Thursday 5 May 2016

Welcome to Spa-Francorchamps

The iconic track Spa-Francorchamps is host for the second round of the 2016 World Endurance Championship. This race is the dress rehearsal for Le Mans, so expect lots of new aero bits & pieces on the cars, especially by Audi and Porsche. 

The 7,004 kilometer track with 18 corners in the Belgian Ardennes is considered as one of the most, if not the most beautiful track of the world. Spa is one of the last “old school” tracks whose layout as been determined by nature and its environment, with lots of (steep) elevation changes and fluid corners through the forest. 

Out of Spa's 18 corners, Eau Rouge is the most famous of all. Named for the red hued stream running underneath, it has always been one of the drivers favourites. The left/right corner at the bottom of the straight coming out of La Source generates a massive amount of compression before storming up the hill of the Raidillon. It feels like you're being pushed to the ground before almost being lift off at the top. Nowadays Eau Rouge is most of the time flat out, but it still separates the men from the boys as the slightest error can end up in carnage.

Francorchamps is a lot more than Eau Rouge. Blanchimont for instance is also a very challenging part of the track. This section of the track has 2 highly anticipated corners that drivers will take flat out, reaching top speeds before the final chicane. The second corner, before heading to the chicane, puts a lot of G-forces on car and drivers and is one of the most dangerous places to get off. Definitely worth the visit if you're walking around the track !  And then there's also the hairpin of La Source, Combes, the very fast double lefthander after Pouhon ... almost every corner of this track is legendary. 

Porsche dominated qualifying last year at Spa, with their 3 Porsche 919 Hybrid's on the first three places of the grid. Bernhard/Hartley took pole position with an average laptime of 1.54.767. The fastest lap in the race was set by Brendon Hartley in 1.54.767. Audi has been the most succesfull team at Spa in the past years. Since 2010 they have clinched ten trophies in total, including victories in 2012, 2013 and 2015. Spa is a bit of a home race for Andre Lotterer who was born in Germany but grew up in Belgium, near Nivelles. 

After the rain and snow last week in Belgium, the weather forecast looks promising for the weekend. Temperatures up to 19° C on Thursday, and 24° C on Saturday. But still ... it's Spa, wouldn't hurt to keep a rain coat near you if you're out there. 

Free practice is due to start today at 12.15 and 16.30. Friday sessions start at 11.10 with final practice and qualifying from 16.05.  The green flag for the race will be waived on Saturday at 14.30. 

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