Belgium gets a new deal

The Belgian Grand Prix will continue until the end of 2015, after a new deal was signed by the Wallonia provincial government and the Formula One group. Although financial details are never announced in these matters, the Wallonian minister of finance, Jean-Claude Marcourt, said that the cost of the contract had reduced. The Formula One group has to ensure a certain number of historic races are included on the F1 calendar and Spa is apparently deemed to be one of them. Germany, which also has a cut-price deal, is another. It is not clear how France was allowed to drop out of F1 a few years ago, but it seems that the contract between the FIA and Formula One may specify that there must be a certain number of protected events from a list. The current deal ends after the race next week. There were plans before the French elections to alternate the Belgium race with France, but these seem to have broken down even before the French project foundered when the Republican government fell. The Socialists who are now in office have talked of reviving the French Grand Prix but there has yet to be any concrete sign that they are actually going to do something. The Belgian GP has suffered from seriously small crowds in recent years but its value to the region is such that it is maintained. The race used to attract large numbers of German fans, as the circuit is located just 10 miles from the German border, with relatively easy access from north and south.

Spa has been the home of the Belgian Grand Prix since 1925, when Antonio Ascari won the first event for Alfa Romeo. It became firmly established on the Grand Prix calendar in 1933 and Spa remained a key element of the F1 World Championship until 1970 when poor safety on the old circuit led to the race switching to Nivelles and Zolder. Spa was substantially rebuilt and the event returned in 1983.The events in 2003 and 2006 were cancelled because of disputes over tobacco and problems of finance.

47 thoughts on “Belgium gets a new deal

  1. Now don’t get me wrong – Ascari was very, very good – but I don’t think he was winning races at the age of 7… ; )

      1. Not oops at all! Antonio Ascari was 36 when he won in Spa in 1925 shortly before he was killed. Alberto, his son, was about 7 at the time!

    1. I was always planning to go, until I heard about the heavy-handed treatment of accredited photographers (let alone Joe Public) by the security staff. Put me right off.

    2. 1) it’s really expensive
      2) there is almost zero accommodation, and its really expensive. Unless you like camping in the rain.
      3) it’s in the middle of no where
      4) there’s no public transport to the race
      5) traffic leaving race is horriffic
      6) race program very sparse. 2 hours on Saturday between fp3 and next event.

      Yes it is the best circuit in the world but everything else is below average.

      1. Unfortunately Bernie has arranged things so that to him it does not matter if no public turn up to watch. He has already received his fees from the hosting, the trackside advertising and the Paddock club, no to mention the national tv.
        If things were changed so that the hosting fees were paid after the race and were dependant upon the number of visitors, then I am sure there would be massive changes, Bernie would ensure a full race program as well as transport laid on. Then the impact of ridiculously highly priced entry and grandstand tickets would be felt in the right place.

        1. I think most F1 followers are not big fans of buses. It is a shame really if you study the history of the area. There used to be a station within easy walking distance of the La Source hairpin, which went from Spa to Stavelot and beyond in both directions. Historical geographers will be able to see that on a map. Much of the path of that raileway is still there, which begs the question of whether it might be revived one day as a light railway or tram. For that to happen, however, the circuit would need to have many more permanent attractions, such as museums, conventions centres, etc to draw people ona day-to-day basis.

          1. I’d argue that the current state of the Nürburgring should act as a cautionary tale against race courses with incredible history trying to branch out and attract people year-round, especially if they’re off the beaten tourists’ path.

            This is not to say that they shouldn’t improve the visitors’ accommodations, just saying that an Eau Rouge rollercoaster or an empty mall or conference centre in the Belgian Ardennes would rather act as a (another) boat anchor on this already flailing venue.

            1. I’m inclined to agree about the ‘Ring to be honest, its not a brilliant example of how to do things. I daresay a museum wouldn’t be a bad shout, Hockenheim has a tiddly one full of old racecars (mainly domestic German series, which was different) Well worth a distraction for a couple of hours.

          2. Isn’t that station about 6kms away though? I was at the old station around a month ago – nice spot, but it was a tad difficult to locate.

            Rather than use the buses, I’m getting via the other train station near Spa, which is still some distance away.

            It’d be nice if there was a shuttle service from the local stations to the track, but that’s some wishful thinking.

            As for getting to the track, there are buses every hour from Verviers to Francorchamps village, dropping off about 300 metres from the gate at La Source; however despite being a GP Sunday, there does not appear to be any special services on.

    3. It’s quite amusing reading about Spa’s poor turnout, high ticket prices and so forth – and not for the first time – but what actually matters to CVC/BE is the TV coverage not the comfort of race fans. Spa is a TV event.

      Luckily the BBC managed to negotiate live race coverage TV/Radio.

  2. Yes it was his father Antonio wasn’t it? I seem to recall that there was something eerie about this – was it that they died on the same date?

    1. Paul

      I think you are right about the date. I don’t remember the details but I think both Father and Son were superstitious, lucky crash helmets etc. Alberto, I’m fairly certain was wearing a borrowed helmet when he crashed while testing a Ferrari Monza? at Monza, he was a contracted Lancia driver at the time. Perhaps the Lancia contract was for Grands Prix only!

      See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alberto_Ascari for more.

      Martin

  3. Hello Joe thanks for your travel stories with accordion ! as Colin said why don’t you get a PPL and a lovely Jodel , and save all that driving hassle?!!
    Regarding Spa , Belgian’s have Etienne Davignon to thank for that .imo

  4. Antonio Ascari died in the French GP in 1925 but did win the Belgian GP in ’25 Alberto, his better known son, was as pointed out, 7 at the time.

    Wilson

  5. I usually don’t care for the outcome of French elections, but as a racing fan, I have to thank the French electorate for keeping Spa on the calendar through 2015 – well done! 🙂

    1. Whooda thunk it? A vote for the socialists can also be a vote “for” one of the most expensive, glamorous and capitalist sports in the world.

  6. Good to see you getting a named credit and a click-through on the BBC’s Sportsday Live. Time to put up a Grand Prix + advertorial?

  7. Yay!!! Great day for Formula 1. Great day for the fans!

    I don’t understand why this event is poorly attended. Surely it’s second on most F1 fans list of circuits to attend after Monaco?

  8. Hi Joe
    Thanks for all yor great posts. The world of F1 is along way away here in NZ so thank you for all the stories and side stories.
    Off topic completely is Chevys engines anything to do with Craig Pollack and P.U.R.E. Money initially was coming from America so wondered if there was a tire up.
    Many thanks again.

  9. Yes, the newspapers headed it in frontpage! Good news for us! Happy to go there again watch F1. But for a student like me the Ticketprices are way to expensive! ticket + parking + food = same € as one week south of France!

    And we had also bad news from JDA. Hé will not drive in Spa FP1. For the fan’s its disappointing. The arguments where that it was better for the team. Now I’m currious what JDA has got in Exchange because his managment told in june that it was stated in his contract that he would drive in Spa… .

  10. Great news, I’ve always wanted to go to Spa and intended to go this year, but my plans fell through so I thought I had missed my chance for good.

    It’s also good to know that at least a few historic races have to be preserved as per the Concorde.

  11. Went to Spa a couple of years ago, where it rained solidly from Thursday to Monday. Left caked in mud and had to have my car pulled out by a tractor. I wouldn’t have had it any other way though, the sound of screaming V8s echoing off the hills of the Ardennes Forest is something pretty special. Great track, probably the best in my humble opinion. Brilliant news we have it for a few more years.

  12. This is great news. Would’ve been a travesty to lose Spa from the calendar.

    Joe, do you happen to know when next year’s calendar is going to be released?

  13. Meant to put this comment here, instead of the next blog post:

    One thing I always thought was a shame was that Gilles never got to race at Spa. I bet him buzzing through Eau Rouge and Radillion would have been a sight to see…

  14. Glad Spa is staying. Happy the list which protects races was written after or did not include France…

  15. Great news IMO. I love Spa. Went there a few years ago on a non- race day, just a regular week day and walked the track. It was virtually silent and all you could hear was the wind in the trees…and ghosts of racers long gone….standing at the bottom of the support pits looking down slightly into the jaws of Eau Rouge and marvelling at it’s elevation, is a sight I’ll never forget.

  16. The old Spa circuit was much longer and included a 14Km narrow winding section of public road through the woods and fields, trees only a few feet away and of course no barriers, except for a few straw bales. Much like the IOM TT races today.
    That was in the days when races were never stopped for fatalities, the 33% survival era, when drivers faced a 66% chance of being killed. 1960 Spa saw no less than four major crashes, including three Lotuses crashed at Spa with two fatalities. (Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey) Moss and Mike Taylor were slightly luckier. (Taylor then sued Colin Chapman for selling him a defective car, it was settled out of court).
    NB: Most of this is taken from the documentary “Grand Prix the Killer years” to which David Tremain is a contributor. Well worth watching again if only for Jackie Stewart’s tales and realising just how horrific it used to be.

  17. “The Formula One group has to ensure a certain number of historic races are included on the F1 calendar and Spa is apparently deemed to be one of them. Germany, which also has a cut-price deal, is another” … is this referring to both Hockenheim and Nurburgring… or just Nurburgring (I would assume Nurburgring).

    1. I think it refers to _a_ German Grand Prix, maybe without references to a or a set of tracks to run it on. Remember, the Nürburgring was not part of the F1 circuit for a long time, and only a couple of years ago held its first German Grand Prix in decades.

      Maybe Bernie should threaten to run a German GP in Oscherleben or at the Lausitzring, if someone’s getting uppity about it. 😉

  18. Hi Joe! Good to have you back.

    This is good news for the F1 fans in general and Belgian F1 fans in particular.

    Do you think this news could also boost JDA’s chances of a drive next year? Us Belgians here of him all the time (he’s co-commentating the GP’s on Belgian TV) but it seems he’s dropping off the radar of the international scene (haven’t seen you mention him in a while).

    What’s your take on this (JDA’s future F1 chances)?

  19. Suprised to read that the race suffers of poor crowd.
    Been a regular at the race the for more than a decade and the place is packed.
    Seems to me that the powers that be in spa still don’t know that that spa can’t welcome more than 60.000 people and give them a decent spot. If they’ll have 70.000 this year it will mean that 10.000 won’t see a thing bar the heads and schoulders in front of them. Fantastic track, but the support programe is sparse if not inexistant. Still very glad it remains.

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