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Thread: A return visit to Sp-Francorchamps in a Caterham

  1. #1
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    Default A return visit to Spa-Francorchamps in a Caterham

    I do a write up for all my track trips for my photo albums so I am sharing my notes from that. Yellowss7 knows all about my Shutterfly photo albums! I figure everyone enjoys a good Sunday morning browse with a cup of coffee.

    So in late March I just happened to find myself in Belgium for a weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, in the Ardennes, about 1.5 hours east of Brussels. I was last there in July 2013 and had promised I would return but as usual work, life, other cars, family, blah blah, get in the way. It is simply one of the best 3 tracks in the world to drive and a seven is just so well suited around there given the momentum style of driving.

    Ignoring that, I signed up for the 25th and 26th (Sunday and Monday) with Bookatrack and again rented a Caterham with them. I believe they run the best track days of any operator anywhere and they are such a fun group of people to be around.

    https://www.bookatrack.com

    March is an uneasy time for a track day at Spa as you never know what could happen as I learned in March 2013 and got the distinct pleasure….err….experience of driving on track in snow. Not recommended, even at Spa. As it turned out I need not have bothered – sunny, clear, some clouds and in the 50s both days – just perfect.

    To remove any chance of jet lag, I flew in early to Brussels and meandered my way over to Spa town, an easy 12 minutes drive from the track.












    This was a change from staying at a hotel next to the track as it allowed for enjoying the town’s various nice restaurants in the evening and a nice walk around what is a pretty little town nestled in the valley.
    Last edited by Croc; 05-22-2018 at 03:14 AM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

  2. #2
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    Given I arrived on the Friday and was not driving until Sunday, I decided to take a few scenic drives around the old circuit and visit Stavelot where the Spa-Francorchamps museum is located.

    The Museum is located in the undercroft of the restored Abbey. Its not big but the displays rotate regularly and everything is very interesting and well done from original race cars, memorabilia and old photos.










    Last edited by Croc; 04-20-2018 at 04:55 AM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

  3. #3
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    A diorama of the circuit – old and current – in the context of the surrounding area







    Last edited by Croc; 04-20-2018 at 04:57 AM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

  4. #4
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    Default







    Last edited by Croc; 04-20-2018 at 04:59 AM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

  5. #5
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    Default










    Last edited by Croc; 04-20-2018 at 05:00 AM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

  6. #6
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    Following this I drove the old circuit. Originally the circuit was laid out on the local public roads. Eventually this became too dangerous and the modern day circuit, still based on local roads, was carved out and enclosed. Up to 1970 Formula 1 and GT races were being held on public roads, running through villages, alongside houses, fields, with no safety barriers or run off. Speeds averaged 180mph along these roads.

    For example, this is the old Malmedy straight.



    And here is part of the Masta kink.



    If you know where you are looking there are some gravestones along these roads, in drainage ditches by the side of the road, or next to old trees, memorials to the racing drivers who died in high speed crashes.

    Quite sobering.
    Last edited by Croc; 04-20-2018 at 05:01 AM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

  7. #7
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    The Saturday was a test day at Spa, so I drove into the pits, dropped the car and proceeded to walk the circuit in its entirety

    Despite having been there before, I had never walked the circuit. This helps you understand the geometry and layout of a corner, whether there is elevation change, camber change or other little nuggets of information that can help you drive the circuit quicker. This is a fast circuit – I average 85mph – that’s an average! Astounding when you think about how a Caterham does not have a particularly high top speed. So the game is to carry as much speed as you can through every corner.




    The following photo is looking uphill at the old pits and back towards La Source (corner 1).





    Then standing in the same spot but swiveling left is Eau Rouge (at the base of the hill – corner 2) looking towards the top of the hill where Raidillon corner is located.




    Moving up the hill to the top where Raidillon is located but looking left a little, you get the classic Spa-Francorchamps view back down the hill to Eau Rouge, the old pits and La Source in the background.

    Last edited by Croc; 04-20-2018 at 05:05 AM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

  8. #8
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    Raidillon is the top of the hill. When you come through Eau Rouge (no lifting…), you cannot see the next corner so you aim the car using the tops of the pine trees and if all goes well you pop across the top of the crest, two left wheels on the Raidillon curb as you then track out right.



    Then you are on the long Kemmel straight. Its essential to get a high speed run through Eau Rouge and Raidillon to max your speed on the straight. You are still gaining elevation here, heading towards the highest part of the circuit at Les Combes.

    This is the exit of Les Combes (corner 7 on the map) and the highest elevation of the circuit



    Some mention has to be made of the elevation change on this circuit – its massive.

    The lowest point on the circuit, just after Campus corner is at 1110 feet of elevation (from sea level). The highest point on the circuit is just exiting Les Combes at 1410 feet of elevation. So in 1.5 miles the circuit drops 300 feet.

    Alternatively, consider that at La Source corner the elevation from sea level is 1272 feet. At Eau Rouge you are at around 1140 feet and at Raidillon you are at 1242 feet of elevation. So in track distance of about an 6/10ths of a mile you have descended 132 feet and then in the next 300-400 feet you ascend 113 feet in elevation.

    Pretty radical elevation changes that are only equaled in circuits like Mt Panorama in Australia or Portimao in Portugal or the Nürburgring.

    So after Les Combes it is downhill into the right handed sweeper Bruxelles (corner 8 on the map). This is off camber initially although it starts to ease off as you get through to the last third or quarter of the corner.



    Looking back uphill to the exit from Bruxelles

    Last edited by Croc; 04-20-2018 at 05:10 AM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

  9. #9
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    Then its to the downhill lefthander (corner 9 on the map). This is tricky to judge. It’s tighter than it looks. It has two green plastic posts on the apex so don’t cut this corner. There is not much run off and if you do get it wrong on exit there is artificial grass just after the curb, not very nice for grip as the car goes all squirrely there. And just to ensure there is a high level of pucker factor, as you track out from the apex there is a dimple in the circuit, right where your right rear wheel tracks out. So you have to watch for the rear end snapping away from you at just the wrong moment.




    Then onwards, faster, downhill….



    …..to the Double Gauche (corners 10 and 11 on the map). Some people call this double apex left sweeper, Pouhan corner.

    The entry (corner 10)



    The middle (corner 10 exit and corner 11 entry). The skid marks tell the story of what not to do with the corner...

    Last edited by Croc; 04-20-2018 at 05:13 AM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

  10. #10
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    The exit (corner 11 exit)



    Double Gauche is seriously quick and incredibly satisfying if you get it right. Somewhat early looking entry, mild brake tap in 4th gear, hold the wheel and let the car arc out to the right before arcing back to the second apex. If you get it right then you just hold the wheel constant through the corner and feed the power in. Just after the first apex I am foot to the floor through the rest of the corner. You are carrying some serious speed by the second apex and for me getting up towards the redline in 4th gear.

    Get it wrong and it is one hell of a wild ride. Plenty of tarmac run off once you get beyond the artificial grass.

    Then on to Fagnes (corners 12 and 13). This is corner 13 below. It is slightly uphill and favorably cambered. So you can carry good speed right through corner 12 and then flick the car back left for corner 13 all while feeding the power in and generating just a slight drift from the tail – epic fun.



    Then it’s on through Campus and onto the straight than leads into Blanchimont. An open left double sweeper – no lifting – before you arrive at the Bus Stop




    And here




    So it is a hard braking down from around 120-125mph (in a 420R) to like 30mph, flicking right then left.

    And at this point you are back at the modern pit straight accelerating up towards La Source.
    Last edited by Croc; 04-20-2018 at 05:15 AM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration finished - track set up time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore SS Group A (suspension restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (suspension set up)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (radiator replacement)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (dyno time)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic
    and another project car coming....

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