Spa-Francorchamps, where men used to be Men

What is Belgium famous for? Les frites, trappist beers and some EU-related stuff. And Spa-Francorchamps, mais oui.

This 7-kilometre circuit is popular also among those people who are not keen on motorsports, because of its history and its charm, which you can find nowhere else.

The greatest drivers of the history became “the greatest” here, indeed: the latest in chronological order is Michael Schumacher.

He debuted here in 1991, with Jordan. He set the 7th time on the grid, but he retired in the opening lap due to clutch failure. He would win his first Grand Prix one year later, on this very track. In 2001, he obtained his 52nd win in Formula One, becoming the most-winning driver of all times, surpassing Alain Prost, stuck at 51. In 2004, he won his seventh and last (for now) world championship.

He was also involved in an accident with David Coulthard, during the extremely-rainy 1998 edition, when the Scottish driver, who was going to be lapped, slowed down right in front of the Kaiser, causing the retirement of both.

Last but not least, in 2000 he underwent what is thought to be one of Formula One best overtakes, by Mika Hakkinen, who was one of Schumi’s best opponents, if not the best. With lapped Ricardo Zonta as a defenceless viewer.

He has won the Belgian Grand Prix six times out of 16 starts. This year’s will be his 17th.

But he is not the only driver who has bound his name to this circuit. Ayrton Senna won five times here (four consecutively between 1988 and 1991), while Jim Clark won four times (all consecutively from 1962 to 1965).

Until 1970, it was a different track from today’s, with its 14 kilometres of length. Because of safety matters raised by driver Jackie Stewart, the Belgian Grand Prix was moved to other locations for the years to come (Zolder for the most part), to then make its comeback in 1983, with the current 7-kilometre shape.

Start from La Source, turn right and then straight to “keep-your-foot-down-if-you-dare” Eau Rouge, up to Raidillon and pedal to the metal on the Kemmel straight. And this is just the first sector of the track.

Actually, with today’s cars, every driver keeps his foot down driving the Eau Rouge. But combine this with the rain that very often comes in the race weekend, and you will obtain one of motorsports’ greatest shows.

Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Spa-Francorchamps.