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Sunday, August 29, 2004

Spa: A Welcome Relief At A True Racing Circuit

Praise the lord. Spa is back. After all the Tilke designed or mangled dog fest circuits we've seen races on this season, finally we are back to a classic racing circuit. Heck there are negative cambers on the exit of corners for this one. Just as it should be to test the car and the driver.

And the corners. Eau Rouge, fifth gear Double left at Pouhon, and the massive flat out run all the way to the Bus Stop chicane. A Formula 1 race should be made of these. But unfortunately the devil's hands in the form of Herman Tilke made its presence known at the Bus Stop. This man, and by his own admission too, just loves slow corners and the new Bus Stop is absolutely dreadful. Just ask the drivers. Where once it was a left right flick, that idiot replaced it with this just god awful slow left and frightfully slow right. It used to take some real skill to negotiate the corner. I remember back in 1986 Mansell had a spin at the Bus Stop after jumping around on the curbs.

As it is Juan Pablo Montoya produced a brilliant overtaking move on Michael Schumacher at the start of the race at the new Bus Stop. However, a similar move on Jarno Trulli at the same corner ended in a spin for Trulli and in the process delaying Montoya who in turn got pipped on the run down to Stavelot. You notice that even the corners in Spa have these very stylish names instead of your Turn 1, Turn 2, Turn X on Tilke dogfests. Or even sillier names like Berjaya Straight or Genting corner or whatever corporate stupidity Sepang likes to come up with.

And what a race it turned out to be too. After the threat of another Ferrari whitewash, Kimi Raikkonen, The Man, drove absolutely faultlessly to a superb victory. One might have speculated that had Fernando Alonso still been in the race he might have won but after witnessing a lap record on Lap 42 after the safety car restart, I don't think anyone would have caught The Man.

Spa has always been known as a drivers circuit. That's because the driver can make a big difference at this place. And so it is that winners of this race are simply some of the best ever. Senna, Mansell, Schumacher Sr., Prost, Hakkinen and now Raikkonen have all at one time or another won at Spa cementing their status as true Formula 1 racing drivers. The best of the best.

The magic of Spa is that it comes from a different era. Times where cars were given lots of space to do their job. A time when safety be damned, let's just go bollocks because it's such a great drive through the mountains. They didn't purpose build this thing originally, it just was a good piece of road to drive fast. So how about driving some of the fastest cars in the world over here?

When Sepang was being built I prayed that they would use Spa as an inspiration. But oh my god, what the hell did we get? A bloody bitch of a track with all its slow corners, drag race after drag race.

Enough about dogs. The irony of it all is, all the commentators from Steve Goodwin to Martin Brundle have commented that its a fantastic place to watch a race from television as well. I couldn't agree more. And isn't that the whole point? To produce circuits guaranteed to produce top racing? Give a Formula 1 car room to stretch its legs and fast corners that really make them lean hard and we have a brilliant a spectacular show. When they speak of the Formula 1 spectacle, this circuit is exactly the showcase for it. So why are the FIA still persisting designing stupid circuits that take inspiration from Chinese characters instead of giving us superb tracks like Spa. No offense to the Chinese and the new Shanghai circuit of course. Its not their fault, its the FIA and their moron Herman Tilke.

I think even the spectators sitting on the main straight and especially the ones sitting on Eau Rouge with incidents aplenty could have nothing to complain about. It just was a great race.

I know what you're thinking. And you'd be wrong. Even if Michael Schumacher and Ferrari won it, I'd still be waxing lyrical about this place. Just looking at the cars run at this place gives a sense of wonder. Like cheetahs with plenty of room to just do their thing.

Another nice thing about Spa is that every single time a race is held here, you'll get lots of action. Lots of overtaking and the result really cannot be predicted. It manages to throw up some surprise or another. Would you really have thought that Kimi The Man would win from tenth? In 1995 Schumacher won this race from seventeenth!!

I can't say enough good things about Spa. For me it is the last real personification of the ultimate motorsport category. It not just provided us with a refreshing change at the top step of the podium this year, it is also a very very welcome to a true racing circuit.

Well, the best thing about the tail end of this season is that the remaining circuits on the calendar are all in majority classic circuits. Except Shanghai of course, we have Monza, Sao Paulo and Suzuka coming up next. All superb racing circuits and we can look forward to some more enjoyable races. Yes, even if they will be won by Michael Schumacher.

If Spa were ever to go away again and I wouldn't bet against that from the way Bernie Ecclestone is dealing these days, I think I would be in tears for days. Long live the true circuits!!!

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