Spa Francorchamps Race Track, Belgium. D-Day plus 4

by - August 30, 2010

While technically I am currently in Frankfurt, the last few days have been so exceptionally manic that I thought it best to divide them into three sections.  This, the first, will cover our trip to the Belgian Grand Prix, the second our trip to Luxembourg City and the third to encompass our trip in Frankfurt.  I´m afraid that this is going to be a long one.  Our story starts in Brussels, on D-Day plus 3, where we got up early to do some crucial shopping - for food and fuel for our meals while camping at the GP.  This started badly, as it took us an hour to find a supermarket, but once there we managed to get some fairly substantial meals together - steak and vegetables for that evening and pasta for the next.  Unfortunately we couldn’t find any fuel, but we reassured ourselves that there would be chance to buy that later.

So, for the trainspotters amongst you, we then travelled to the small village of Trois Ponts, via Liege.  The journey was straightforward, but when we arrived we realised that getting to our campsite could well be difficult - the REGION of Trois Ponts contains 2,500 people - the train station was one of the few major buildings, it was raining, and we didn´t quite know where we were going (Daniel had brought a google earth map to navigate by - a great idea in theory, but unfortunately it meant finding directions based upon recognizing the roofs of buildings).  However, we were quite impressed with the region itself - I had assumed that Belgium was flat and featureless, but the Ardennes Forest was actually really spectacular.  Eventually we managed to find a bus station and travelled to the town of Stavelot, from where we walked the remaining 4km to the campsite in the rain.  The site was a standard muddz field full of tents, with the major difference being the wealth of the tent owners.  Never before have I seen Aston Martins and Porsches on a campsite, and never before do I want to see such beautiful machines trying to work their way through the mud.

That night, after putting up our tents and sorting ourselves out, it rained.  Unfortunately we hadn´t found our cooking fuel yet - all our fellow campers were using portable bbqs rather than trangias, so we were left with a whole lot of cold food.  What followed was the most revolting meal of my life (behind perhaps only peanut wraps).  In a desparate bit for food, we raided the vegetable section of our “steak and veg” meal, and ended up with “raw mushroom and pringle sandwiches”.  With the steaks sitting there in our tent, uncookable, a substantial part of me died right there.

Anyway, that is the story of our camping. I shall now condense the story of the two days of the Grand Prix into one section to save this blog going on forever.  The good photos of close ups of drivers were taken by Daniel with his fancy camera by the way.  On Saturday we got the bus to the track (for those that don´t know, the Spa track is widely acknowledged as the most popular track in motor racing) and found a seat on a rocky slope overlooking the track, where we remained perched for all of qualifying.  There were also numerous other races that went on between the Formula One - the GP2 and Porsche cups for example.  Qualifying was exciting - Petrov´s crash in the first lap of Q1 was right in front of us and Fernando Alonso nearly ended up outside of the top 10.  This would have been good as we don´t like Alonso, but unfortunately he managed to pull a good lap out of the bag.  Our seats were very uncomfortable, but we managed to put the thought out of our mind. For the most part.  After qualifying we had a wander through the F1 village, where numerous stalls tried to sell us overpriced merchandise.  Daniel “really needed” his 15 euro keyring.

The night of qualifying they had a guest speaker in the campsite marquee.  His name was Perry McCarthy (I had never heard of him either), however he was introduced as “black Stig” - you know, the one that got killed off on Top Gear on HMS Invincible.  He spoke really well actually about all sorts.  At one stage he raced in Formula One, though a quick look on wikipedia reveals he never actually completed a race. Fail.

Petrov. Worst qualifying lap ever.
The next day was race day and we decided to sit in the same seats - the view was really good from there, but this time we came better prepared with something to sit on.  The crowds were a lot bigger today so we got to our seats 4 hours before the race began.  There were things going on though - the GP2 and GP3 races for instance, which were followed by the drivers´ parade, where the F1 drivers were driven around on the backs of classic cars, waving regally.  The race itself was made very interesting by the rapid changes in weather - from bright sunshine to torrential rain several times over the 2 hours.  Of course, for those who watched the race, there was massive dissapointment when Vettel kamikazed Jenson, eliminating any possibility of a McLaren one-two, but Hamilton drove superbly (bar giving us a heart attack as he overshot a corner into the gravel pit).

After the race, we headed for the exit as soon as possible, needing to get a train to Luxembourg.  I have decided however that this section of the trip deserves a post to itself.
Lewis Hamilton. Win

Vettel with a puncture. Gutted.

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