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Thread: Cat in Sunshine Repeat visit to Spa-Francorchamps Circuit in Belgium

  1. #1
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    Default Cat in Sunshine Repeat visit to Spa-Francorchamps Circuit in Belgium

    Back in March this year I made an attempt to run two consecutive days on track at Spa-Francorchamps in a BookaTrack rented Caterham. As you will recall from this post…

    http://usa7s.com/vb/showthread.php?t=8506

    ….it did not work out so well as it snowed on the first day and it became an exercise in survival and bring the car home alive. For the second day there were a few more inches of snow that I would have needed an SUV to go around the circuit.

    Still, I saw enough of the circuit to understand that it is a special place and worthy of going all out for another try. So last Monday and Tuesday I went back – again with BookaTrack in trusty BAT10, a Caterham R300 race car that I have rented several times before.



    Before I turned up at the circuit, I arrived the day before early to allow me to explore the Spa Circuit museum in the Stavelot Abbey, located in a little village about 6 miles from the circuit. While not large, it has a great collection of cars and some very interesting videos of old races.

    The track day was being run by BookaTrack. I am firmly of the belief that they run the best track days in the UK and Europe. Great team of friendly people, headed up by Jonny Leroux who gives the best driver briefings of any track day I have ever been on – serious, strict but with a healthy dose of humor to keep you focused. It was an open pit lane format with rules are similar to US track days except (a) passing only on left on straights (b) no point by given the speed differentials between slowest to fastest cars. The Belgians do use a white flag on their circuit. I thought this was reference to them surrendering but it means there is a track vehicle on course picking up debris or giving a flat tow to some disabled car. They do this to avoid shutting down the track which takes a long time given it is 4 miles long.

    My faith was confirmed – it was an epic two days. The weather was warm and perfect. The track was in in top shape. It was not very crowded so quality track time. Well behaved participants – no troubles getting past other cars. Casualty rate was low – only 1 incident. My car was perfect.

    My car was again BAT 10 – Caterham R300 with a 180hp 2L Duratec, 6 speed box, running 13 inch wheels with CR500s, full cage, no frills. It has the 3.62 diff ratio so in theory should gear out at 120-122mph area in 6th gear at 7000rpm.

    Track map:



    I said it once before in an earlier post and I will say it again – the circuit is simply one of the top 3 circuits in the world. I much prefer it over Nurburgring as Spa is a more fun drive and still a great driving challenge. To me the sense of history contributes so much to understanding just a fraction what the top F1 pilots of the 60s and 70s went through. The elevation changes contribute so much the character. The only other circuit which comes close in this respect is Mt Panorama Bathurst Australia which also makes my top 3 circuits to drive. Yet I think I prefer Spa as Bathurst can be a little too dangerous with is blind corners and places too much demand on power which a relatively low powered car like a Caterham cannot meet. Spa’s design rewards the momentum driving style that a Caterham can produce. At my lap times I was averaging 90mph per lap (3mins for 4.5m) – no wonder I spent most of my time looking for 7th gear on the long straights (the video shows me doing this all the time). While the Caterham may not have the top end speed of the Porsches, Beemers and the like, I would kill under braking and would maintain a higher average speed through the corners. For a power circuit like Spa the seven does not give anything away. For example there was a Ferrari 430 running around – I hounded him for 3 laps – he would get away on the straights but I would kill him on the corners and curvy bits. Eventually he let me past with a cloud of brake dust. Same for the McLaren and Aston Martins and most of the other road going exotica. For its cost a Seven cannot be beaten in the value performance stakes. The Caterham could pound its way around for 30-40-50 minutes doing consistent lap times and was probably faster, and easier to drive over the time than much of the high powered cars.

    We were based in the Endurance Pits this time instead of the Formula 1 Pits. While more crowded it does have the advantage of more character and you can hang on the pit wall watching the cars barrel past into Eau Rouge and up the hill.

    Last edited by Croc; 09-28-2019 at 04:22 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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    There was a very interesting range of cars on display. Low end 125hp Caterhams, to Lotus Eliges and Ginettas, to higher end Porsche 911 derivatives, BMW M3s and then full on race cars like Radicals, Junos and the like. There was a Lola T70 (best sounding car) and a Porsche 962. Tuesday saw a group 4 (I think) De Tomaso Pantera.






    Last edited by Croc; 09-28-2019 at 04:24 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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    The Jagermeister Porsche 962 caused me to ruin my underwear in more ways than one:







    That was one way. The other way was on Kemmel Straight, rocking along at all of 115mph at 6800rpm in 6th gear, the Porsche blasted past me at something like 200mph. Being a competitive chap and I had carefully listened to a few knowledgeable people in the pits about the benefits of slipstreaming aero cars, I decided to grab a tow by jumping in behind it. Instantly I was sucked hard and was at 7800rpm and through the rev limiter past the red line before I could blink. The BAT mechanics slapped me silly later and said “don’t do it again” otherwise you will be fined. I had no idea of the aero vacuum that sits behind a group C sports car…wow!


    After my March trip, I had a decent idea of where the circuit went and so I just headed on out and promptly looped it at the La Source corner on the first lap…oops! After a few laps I found my feet and just started pounding around to explore the limits carefully.

    I had two sessions of instruction included in the car rental with Scott Mansell, a very accomplished race champion.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Mansell


    BTW - I do like how his Wikipedia profile shows his car being recovered after a track moment of kind! I can relate to that! Seriously, I am amazed how much I get out of top tier pro drivers when they provide instruction. It may cost a lot but the quality of input is superb. He gave me some quality suggestions on day 1 and by day 2 after some work at them the results were evident and I felt much happier in the way I was driving the circuit.
    Last edited by Croc; 09-28-2019 at 04:26 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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    Some photos to look at all of these great photos are courtesy of the BAT photographers (who make me better than I really am!).

    Here I am exiting Eau Rouge and making the climb up to Radillon. This is the classic scene of Spa with the Endurance pits in the background.




    Here is the car hopping the curb at Radillon apex. The pit exit is the lane in the background.



    After Radillon you have the gently uphill Kemmel Straight. With a good run out of Radillon I was easily sitting on 6800rpm in top gear (say 115-118mph) well before the braking zone. I usually kept it at 6800rpm since it did not take much to hit the rev limiter at 7000rpm. After Kemmel Straight it is a sharp deceleration in speed for Les Combes, a nicely paced esses series.

    Last edited by Croc; 09-28-2019 at 04:34 AM.

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    At this point you are at the maximum altitude of the circuit where you start the downhill run back to the pits. An illustration of the drop is the next photo of me going through the left hander after Rivage – less than a mile beyond Les Combes but a lot lower - photo was taken up near Kemmel Straight.





    At this point you start picking up real speed, winding your way down before reaching the high speed Blanchimont area. This culminates in the Bus Stop – a very slow esses complex just before the main straight and the F1 pits.





    After the F1 pits you have the very sharp right hander called La Source. For some reason lots of cars get out of shape on this corner?
    The bad (missed the apex by 12 feet, opposite lock is on and the damn photographer found me!)



    The Good

    Last edited by Croc; 09-28-2019 at 04:41 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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    Here video of the first session Tuesday when I managed to get the logger to work (its in 1080 60fps – select the cog wheel to get higher res). The GPS signals were erratic due to the terrain and trees so there is jumpiness to the speeds and map from time to time. At 12m20 you start to see a black Caterham in the rear camera and then the front camera hanging the tail out. When you are Jonny and run BaT you can have a bit of fun from time to time. His car control is immense and you will hear me laughing aloud as he hams it up on track. Brilliant stuff! He does also hold the outright Caterham race lap record around Spa at 2m45.46 in a Caterham R300 so he is one guy I want to follow on track to learn. By contrast I only got to a best lap time of 2m57 in my last session (with no traffic) – just need to find another 12 seconds!








    The second video screwed up the video sound but was my last session. You can see me halfway through finally summon the courage/skill to take Blanchimont corner flat out without lifting at 105-110mph (F1 cars do it at 200mph!).






    I had such a blast I am trying to work out when I can get back to do it all again! Forget your retirement savings, college funds, dresses and jewelry for the other half, come on out and live. Life is too short to miss experiences like this.
    Last edited by Croc; 09-28-2019 at 04:43 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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    Where is your fancy Painted helmet? What did you do, buy a new Carbon Fiber one as your head got too big? Welcome back.

    Tom
    Mangia bene, Ridi spesso, Ama molto, Guidare veloce

    2000 Caterham Superlight #123
    1.8L VHPD Rover K Series
    2009 Caterham SV
    2.3L Cosworth Duratec

  8. #8
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    Looks like a blast. I love the orange CSR200.
    2010 Caterham Superlight R
    Cosworth 2.3L-309HP, Sadev Sequential Gearbox, Geartronics Paddle Shift

  9. #9
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    The uphill looks like it goes straight up! Never saw a track that steep.
    What was the best driving tip you got?
    How did the 180 hp car (abt same as mine) compare to your mighty Cosworth?
    I'd add this to my bucket list but if I did it, my $ bucket wld be empty. Enjoying vicarious participation tho. The track is quite amazing.
    Kitcat:AKA, Sir Spinsalot
    '97 Caterham Super Sprint, 1700 Crossflow-sold
    '09 Birkin S3, Duratec-sold
    '03 Caterham Zetec track car
    '19 Honda Type R, sold
    '19 Miata Clubsport

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kitcat View Post
    The uphill looks like it goes straight up! Never saw a track that steep.
    While I've never had the fun of driving around Spa, I did walk it after a Grand Prix. Eau Rouge is incredibly steep - so much that it is actually kind of hard to walk up it. It is a lot more dramatic than it looks watching it on TV.

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