With the racing done for the day we returned to the cabins for a rest, a shower and a drink. We couldn’t really agree what to do with ourselves and we were all absolutely shattered from two days of walking the hills of the racetrack, braced against the rain.
At first we elected to be boring and stay to enjoy the hospitality of the site, nothing wrong with that as they were all very friendly and welcoming. They’d laid on food and drink although it wasn’t quite what we’d had in mind, lots of big meatballs and frites were involved and the local generic lager. Rude not to enjoy some of both. Not the high cuisine of Europe some of our group may have expected.
The food filled a hole. The beer was a bit underwhelming though as it tasted like Carling or Fosters (boring, can get that at home) yet we were in this place of beer experimentation. A few of us were getting itchy feet, particularly Bassano, Gavin and myself. We hadn’t properly explored the town of Spa itself yet, and we wanted a drinking session. Two of us would be driving Monday so Sunday night couldn’t be heavy on drink, that meant it had to be this night. Sadly some of the others didn’t want to go anywhere.
The fact I struggle to remember details suggests we were successful.
You might remember I went to the Belgian Grand Prix last year with a group of people and I’d been writing a little diary of our adventures. Those updates had slowed to a halt… but it is time to finish off, here is the next instalment!
If you haven’t yet read the previous instalments you can start here, and there will be a summary post with links to both my write-ups and those of others.. eventually.
Saturday dawned much brighter and drier than the wet, grey days leading up to the weekend. After the very heavy rain of Friday it was a welcome relief. We had another lift in from ‘Bueb’ and had a bit of a longer walk today as he wasn’t willing to chance his luck with the police cordons.
For the first F1 session of the day – Free Practice 3 – we decided to climb the hill at Eau Rouge and find a place on Kemmel, the long straight, as most of the group hadn’t seen it yet and those of us who had were keen to see some F1 cars in the dry there. Whilst it was dry and partly sunny there were also dark clouds hanging around giving the place an ‘impending doom’ atmosphere. Literally the calm before the storm. The view looked even more amazing in these conditions.
Continued from Part 1. Apologies for the long gap between posts in this series, I was moving house. I know not everyone likes the format of “we did this, then we did this” so I’ll try and shake it up a bit, but ultimately I think it is unavoidable.
This wasn’t as impressive a viewing position as I’d hoped. The cars were too slow but this may have been due to them being Formula BMWs in the wet, but mainly you are so far away from the action it dilutes any sense of speed. Perhaps F1 cars in the dry are different. Perhaps I’d had enough of the incessant rain by now.
Photos: Formula BMWs at Les Combes, and the view back down the straight through the fence;
With a lull in track action I continued around the track to Rivage corner – you exit a gate at Les Combes then enter another just yards away having to scan your ticket twice, it all seemed a bit unnecessary to me, can’t they put in a path? Anyway this is where all the drunks hang out, it seemed like people had been drinking since morning and weren’t planning to stop yet – I ordered a coffee and was greeted with sarcastic jibes from the others at the counter and the servers too! Charming. Unlike some I actually wanted to remember the day and the experience of F1 cars on a live track, at these ticket prices not all of us can go every year.
No rain for a while now, the sun was even trying to break through although the track was very much still wet. It was turning into a really pleasant afternoon. I’m turning into such an old man. Looking towards Pouhon with yet more stunning views in the backdrop, the pits surrounded by the forest with the mist hanging in the air. Not a bad way to get back to nature.
Here are a few pictures from this location because it is a great place to be close to F1 cars, although I wouldn’t watch the race from here. Just the one big block of pictures in this post, don’t run away!
Photos: Great views at the top; Looking back up to the drunken happy fans; Mark Webber;
I also got a few videos at Rivage because it is a great spot to be up close to the cars, here is one of them:
A couple of lesser quality videos from the same spot are here and here until they surely get removed by copyright claim one day.
My main camera died at this point [cue cheers from the readers], I think the water got into it or the batteries died – I wasn’t impressed and had to switch to my phone so the photo quality is awful.
During the session I wandered down to Pouhon to meet Gavin and Guille who’d come over earlier in the day. They’d found shelter from the rain showers under a concrete toilet block of all things, there was a section under it which was a bit like castle ramparts, you could stand sheltered from the wind and most of the rain and still have a high up view of the track. And no before you ask, it wasn’t disgusting, the building was fully plumbed!
Pouhon corner itself was a tad underwhelming I thought, again like Les Combes this could have been down to the wet/damp track slowing the cars. Not much in the way of overtaking or of the out-and-out spectacle of speed. What you do get is a great appreciation of the way these cars take a corner so quickly particularly when Yamamoto is coming through with the back of his car constantly moving from side to side like it is about to throw him off the track – his was the only car that did this. The Red Bulls and McLarens were very much ‘planted’ through here but to be honest most of the cars were. Even the Lotus and Virgin cars didn’t look slow.
Again I was struck by how gorgeous this setting is. Look at all the trees and just the general ambience of the place. I love it. I started to get a little envious of the guys standing near me on General Admission tickets – we found unlike many Grands Prix it isn’t necessary to get a grandstand seat here.
GP2 qualifying was up next so we stuck around to watch it – cue yet another massive downpour! It had been dry for much of F1 Fp2 and even a dry line started to appear on the circuit, unfortunately for the GP2 guys the heavens opened practically as the green flag flew.
And that was it, track sessions over apart from some GP3 and Porsche Supercup but we elected to skip those practice sessions to get home, get warm, and get dry. It isn’t possible to overstate just how wet I got that day and I think every single one of the others was just as soaked through.
Photo: Returning from Pouhon to meet up with the others we passed under Eau Rouge as the clouds closed in;
We were all agreed that despite the conditions we all loved Spa-Franchorchamps and our first day at the circuit ‘proper’, whether we walked around or stayed in the stands it was excellent. There was a lot of grumbling about the weather and the cold from practically everyone (myself very much included) and it wasn’t comfortable in the slightest, yet writing this a few months later all that truly remains in the memory is an enjoyable day trackside at one of the greatest racing venues in the world.
Even so, the chance to dry off in the warm cabin with lots of takeaway pizzas was very welcome indeed. Indeed the clothes I wore on this day were still damp on Monday when we came to pack up and leave.
Come back soon for my recap of Saturday at the Belgian GP!
This post is part of my recap of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend and is about the Friday before the race. Please see Tues/Weds, Thursday Pt.1 and Pt.2. Once again I apologise for the lengthy delay.
Thursday’s pitlane walk had really got us in the mood to see some track action, unfortunately Friday dawned as one of the wettest in months. Nevertheless we got ourselves togged up in rain gear and wangled a lift to the circuit from the resident campsite owner / driver / breakfast-maker / barman / fixer – for a small fee of course. It was a damned sight better than paying for the far more expensive bus option with all the bogans*. We weren’t so convinced when we were told to get into the minibus with the benches laid out along the length with no seatbelts, but it was all good fun and turns out ‘Bub’ took a shine to us – more about him another time.
Francorchamps village was filled with race fans milling around in the general direction of the race track, and a long line of traffic – some of us tried to spot famous faces but no joy. Unfortunately there was a bit of drama at the gate as one of the tickets refused to scan, the water causing it problems, but thankfully after several attempts it worked and let us all through. Perhaps having paper tickets at a venue known for wet races is a bad idea?