Bedlam in Belgium - Spa's craziest moments
Spa-Francorchamps is one of the oldest and most famous racetracks in the world. The original layout is close to turning 100 years old and with that comes a whole host of stories, legendary drives and iconic moments. So without further ado, here are some of my favorite and lesser known moments of Belgium's most famous race track.
Picnic pit stop - 1925
The first ever official Belgium Grand Prix in 1925 was a battle between the French and their Delages, and the Italians in their trusty Alfa Romeos. The vast majority of the Belgian fans backed the French racing teams as they spoke the same language and were located closer to home. Meanwhile the Italians had to cope with a lack of respect and attention from the somewhat patriotic crowd.
The battle on track proved to very exiting but also exhausting, especially for the cars. Near the final stages of the race only 2 cars were left running, The Alfa Romeos of Antonio Ascari and Guiseppe Campari. This was obviously a disappointment for the crowd as it was certain the Alfas were driving to an easy win. However, beating the French on their home turf wasn't good enough for the Italians. They wanted to poor as much salt as possible in the crowd's open wound. How? with literal salt.
Ascari and Campari were ordered to come in to the pits and join their team boss for a calm and relaxing picnic right outside their pitbox. While the mechanics were taking their time cleaning up the cars as the drivers were enjoying their impromptu dinner, the crowd went nuts with anger. Ascari went on to win the race after finally getting back in his car with a full belly.
One man show - 1968
The center of attention at the 1968 Spa 1000 km endurance race was the number 33 Ford GT40. Behind the wheel sat one of the biggest rising stars in motorsport: Jacky Ickx. Moments before the main race Ickx already had a reason to celebrate as he just won the touring car support race in a Ford Mustang under very wet conditions.
Just a couple of minutes after getting out of one race car he was already behind the wheel of another that was almost twice as fast. Amongst his competitors were established icons like Henri Pescarolo, Jo Siffert and "quick" Vic Elford. After the flag dropped 37 cars flew up Raidillon and started their first of many laps in extremely wet conditions.
Ickx started on pole and was the first to pass the start/finish line after the first lap. John Wyer, Gulf team boss, was pleased to see Ickx had nobody following in his wake. That happiness quickly turned into concern though as more than 20 seconds later, none of the 36 other competitors had showed up yet. Almost everyone feared there had been a monumental accident behind Ickx at some point on the track.
A whopping 38 seconds later the crowd and everyone on site was relieved to see more cars come roaring past. Nobody had crashed or spun out. Ickx was just that damn good in the rain. After the second lap he increased his lead to an unbelievable 55 seconds. He would go on to win the race and solidify his status as one of the all time greats.
David vs David - 1989
The 1989 Spa 24H had its fair share of peculiar entries. In the Group A category the mad scientists from AMG brought their newest creation, a souped up Mercedes 500 SEC. An almost 5 meter long luxurious grand tourer well outside its comfort zone. Meanwhile in Group N all eyes were on the Moneytron team and their Ferrari Mondials. One of the two prancing horses was to be piloted by none other than F1 world champion Keke Rosberg.
With such huge names on the grid soaking up all the attention its easy to forget the little guys. In the lowest and slowest division of Group N for cars with an engine size under 1.3L there were only 2 entries. A duo of tiny econoboxes in the form of a Citroen AX and Suzuki Swift. Both produced less than 100 horsepower and weren't capable of going over 200 km/h. They were mobile chicanes for the rest of the grid.
But while the touring car giants battled around them, literally, the two soapboxes had their own skirmish. The cars qualified 65th and 66th on the grid with just 0.02 seconds between them. Unlike the Ferraris and AMGs who retired due to reliability issues, the 2 smallest cars on the grid made it to the finish line in 50th and 51st position. The Citroen ended up winning with a marginal 2 minute lead over the Suzuki meaning the latter finished within the same lap. And after 24 hours of racing, that's quite the achievement.