September 02, 2008

F1 On SPEED: BELGIUM, Man, BELGIUM!!!

From the world's only sterile street circuit at Valencia, the F1 Circus warily heads into the Ardennes Forest to race on what is probably the world's finest modern track: Spa-Francorchamps.  Spa has everything one could want from a race course... big elevation changes, high speeds, heavy braking, decent passing zones, and the constant threat of rain.  Let's take a look at the map:

Spa-Francopants is probably best known for the test of manhood and courage called "Eau Rouge."  Now, on the map it doesn't look like much, just a gentle kink to the left, followed by an arcing turn 3 leading to Raidillon, turn 4.  But looks can oft be deceiving.  You see, the run from about the pit exit to Eau Rouge is a steep uphill slope, with Eau Rouge near the crest of the hill.  This makes the turn completely blind, and only the best (or bravest, or craziest... your choice) drivers can take the turn flat-out without lifting off the gas.  Over the years, there have been some truly epic accidents here as cars make Eau Rouge, and lose it on turn 3. 

This doesn't mean, however, that the rest of the track is chopped liver.  Theres only a handful of turns that are taken at less than 100mph (18, 19, and 1, primarily), and the run from 12 down to those three is downhill, with Blanchimont being another test of courage. 

As you can imagine, this is a fast track.  That's good, because it's also the longest track on the calendar at almost 4.5 miles; a hypothetical "best possible" lap takes about 1m45sec.  However, because there are so many high-speed turns at Spa-Francoamerican, having a good amount of downforce is critical... one cannot just go for nothing but speed here.

Because Spa is so long, it's quite common to have rain falling (sometimes quite heavily) at one spot on the circuit, while it's completely dry at the opposite spot on the track.  There's a reason why the crew of F1 UPDATE call Spa "The Swimming Pool." 

Thankfully for all of us, the good folks at SPEED have a good set of water-wings and will be bringing us plenty of coverage of Michael Phelps Lewis Hamilton and the F1 gang!  First up will be live coverage of Friday's second practice from 7a to 840a.  Bring your snorkel and flippers, as the entire weekend has around a 60% chance of rain... which almost guarantees that it'll be raining on race day.

Saturday, from 7a to 830a, we get plausibly live coverage of Quals.  Will Ferrari be able to cope with the cool weather that their car seems to hate so much, or will McLaren or BMW step up and take pole? 

Then Sunday from 630a to 9a, we've got the Grand Prix of Belgium live and in color, brought to you by the Legendary Announce Team.  It should be a fun one (as opposed to the bland dullness of Valencia), even in the dry... Spa-Francoisstilldead is just that good!

Of course, the F1 UPDATE! crew will be there... here... whatever for all of it!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 07:12 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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1 I just found it on Google Maps, and it looks like the sections from 15 to 1 and maybe also from 1 to 5 are used as real roads when there are no races. Am I interpreting that right?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 02, 2008 07:37 PM (+rSRq)

2

Up until 2000, the answer would have been yes.  After that, though, the track is dedicated entirely to racing only.

The track used to be nothing but public roads, back in the day... but, then, it also used to be almost 10miles long, too.

Posted by: Wonderduck at September 02, 2008 08:03 PM (UdB9M)

3 As I may have commented on here in the past, it certainly was, on a family holiday many years ago there were roadworks nearby, which meant that we were diverted onto the track, and thus became one of the few people ever to drive through Eau Rouge with a caravan behind us.

Posted by: flotsky at September 04, 2008 12:50 AM (cnPFe)

4 Yes, but did you take it flat-out?

Posted by: Wonderduck at September 04, 2008 06:55 AM (AW3EJ)

5

It may have looked something like this.

Posted by: Will at September 04, 2008 06:28 PM (WnBa/)

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