Belgian Grand Prix 2017

We’re just back from a long weekend in Belgium where we went to see the Formula One Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.

Lewis won, Seb was close behind but this time avoided running into the back of him on a safety car restart, Daniel Ricciardo surprisingly grabbed third and my man, Kimi, fought back to fourth after serving a 10 second stop-start penalty for not slowing down under yellows for Max’s parked up Red Bull. Ocon and Perez bashed their pink Force Indias together twice and Bottas got squeezed out of a podium finish by Ricciardo and Kimi. Oh, and Alonso gave up and said his Honda power unit had packed up, though most probably he got bored with its lack of power and called it a day. The race was dry. And that’s the race report done, now for a quick account of our trip.

According to Google Maps Spa is nine and half hours drive from Kinver. In reality, with stops for coffee and fuel, waiting for our turn to board the train at the EuroTunnel and getting held up in traffic jams on motorways it took 11 hours each way. We bought the tickets last December and got a cheap early bird deal with CampingF1 which included general admission to the circuit and a pitch at their site which was about twenty minutes walk from the circuit.

For those who are interested, here is a walk through the campsite from our tent to the beer tent. (If you cannot see the five videos in this post, maybe you’re viewing this in your email. Switch to your internet browser instead)

Friday was spent travelling and trying to find the campsite, which should have been easier than it was. The directions I had printed off were to the 2016 CampingF1 site (I was not the only one to do this) and we spent a frustrating couple of hours driving around country lanes near the circuit being directed and redirected by police who had closed half the roads and had no idea where we wanted to go. But in the end we did find it at about 7 pm and got the tent up before having a bite to eat and a few drinks in the beer tent. That night there was thunder and lightening and lots of rain, much of which found its way into our tent, into our bags of clean dry clothes and onto us.

Saturday was overcast but dry and we spent it trying to walk the circuit. I wanted to walk right around with the idea of scouting out a good place to watch the race from. I knew that Spa was a beautiful circuit, situated in the Ardennes Forest, but I had no idea how great the elevation changes were and just how long it is (7km, 4.35 miles).

Our campsite was near the Les Combes entrance and we walked from there all the way down the Kemmel straight, past Eau Rouge and around in circles after the FanZone area at La Source.

Walking down the straight on Saturday.

Despite having an official map that showed public walkways we could not find a way either into the infield from near the pits, which is what we wanted, or around the back of the circuit from that end. We were not the only ones and I suspect the routes we were looking for had been closed off, maybe for security reasons or inadvertently. Anyway we watched qualifying from the FanZone village and saw some of the supporting races on Saturday afternoon from the Straight.

In the FanZone area where we resisted buying any merchandise at all! Eau Rouge in the distance.

The race on Sunday started at 2 pm but we like thousands of others arrived at the circuit early to get a good vantage spot. Having spent the whole of the previous day walking, we decided to watch from the free general admission grandstand near Malmedy. However, after half an hour sitting on the wooden benches without back rests we decided to chance our luck at finding a different location next to a fence to place our camping chairs and we went through the tunnel into the infield and found a place opposite a big screen at turn nine.

The free grandstand we rejected. It’s early and the sun has not quite broken through yet.

The following video shows what it was like getting to our favoured spot at about lunchtime. We had chosen this spot at about nine o’clock when we were able to claim a second row seat. You can see how many people arrived later.

And this is what we saw from there. Clearly not as much as you see on TV, but what we did get was the atmosphere.

They are saying that it was a record breaking crowd with the attendance over the three days being 265,000. If you have an aversion to crowds this was not the place for you, though everyone was very good natured, even all the Max fans in orange to me wearing my red Ferrari cap.

The GT86 was a joy to drive once again and returned 38.6mpg over the 933 miles, nearly all of them on motorways.

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