In a clear blue sky
It was going to be a superb Belgian Grand Prix, in fact, a real Grand Prix de Belgique South east Belgium was on its very best behaviour, the skies were clear, the sun was warm, the magnificent Spa-Francorchamps circuit was in perfect condition and practice had gone off splendidly. A lot of the fun of being at a Grand Prix is the anticipation before the start, like being at a bullfight before the first bull is let into the ring, or at a circus before the spotlights are turned onto the trapeze artists high up in the Big Top, or a Drag Race as two nitro-burning "rails" rumble up to the start-line. Anticipation is a wonderful thing, and can keep the adrenalin flowing and charge the body with energy. If you are one of the competitors it can give you 'butterflies in the tummy", if you are a mere spectator you can feel the hairs on the back of your neck tingling. It was just that way on May 25th as I waited in the spine-tingling dip at the Eau Rouge bridge.
Nelson Piquet was on pole position after a lap at over 135 mph on Saturday afternoon, but alongside him was the young, enthusiastic and hard-charging Gerhard Berger who had taken his Benetton (exTolernan) with BMW power round the circuit only 13 seconds slower than the Williams-Honda. In the same 1 min 54 secs bracket were Prost (McLaren-Porsche). Senna (Lotus-Renault), Mansell (Williams-Honda) and Fabi (Benetton-BMW). That these six drivers, with four very different conceptions of a Grand Prix car, could lap the Spa-Francorchamps circuit all within less than half a second, is one of those things that has always mystified me, and probably always will. Right behind this bunch were Arnoux (Ligier-Renault), Rosberg (McLarenPorsche), Alboreto (Ferrari) and Tambay (Lola-Ford), this last one being one of the notable things of practice and qualifying, like Berger's FTD on Friday afternoon, and second place overall. With Cosworth Engineering behind the new V6 Ford engine you just have to take it seriously, and from the accounts of Patrick Tambay and Alan Jones, the Lola-named chassis is more than up to the standard of the new engine, and the Belgian circuit with its high-speed corners, fast straights, steep climbs and equally steep descents, is one to sort out the chassis. while the engines have to be able to work really hard.