Summer is upon us. Classic cars and their owners are out on the streets where they belong – prized pocessions being enjoyed to the fullest. But when you love classic cars and especially historic motorsport, you need to give the driving a rest and instead visit Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. The most famous event would probably be Spa Classic and I’ve heard many good things about this event. However, I opted to attend the Spa Summer Classic – apparently this is the little brother event. The biggest difference must be that this event includes youngtimers, which means that you will experience Escort Mk1’s with fuel injection and American muscle cars with alloys dimensioned as on a Hot Wheels toy car. But don’t judge, as more importantly it seems like it is a little bit more low key and low budget – in a good way that is.
First of all, some practical information: an entry ticket will cost you 0 Euros, paddock pass 0 Euros and tribune 0 Euros. Unbelievable as it may sound, I’m guessing you’ve caught onto it basically being free. But; and there is one little ‘but’: parking is 7 Euro! Unless of course you are a real cheaparse, in which case you can leave your car at the end of Kemmel Straight at the Les Combs. But as you enter an event like this, your wallet having not even left your backpocket yet, and you see the number of officials on the track, in the pit-area, everywhere… it really makes you wonder how they are able to put on a full weekend of racing, without charging the spectators and fees.
Anyway, back to the beginning. When you invite your family to Spa, you obviously need to treat them to a Spa; happy wife – happy life. In the centre of the City of Spa, you will find a lift to the top of the hill, and on that hill, you will find a nice Spa for the whole family. Strategically, that’s how we started our little trip to Belgium, on the first Friday of the kid’s summer break.
Saturday morning in the local bakery in the city centre of Spa, ordering a sandwich in French, meant I somehow ended up with a sandwich full of goat cheese. Truth be told, it actually proved to taste quite nice. But first it went in my backpack alongside my camera, video equipment, water, and sunscreen. I was ready for some racing! It was only a 12km drive to the circuit, so I showed up early at the main gate. Full of foresight, I had already purchased a parking pass, so I parked in parking lot no.1 – by the end of the day, that was the only parking they used (and I think there are more than 15 parking lots), just to give you an indication to how few spectators were attending. On the parking lot, most of the cars were Belgian hot hatches, but there was also a decent number of classic cars including a gorgeous pair of E-Types which had travelled over from the UK.
Entering the circuit, I aimed straight for the pit area. I always prefer to walk the paddock; enjoing the smells and sounds as racers are being prepared. It was immediately clear – as mention earlier – that this event seems to be more of an entry-level event. There were no big sponsor truck, no restricted area, no VIP lounge and so on… Just racing. Some of the teams seems to be family affairs with son/daughter on driving duties, the father in the role of the mechanic and mother checking the tyre pressure.
Some came from Italy, others from Germany and Belgian, and a huge turnout from Britain. There was even a team with Smarts – probably a cheap way into motorsport, but the thought of crashing a car that is smaller than a Mini, makes you wonder how safe that’s going to be?
Normally on mainland Europe, there would be an overflow of Porsche and BMW at an event like this, but luckily the Brits show up with plenty of Jags, Sierra RS500 and Escort Mk1 and 2. Generally speaking the variety of cars was impressive and it was certainly my first time seeing a Fiat Ritmo with centre lock alloys. While a little more common, AC Cobra´s with tyres as wide as slab of lumber never fail to put a smile on my face either.
The pit garages were nice and cool, especially compared to the outside temperature, which had reached a scorching 35 degrees Celsius. Suddenly it all made more sense, why so many teams had small baby pools filled with water – it was clearly to cool down after an exhausting session on the circuit. As a service to our readers, I have edited out the overweight middle-aged men only wearing boxers in a baby pool, but I guess you get the picture.
Something I missed out on, was the Touring Wagen Legends. I was really looking forward to this, but for some reason, despite being there both Saturday and Sunday, I missed the session. A shame as I was really looking forward to hearing what 12,000rpm sounds like with a guy like Nicki Thiim behind the wheel. As a Dane, having both Nicki and his legendary father, Kurt Thiim, there for the weekend felt somewhat special. At least I can share Nicki Thiim’s video with you:
One of the great things about this event was the diversity on the grid, especially for the 3-hour race. To watch one of the lineups, enjoy this little video-clip:
On a hot weekend like this one at Spa, I can recommend taking advantage of the air-conditioning and buffet in the café Pit on top of the building – it’s only 17 Euro which seemed a bargain just to cool down without having to share a baby pool with before mentioned overweight middle-aged man. The only thing missing at this event was unfortunately the waffles (Belgian of course). Bottom line: even if it’s the little brother compared to the original Spa Classic, it’s still an event well worth a visit. Bring the family for the perfect extended weekend.
Enjoy the pictures, plan your weekends and get out and experience some classic racing. Careful though – it’s addictive!