Spa-Francorchamps remains the most challenging venue on the Grand Prix calendar.
Spa-Francorchamps remains the most challenging venue on the Grand Prix calendar. A race circuit had been suggested at Spa as early as 1895 but did not become a reality until Jules de Thier designed a course in 1921. The original Spa-Francorchamps used the narrow public roads from La Source, through Malmedy, onto the Masta straight, before passing between the houses at the fearsome Masta Kink. A hairpin at Stavelot led to an equally fast return leg to complete the lap.
When the circuit was shortened for the 1979 24-hour race, there were worries that Spa-Francorchamps would be a shadow of its former self. But the new section was designed to match the character of the original. The old course, from the start at La Source through Eau Rouge and up the hill to Les Combes remains. A new link road was built across the valley to re-join the old circuit on the blast back to La Source.
Eau Rouge is considered by many to be the most demanding corner in Grand Prix racing. The weather in the area is notoriously fickle, often raining at one corner while dry at another. The safety issues raised by all of these factors led to the closing of the old circuit in the early 1970s. Stefan Bellof’s death during the 1985 sports car race robbed motor racing of an emerging talent and was a reminder of the dangers of any fast road course.