What a pity that the article about Nivelles in your December 2002 issue missed the real background and history of this former Formula One circuit.
When my father designed Nivelles, it included the most up-to-date safety installations, urgently required as Spa was getting too dangerous. Of course, these two circuits cannot be compared: Spa was a traditional driver’s track with a great history but claiming too many lives; Nivelles was the modern alternative that was never completed.
The complete design of Nivelles included an extension in the form of a second big loop at the point where the hairpin comes back on the main straight, making the circuit about one mile longer. In addition, the two loops were to be linked to make a fast ‘oval’, albeit with irregular corners around the complex. The simple 180-degree return was only supposed to be used as a shorter ‘test’ circuit.
The owners announced the plans for the circuit too early (before buying the complete site). When they wanted to buy the second part for the extension, the price had gone up and they couldn’t afford to complete the original plan. With that, and a lack of finance, its future was doomed. When the neighbours started to complain about noise, the decision was made easy for the local council.
If Nivelles had been a success, with revenues coming into the local economy, it would never have been closed down.
I raced at Nivelles in the early 1970s and it was an interesting and fast circuit; with the extension it would have been even better and more technical.
We must not forget that too many circuits are designed to fit a plot of land that is really too small to include all the buildings, parking and still have an interesting design. Here, a bad strategy by the owners and a lack of money caused it to fail.
I am, yours etc, John Hugenholtz, via E-mail
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