1976 Belgian Grand Prix

It is interesting how time heals and you can get used to anything, for the Belgian Grand Prix was making its third visit to the little Zolder circuit in the Province of Limburg, yet it was only in 1973 that everyone stormed off from the circuit hoping never to return. The following year the “circus” settled happily at Nivelles-Baulers, but that great edifice subsided in financial ruin and a return was made to Zolder. Second time round everything was much better and all went well, so that everyone was happy to return to the little track once more, even though it resembles a Go-Kart circuit for 500 b.h.p. Formula One cars, in contrast to somewhere like Nürburgring or Monza. Its stop-startstop characteristics are very hard on brakes, even though there is no really heavy braking from ultra-high speed. It is not so much that there is anything particularly wrong with Zolder, it is just that there is not very much right with it, from the point of view of Grand Prix racing. For Formula One entertainment it is adequate and about all that some drivers and cars deserve, and if they do not know any better it is their loss, but there are better places for Grand Prix cars to run and for Grand Prix drivers to show their skill and ability. It is not the sort of place to set the adrenalin flowing in driver or spectator, but as it was warm and sunny it was enjoyable.

Some of the teams had already been “testing” at Zolder, while others were new to the place but it did not take long for everyone to get into the swing of things and the “roundy-round” of practice, though some did not go for very long. Lauda’s T2 Ferrari swallowed part of its injection system so he spent the rest of the day driving the uprated T1 car and similarly, Tom Pryce spent most of the day in the spare Shadow after his Cosworth engine broke in his normal car. With repositioned oil coolers on his McLaren, Jochen Mass was being troubled by overheating and Watson had the second Penske, with “chisel” nose cowling, die on him with fuel-feed trouble, so he continued in the spare older car with March-like front cowling. The Fittipaldi team had not really recovered from their Spanish debacle and a shortage of spare engines meant they could only run one car for Emerson Fittipaldi, keeping Hoffman’s car as a stand-by. The Ligier-Matra was going well and Laffite was on good form, while Hunt was out to make amends for his Spanish disqualification and was setting the pace, ending the morning session in a class of his own with a time of 1 min. 26.74 sec., no-one else being in the one-twenty-six bracket. The two six-wheeled Tyrrell cars were demonstrating that the idea was serious, Scheckter getting into the feel of the car very quickly and with Depailler one-hundredth of a second behind him he was third fastest of the morning session, behind Regazzoni who was upholding the Ferrari honours while his team-mate was in trouble. The Brabham team were experimenting with different types of air box, without making much apparent improvement, but Amon, running the new Ensign without an air box, was up among the front-runners.

Clay Regazzoni put his Ferrari second behind team-mate Lauda on the grid

Race Results

Qualifying

Circuit - Zolder

Country

Belgium

Location

Heusden-Zolder, Limburg

Type

Permanent road course

Length

2.648 (Miles)

Record

Rene Arnoux (Ferrari 126C4), 1m19.294, 120.221 mph, F1, 1984

First Race

1963 Zolder ETCC

3,415

Championships

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19,346

Results

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25,227

Drivers

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14,546

Teams

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920

Circuits

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