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What to do about Spa?

11 months ago

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Writer:

Karun Chandhok | Racing driver

Date:

28 July 2023

Spa… The mere mention of the word determines whether you’re a motorsport person or not. If you are, you’re not thinking of hot tubs and saunas, but of Eau Rouge, Malmedy, Pouhon and Blanchimont. Its historical place in Formula 1 is matched only by Silverstone, Monaco and Monza, and today, enthusiasts from all over the world make the pilgrimage there for track days and to experience the joys of winding around the hills in the Ardennes forest.

I first went in 2003 when the British Formula 3 Championship made its annual trip to the continent. I remember it being my first trip through the ‘Chunnel’ as my race engineer Alan Woodhead and I set off from Brackley in my 1-litre Renault Clio. It was also my first time driving in Europe and as we pulled off the train in Calais, I said ‘I’m a bit confused about which way to go around the roundabout now.’ Needless to say, we pulled into the first fuel station and Alan drove the rest of the way.

I felt the magic as we drove into the circuit. It was the same tingling feeling I had when I first went to Suzuka and Monaco. These were the places where my heroes had become legends and, as a fan of the history of the sport, the significance of my first trip to the Belgian circuit wasn’t lost on me. We had all the madness of a Spa weekend – heavy rain and hail stones in the pits, with bone dry conditions up at the top. We used to line up on the old grid after La Source and ahead of one of the races, we couldn’t decide what setup to use. I distinctly remember Alan shouting down the radio at the mechanics ‘we’re out of time, just fucking put them in any order now,’ as the poor guys chased the Belleville washers for the front anti-roll bar down the hill towards Eau Rouge!

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