With the racing season 2021 coming to an end for Spa Francorchamps and the Nurburgring, i am now at the place where i have a little bit more free time and where i can devote some of it to more things like this post for example!
It was a few days ago when speaking with a person i know, who happens to be a racing e-coach, who asked me to write a few words explaining the different parts of the track.
Since i am all about sharing knowledge with people who are interested in getting it, i jumped on it right after we hang up the call.
About an hour later, i am starring at the screen – half way into the content – thinking that this is way too big for what he asked and also realizing that i have never shared this as a text anywhere before.
So what are my thoughts, how do i break down each different segment of this track and how do i approach each different corner?
If it sounds interesting then feel free to dive into my mind by reading below…
How does a lap around Circuit of Spa Francorchamps look through my visor?
Starting from the F1 start/finish line and heading up to La Source corner. One of the tightest corners of the circuit but not necessarily one of the trickiest parts.
Approaching with a wide field of view, keeping your braking points in check while already aiming for that very late apex which will in turn allow you to carry as much speed as possible down to Eau Rouge.
After clearing La Source corner, it’s time to relax a little while heading straight down to the Rollercoaster, Eau Rouge/Radillion.
In the contrary to what many people might think, i don’t consider Eau Rouge to be a difficult corner. Particular? Yes. Difficult? I wouldn’t say so.
The way my brain circuits process this corner is very thick, chunky.
It’s like ticking checkboxes out of a list.
You simply stay as close to the wall until it is time to turn in, fully over the curb on the bottom left – widening your line to the top – and timing your change of direction exactly at the compression of Eau Rouge, getting advantage of all that load and extra tire contact patch coming from the front system of the car.
How well and smooth you will tackle the bottom part will define how well and fast you will come out at the top. And remember; the less steering wheel angle you have at the top, the less resistance you are going to have and the more the car will be able to accelerate throughout the 1km long Kemmel straight.
Yes, Kemmel straight is 1km long and is great to help you relax, check your mirrors for competition, relax your hands and focus on the next part. And that you must do because Les Combes is one of the tricky parts of the track.
Fact: Les Combes is the highest part of the track.
The easiest way to understanding how to approach this complex of corners is to break it down and reverse engineer it.
And for those reading, that might not be familiar with what a complex of corners is, here is a simplified explanation that might help.
A complex is when we have more than one corners following or preceding others. In this case, we do not approach and drive each corner individually but we drive each corner relatively to the one that is coming next.
Making the exit out of the last corner a priority (Les Combes 3) will dictate how far you can go in the middle of Les Combes 2 which will in turn show you how quick and wide/narrow you need to approach the first right hander Les Combes 1. This will of course differ from car to car depending on aero, weight, tires and even track and weather conditions.
Again, getting a good exit out of the Les Combes complex is crucial as there is a straight segment going down to Bruxelles corner.
Moving forward. i personally consider this, if I may use this term, a cunning corner.
It is a corner that challenges your brain and skills in different ways. And let me further explain.
First of all, it is not a fast corner but rather a slow to medium speed corner.
Then it has all that width to it, that gives you a delusion and tricks your brain into pushing more or earlier – where in reality the amount of speed you can carry is quite limited due to the lack of space at the exit of the corner.
How to tackle it? Move your braking zone as much into the corner as possible, while rotating around the inner curb with smooth trail braking. After letting the car settle, traveling a few meters and clipping the apex your eyes should already be seeking for the exit and immediately after you start having eyes on that you should already be mentally driving to the right at the entry of “No name / Speaker’s Corner”.
REMEMBER: Your vision should always be looking for the next part. What is done is done.
Fact: Speaker’s corner was given its name because it was the first part where the commentator from the Uniroyal tower was able to lay eyes on the racers after starting to descend from Les Combes and relay the changes in positions to the crowds.
Speaker’s corner is fairly easy to nail. Just make sure to do your deceleration before the corner and not bring too much braking into it. The freer the front end of the car is the better the car will be able to change direction and flow through the corner. Also make sure to use all of the space available at your entry and also at your exit without going off track limits.
One major difference between any driving simulator and reality is a small “step” on the inside just after the curb of this corner. Since 2016 when I first moved to Spa, this has been getting more and more obvious year after year and is having more and more of an impact on the geometry of the car at the exit. Especially during rainy days, when traction is limited, you really want to stay as much away from it as it unbalances the car greatly and may introduce oversteer.
Exit speed out of this corner is also crucial due to the long straight bit going down to Pouhon. (a.k.a. Double Gauche / Double left)
This might be the most exciting corner of the track for me. When you do it right, it rewards you with such a feeling of balance and actual calm, while you build up to speeds pushing past 200km/h at the exit of the corner. Do it wrong and you are either at the run off in the middle of the corner or even worst, crashed at the inner side wall at the exit of the corner.
What to do? Set your braking point. Set your corner entry speed. Set you turn in point. Find your 3 apexes. Be consistent.
Also different in the game from reality, the curb on the right at the corner entry when we do our braking is not flat. In reality it has those small raffles which, based on the width of the tire of the car, can create unnecessary movement under braking. In many cases, depending on the car and the driver level, it can be beneficial to just be next to it but not on it.
A very typical mistake is pinching the car at the exit of Pouhon. “Pinching” means not opening the steering wheel as much as you can, thus not taking advantage of all the width of the tarmac at the exit. And not only this is not beneficial for your lap times and tire wear but can also be dangerous in corners where the exit speeds are so high.
By opening up -unwinding- the steering wheel we allow the car to relax and get rid of excessive forces applied at that moment.
Next up is the second complex of corners for Spa Francorchamps.
It is called Pif Paf and is basically a wide S, consisting of two corners.
The first right hand corner is a very late apex allowing you to carry lots of trail braking into the corner and at the same time asks for a lot of patience from the driver. You go on the throttle too soon and you end up messing up the exit out of the second corner, which is the important one!!
The transition between the two corners should be sharp and quick, greatly benefited from a small lift.
This small lift, although sometimes it might feel like the car can carry in the speed, will load the suspension of the car to the front and even more importantly induce lift to the rear of the car making it step out a little bit and helping you nail that apex on the inside. From the point of rotation you should already be visually aiming for the apex on the far outside curb on the right.
Tip: Learn how to ride all the curbs from these two corners. They will only widen up your line and make you faster.
After a good exit out of Pif Paf you don’t have a lot of time to preposition your car to the far left, prior to Campus corner.
This is a slow in – fast out corner, with an apex over the curb on the inside, very important for everything that is following after.
Again, using all of the space in your disposal is key and trust me when I say that the whole of the curb on the outside is much usable!
Make sure to not overdo it in corner entry as then you will spend your time pretty much trying to survive the corner, missing on precious tenths or even seconds. Last but not least, the gravel pit at the exit is not forgiving! This is not a place you want to take unneeded risks.
FACT: This corner is named after the facilities of Campus Automobile, found just outside of that part of the track. A training center for engineers and technicians.
Following Campus corner we have a fast right hand corner named after the famous racing driver and journalist Paul Frere.
If Campus was important, Paul Frere corner is crucial as it precedes a very long and fast part of the track. Any speed we lose out of the exit of the corner will extrapolate over the next bit.
Late entry and late apex are what you should be aiming for here. A small lift or no lift at all depending on the car and tires you are using, using all of the space and even running wide over the curb on the outside.
This is another place where we want to be unwinding the steering wheel as early as possible, letting the car flow with as little resistance as possible.
Going a little bit more into detail, depending on whether you are doing a time attack lap or a race, you might want to adjust your line after the exit to either save on distance (doing less meters) or save your tires and fuel by running a wider line.
Having a good exit out of Paul Frere means that the foot is on the floor almost as soon as we turned the steering wheel. Constantly accelerating, we move the car slowly to the right of the track and the moment we are under the gantry, this is our turn in point to start going to the left, as close to the white line on the inside as possible.
That exact steering wheel angle should take us wide at the exit of Blanchimont 1 and just before we enter Blanchimont 2, the quick left hand corner just before Bus Stop.
This is normally a very tricky corner but in the case the AMR GT4 decimates the corner with a hefty amount of traction available.
Flat out, using all of the space available, widening our line and looking further up ahead already for our braking point.
This is a fast part of the track arriving to the slowest part of the track, which means only one thing.
Strong braking ,with a straight steering wheel, taking advantage of all the stopping power that the car can offer.
Arriving to Bus Stop can be challenging. Its again an S, very short and slow this time, whilst coming in at great speeds. That makes it very easy to forget that the priority goes to the last corner of the two and is very easy to end up wide on the first part, overshooting the corner and losing much time trying to bring the car back for the last corner.
If your line at the exit is pointing to the wall on the outside, this should all the indication you need to go for a later apex.
And that pretty much sums up the way i experience a lap around this majestic racetrack.
Thanks for tuning in for this article and hope you enjoyed as well as found this helpful for your next visit here. And if you ever find yourself looking for more tips and tricks do not hesitate to send a message!
Take care all!