Nuvolari Maserati 8CM 1933 Belgian Grand Prix
Original Grand Prix Circuit: 14.98 km (1920–1929)
GP 6:51.200[158] Antonio Ascari Alfa Romeo P2 1925 Belgian Grand Prix

In popular culture edit

As the long-time home of the Belgian Grand Prix and its location within the Ardennes forests it has been a popular backdrop for all kinds of fictional media, from appearances in comics and motion pictures,[159] to regular appearances in dozens of video games going back into the 1980s.

Tour de France edit

The circuit has been used several times in the Tour de France cycling race. In 1980, the circuit was part of an individual time trial stage, won by Bernard Hinault (Renault–Gitane); while in 1989, several laps of the circuit were completed before the finish of the third stage,[160] which was won by PDM–Ultima–Concorde's Raúl Alcalá. In 2017, the circuit was used as part of the third stage, starting in Verviers, Belgium and ending in Longwy, France.[161]

Climate edit

The area of Spa-Francorchamps is often rainy or having cool air temperatures, which has led to Formula One events such as the 1998 14-car pileup on a waterlogged track and the dramatic finish to the 2008 event, when rain fell during the last few laps after an all-dry race. The Royal Meteorological Institute runs weather stations both in Stavelot and in Malmedy, which both show similar oceanic climates with some interior influence. Although temperatures generally often stay above freezing in winter, snowfall is quite common. During summer, temperatures most often remain in the low 20s, with frequent cloud cover and showers. With the World Endurance race running in spring and the Formula One race in late summer, hot temperatures during high-profile events are very rare. Even so, the annual warmest temperature averages above 31 °C (88 °F).[162] The official Spa weather station is located at a similar elevation as the race track a few miles north and yields similar conditions to the Stavelot and Malmedy stations. Summer may nights may get rather chilly, but stay above frost during the prime season for the circuit.

Climate data for Spa (1991–2020 normals; extremes since 1950)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 14.5
Mean maximum °C (°F) 9.8
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 3.9
Daily mean °C (°F) 1.5
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) −0.9
Mean minimum °C (°F) −8.4
Record low °C (°F) −20.0
Average precipitation mm (inches) 100.3
Average precipitation days (≥ 1 mm) 14.6 13.3 13.2 10.2 12.2 12.0 12.3 12.1 11.1 12.3 14.2 16.6 154.1
Mean monthly sunshine hours 53 72 124 174 195 202 211 201 154 108 58 42 1,594
Source 1: Royal Meteorological Institute[163]
Source 2: Infoclimat[162]
Climate data for Stavelot (1981–2010 normals; sunshine 1984–2013)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 3.4
Daily mean °C (°F) 0.9
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) −1.8
Average precipitation mm (inches) 115.1
Average precipitation days 15.1 13.1 15.1 11.8 12.5 12.6 12.5 11.7 12.1 12.5 14.9 15.9 159.8
Mean monthly sunshine hours 45 69 113 159 185 181 197 188 133 102 49 34 1,453
Source: Royal Meteorological Institute[164]
Climate data for Malmedy (1981–2010 normals; sunshine 1984–2013)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 3.0
Daily mean °C (°F) 0.5
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) −2.1
Average precipitation mm (inches) 123.6
Average precipitation days 15.3 13.3 15.1 11.9 12.6 12.9 12.7 11.9 12.2 12.7 15.0 15.9 161.4
Mean monthly sunshine hours 44 68 111 158 184 179 195 186 132 100 47 34 1,437
Source: Royal Meteorological Institute[165]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps's Grade 6R licence expired 31 December 2022 for its rallycross layout.
  2. ^ a b c d Both riders took the same lap time independently.

References edit

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