While at the fantastic motor racing facility at Nivelles-Baulers I was weeping into my Stella Artois with the genial rally giant Erik Carlsson when he said, “I’m told this circuit is very safe and very good for Formula One. When all the circuits are as safe as this won’t the drivers find it rather boring, and when they do, what will they do then?” I didn’t know the answer to that one, but suggested that we had to keep the faith, and anyway all hope was not lost for we had the new Osterreichring. We kept the faith and 1983 has seen the return of Le Grand Prix de Belgique.
The circuit and all of its challenges were received with enthusiasm by everyone, and its deficiencies in details being unfinished were accepted. It was truly amazing that all the drivers loved the circuit it was a driver’s challenge and a satisfying one to accept and beat. Not a whine nor a whinge. Even in the pouring rain of Saturday’s practice they were out there revelling in it.
Many of the drivers of today were still at school when the last Grand Prix de Belgique was held in 1970, and none of them have suffered under the Jackie Stewart influence of the ‘sordid ’70s’. We are well into the ’80s with a whole new regime of grand prix drivers brought up on dull autodromes like Jarama and Paul Ricard, emasculated ones like Monza, ‘improved’ circuits like Zandvoort or Silverstone with their chicanes. or walled-in street racing like Long Beach or Detroit. Suddenly, in the midst of the most beautiful wooded and hilly countryside, a natural circuit on public roads is presented to them and as a man they yelled “yippee” and charged off down the hill to the Eau Rouge bridge.
Formula One is dying, to be replaced by grand prix racing. The faith has been kept. Grand prix racing is alive and well in 1983. – Yours. DSJ
Denis Jenkinson was our famous Continental Correspondent for more than 40 years