The new DTM venues: Spa-Francorchamps
The 2005 DTM calendar contains three new venues. In the coming weeks, dtm.de is going to introduce this new circuits to you, one by one. Today: Spa-Francorchamps
On 15th May, 2005, DTM will celebrate a premiere. For the first time, the international touring car series will contest a round at Belgium’s Ardennes circuit, Spa-Francorchamps. This track, located close to the German border, is one of the last so-called natural circuits, with the 6.968-kilomretre track leading up and down across the Ardennes. Although the circuit has been revamped several times, it still has retained its unique characteristic, thus still fascinating both motor racing enthusiasts and drivers.
Located some 50 kilometres to the west of Aachen, Germany, the famous Ardennes rollercoaster of Spa-Francorchamps was opened back in 1924. At that time, it was a massive 14.863-kilometre circuit that was also part of the region’s public road network, with common handicaps such as traffic signs, manhole covers and houses adding to its challenge; just as the Ardennes’ notoriously changeable weather conditions, commanding the particular respect of the drivers. Here, you always had to expect that the sun could be shining at the start-finish straight while another section of the circuit was drowned by a sudden downpour.
From 1950 to 1970, Spa was the venue of Belgium’s Formula One World Championship round, the Belgian Grand Prix, with racing legends such as Alberto Ascari and Juan Manuel Fangio dominating the early Belgian Grands Prix before Jim Clark succeeded in winning the event four consecutive times (1962 to 1965). But when Mexican Pedro Rodriguez won the 1970 Belgian Grand Prix behind the wheel of his BRM P153 at an average speed of nearly 240kph, it was obvious that Spa was no longer an appropriate Formula One venue. The technology had developed too far and too fast and it was just impossible to ensure the drivers’ safety. Therefore, the circuit was massively revamped and shortened, and in 1983, Formula One made its comeback at the now 6.939-kilometre track.
The arguably most famous and spectacular section of Spa-Francorchamps is the ‘Raidillon Eau Rouge’. The cars are chasing downhill and flat out to a chicane, but in the chicane, the track profile changes dramatically, leading rampantly uphill, now. A massive compression, representing a particular strain for the drivers’ stomachs. Those who succeed in cornering the ‘Eau Rouge’ flat out are regarded as true racers and enjoy the respect of the entire motor racing world.
Never before in more than 20 years of DTM history, has the series contested a race at Spa-Francorchamps. During the official ITR tests at the Belgian Grand Prix circuit, it will become obvious for the first time if this proves to be an advantage for the former Formula One aces on the DTM grid, with these four days of testing at Spa taking place from 29th March.
In his Formula One years, already, Mika Häkkinen was a real Spa enthusiast. “I have always enjoyed to race at Spa”, said the two-time Formula One World Champion. “It’s one of the most thrilling and demanding circuits on our planet, with Eau Rouge representing a particular challenge.”