An early start this morning, to avoid Paris traffic and then, once clear of the capital, there is time to stop for a croissant and a café allongé, while the commuters get themselves into a tangle behind me. I can see across the carriageways that the queue to get into Paris is beginning to form. Sometimes it is good to swim against the current and go your own way. No, not sometimes, always. Life as an F1 reporter is a lot more fun than commuting each day…
I’m in no great hurry today. The road ahead going east is clear and it’s a good moment to give the sun a chance to climb a little higher to avoid driving straight at it with Icarian determination. And besides, is there a better way to face the day than with a coffee and a croissant in (vaguely) rural France? A year in Provence it is not, but 10 minutes beside the autoroute can be blissful enough, in the right state of mind.
This morning promises a run out to Reims and then a trek across the plains to the giant boar at Woinic, the 50-ton metal monster that stands beside the autoroute, designed to get people like me to stop and spend their money in a place that normally we would pass without a second thought. Niagara Falls, it ain’t, but it is an amusement along the way. From there the road goes up to Charleville-Mezières, passing briefly along the old circuit of the Argonne, where 110 years ago the great Leon Théry ruled the roost in the qualifying races for the Gordon Bennett Cup. One day I must explore the roads that made up that circuit.
After Charleville-Mezières, it will be on to the great fortress at Sedan and then up into the forests of the Ardennes and across the border into Belgium. I think I’ll restrain myself from doing a lap of the old Circuit des Ardennes today – it may have been the world’s first race that returned to where it had started, a revolution after the city-to-city races with which the sport began, but it was a big old lap and I have a lunch appointment in Malmédy. After that I shall climb the hill to Spa, no doubt by way of Burnenville, and all will be well in the world. Spa may not be the greatest racing circuit on earth, but it’s never more than third on anyone’s list. I’m told the weather is bad there, but that was yesterday and at Spa these things change in the blink of an eye. It will be interesting to hear the cars in the hills this year. Perhaps they will not sing like the old V8s, but I suspect their growl will scare the local wildlife. Besides people forget that before the V8s these hills were used to the melodies of orchestras of V12s. Things change.
I cannot tell you how many times I have been to Spa in the course of the last 30 years, but I do know that each time it is a pleasure to feel the heart beat just a little bit faster.