Six surprising facts
about Spa

Six surprising facts about Spa 01

The circuit used to feature a real bus stop
Even many of the drivers think that the ‘bus stop’ chicane at Spa is so-called because the cars negotiate it after heavy braking, at the speed of a bus. But the bus stop chicane used to be a real bus stop, although it's undergone several changes. Even though the most recent Spa layout has been in use since 1983, large parts of the circuit were still public roads right up until 2000. So up to then, you could have considered Spa to be the fastest street circuit of the year. Complete with a bus stop.

The Belgian Grand Prix isn’t the oldest race held at Spa
The Belgian Grand Prix predates both the British and Monaco Grands Prix (although it’s not as old as Monza, which is up next). The first grand prix in Belgium was held at Spa in 1925, while the circuit was still in its infancy, after being designed in 1920. But the 1925 grand prix isn’t the circuit’s oldest race, as the 24 Hours of Spa was first run in 1924. Many Formula 1 heroes have been Spa winners as well, including Mike Hawthorn, Gerhard Berger, Jochen Mass, Jacky Ickx and Giuseppe Farina.

Spa is Pirelli’s biggest event of the year
But that’s not for the Formula 1 race. Instead, it’s the Spa 24 Hours again, which is exclusively supplied by Pirelli. This year, Pirelli supplied 12,000 tyres, 24 trucks, 5000 espresso coffees and more than 110 personnel for the 65 cars taking part. The scale of the event is so big that it requires Pirelli to be on-site setting up and preparing for the race almost two weeks before. By contrast, Pirelli’s Formula 1 motorhome is only assembled a few days before the race.

Eau Rouge was once a state border
One of the most iconic corners in the motorsport universe didn’t actually feature on the original circuit. Before becoming synonymous with Spa-Francorchamps, Eau Rouge was a humble 15-kilometre river in the Belgian province of Liège. Earning its name thanks to red oxide deposits found in the river, it was also prominent outside of motorsport history too, acting as a state border between Prussia and the Netherlands in the 1800s. 

The oldest casino in the world is found at Spa
Think casino, think Formula 1, and obviously you come up with Monaco. But that’s not actually the most historic casino associated with Formula 1: instead, the oldest casino in the world can be found in Spa. The Belgians may not be renowned as a particularly hedonistic people, but they cottoned onto institutionalised gambling quicker than anyone else, having built the casino at Spa in 1763. And it’s still there now….open until 4am.

The quickest driver around Spa is from Switzerland
Lewis Hamilton set a searing pole lap last year, but that was smashed earlier this year by Swiss driver Neel Jani, in the Le Mans winning Porsche 919 Hybrid. To be fair though, the Porsche in which Jani set his incredible 1m41.770s time was hardly standard: the Evo version featured an unrestricted engine, 53% extra downforce and other extreme aerodynamics. Nonetheless, he beat Hamilton’s time by 0.783 seconds. Can Hamilton – or anyone else, for that matter – reclaim the honours for F1 this year? It’s certainly a tall order…

Read more