Belgium held its first national race in 1925. It took place at the race circuit in the Spa region, which was an area rich in racing history. The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps was constructed in 1921, used primarily for motorcycle racing until 1924, but also hosting Grand Prix racing. In 1923, a very successful 24 Hours of Le Mans was raced in France, which led to the Spa 24 Hours race to be hosted at the Spa track.
The Belgian Grand Prix is a favorite amongst both the fans and the drivers. The Spa-Francorchamps is also famous for it extremely unpredictable weather conditions. For example, it had rained for 20 Belgian Grand Prix’s consecutively. Drivers are constantly confronted with conflicting weather on different parts of the track. One side will be sunny and clear, while the other is slippery, miserable and rainy. To many F1 drivers, the Belgian Grand Prix is the most dreaded circuit on the Formula One racing calendar, due to its challenging conditions.
Antonio Ascari, took first place at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1925, and his son, Alberto, would go on to win in the years 1952 and again in 1953. Antonio Ascari was tragically killed in the French Grand Prix, after winning the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix. While leading the Belgian Grand Prix in 1939, Richard “Dick” Seaman, a British driver, lost his life. Alan Stacey was killed when a bird flew into his face, and Chris Bristow also lost his life in the same race, in 1960.
After deciding Spa was too dangerous in 1972 Belgian officials made the decision to alternate the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix between the Nivelles and Zolder circuits. Unable to sustain the Belgian Grand Prix at the Nivelles circuit, the race track eventually faded out, and Zolder was used in the following years. However, the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix returned to Spa-Francorchamps in 1985, where it has remained. Michael Schumacher made his debut at Spa-Francorchamps in the year of 1991 and returned in 1992 to win his first race in Formula One. He also surpassed the all-time record of Alain Prost, by securing his 52nd Grand Prix win at the Belgian Grand Prix.
The Spa-Francorchamps Circuit is completed in 44 laps, with a total race length of 306.94 kilometers. The FIA announced in 2006, that Belgium would not be part of their race schedule for that year, as major work to repair the track, had been started. The Belgian Grand Prix returned to the schedule in 2007 with Kimi Räikkönen taking first place. The year 2008 saw a controversial win by Filipe Massa, after Lewis Hamilton received a drive-through penalty which negated his first place position. Kimi Räikkönen took first place again in 2009.
Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps of Belgium has been described by many as the world’s top motor racing circuit. Host of the renowned Formula One Belgian Grand Prix as well as the Spa 24 hours race, Spa-Francorchamps winds its way along the magnificent Ardennes mountains. A wonderfully challenging course with the famed Eau Rouge complex, the Spa-Francorchamps Formula One circuit is thoroughly enjoyed by F1 drivers and spectators alike.
It was in 1920 Jule de Thier and Henri Langlois Van Ophem came up with the idea of forming a race track in the quiet village of Francorchamps. A triangular circuit was designed along the roads that joined Francorchamps, Malmedy and Stavelot and the new racing circuit of Spa-Francorchamps was set-up for racing in August 1921. Only one competitor registered so the circuit had to be inaugurated by motorcyclists. But 1922 presented a different scenario as motorists began racing on the new track. The exciting 24 Hours of Francorchamps race was established in 1924, and it was also in that year that the Belgian Grand Prix was held at the circuit. The European Grand Prix took place at the circuit of Spa-Francorchamps in 1925. Antonio Ascari in his Alfa Romeo gained the victory that year.
World War II brought a stop to racing at Spa-Francorchamps which became the scene of the famed Battle of Bulge. Fortunately though, racing came back to the F1 circuit in 1947. As time progressed the Spa race track was considered too fast. In 1960 Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey were killed on the track. Jackie Stewart began a campaign to improve safety at Spa-Francorchamps and for a time the Grand Prix was rather held at Nivelles circuit. 1973 was also marred by the death of 3 drivers during the Spa 24 Hours. It was then decided that the track would be redesigned. Finally in 1983 the Spa-Francorchamps was permitted to host F1 again. Today it plays a major part in the world championships.
Spa-Francorchamps F1 circuit has had several modifications over time. Presently it covers a distance of 6.968 km or 4.333 miles with 21 turns. Guiding drivers through the beautiful Ardennes, it is possible to reach speeds greater than 330 km/h. The most impressive section of the Spa-Francochamps circuit is the renowned Eau Rouge/Raidillon combination. Following the La Source hairpin the skilled F1 drivers head down a straight where they hit a steep uphill with left-right-left corners and a blind summit.
The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps was not included on the 2006 Formula One calendar as certain improvements were not yet made due to financial problems. However the circuit was back on the 2007 calendar, and continues to host the annual Formula One Championship event.