Spa: History Of A Tough Track

A few short
weeks ago, an article was written about the history of the legendary
Nurburgring, which is one of the most historical circuit tracks for motor
racing. This week, another famous course that has been around just as long and
it not too far away, lies on the other side of the Eifel Mountains in Belgium
that is named as a huge forest known as the Ardennes. This area was famous for
the World War II battle in 1944 as Battle of the Bulge, which turned the tide
for the Allied forces in their hunt to defeat Nazi Germany one year later.

But history
might be correct, but in the motor racing world, this is not the most important
thing as the track there that is named as Spa Franchorchamps not only holds the
formula one world championship, but other sports car, saloon car racing (which
is a competition that involves cars that you and I drive on the road) and the
famous six hours of Spa. The track used to be more than the required four miles
a lap, but years ago, it was known as an out in the wilds race that went many more
miles than it currently ran. The first race here was in 1921 and the track
pretty much remained the same until the late 1970’s.

At the end
of that decade, Spa was considered too dangerous to drive, and the owners of
the track decided to give the nation’s grand prix race to the Zolder track,
just miles away north in the town of Hasselt. The race there ran for a few more
seasons, until the fatal accident in practice for the grand prix in 1982 with
Gilles Villeneuve that made organizers return back to the Ardennes a few years
later, where it has hosted the race ever since.

If the race
with its long lap is not bad enough, then there is the difficulty of the
weather. Last season’s race was the exception of the fact, even if the first lap
crash caused by Frenchman Romain Grosjean did not change things, the weather
was just fine and for quite a while, the racers had great weather. However, normally
the track has had the occasional shower during the race, and the change of
weather can turn the race into a huge difference. This is the only race on the
formula one calendar where two drivers died on the same day as what happened in
1960 to Chris Barlow and Alan Stacey. Even three time world champion Jackie Stewart
crashed his car in 1966 at this track, prompting safety features to be
considered here. It never came to friction for a while, but a lot of good
history has come from this track as well. Take in consideration the famous pass
on the Kemmel straight by Mika Hakkinen in 2000, when the Finn overtook Michael
Schumacher and Riccardo Zonta , who was being lapped by both drivers.

comparison, the current track is only a third in distance to the very old
track, which went on for many more miles, but the change of this track was
mainly for the intent of safety purposes, and the track today is one of the
most safest in the history of the race.

If there is
ever a chance for the race fan to visit a grand prix track, many stand out like
Monaco, Suzuka, Silverstone, and of course, the Nurburgring and Monza, which is
the next race. Spa has to definitely line up with all of those, maintaining its
history as being one of the most popular of all circuits for the enjoyment of
drivers and fans alike.

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