Saturday morning. Qualifying, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium.
We set off early on Saturday to cover the 280 or so kilometers to the circuit at Spa. It turned out some of the lads had media accreditation and had to collect their paddock passes from the FIA media center before 12 noon local time (lucky boys) so we could not ‘hang about’, we had to get to Spa. Quickly. Heading out of Amsterdam, there is a lovely section of motorway. Five arrow-straight, billiard-table smooth lanes of motoring heaven which goads drivers into max-speed runs. I fell foul of the Dutch police in 2015 after failing to resist the temptation for a max speed blast on this very section. In 2015 I went past an unmarked police car at 173 mph and they gladly threw the book at me. Lesson learned the hard way.
Once past this heavily policed section, we could gradually increase the pace over some of the most perfect roads and motorways in Europe. There was a bit of everything, from smooth, flat-out sections to 120mph sweepers and everything in between. High speed stability, braking and confidence inspiring handling traits were key here. The drivers in these parts also have an annoying habit of changing lanes at the last second, forcing us to slam the brakes to avoid the mother and father of all road accidents. Fortunately we were well endowed in the car department! Again and again, we had to wipe off 50-80 mph quickly then build the speed up again and the cars responded with aplomb…. The only thing missing were the narrow, twisty, undulating A-roads that test both driver and car in a different way. Ahh well, you can’t have it all.
We hit some serious traffic 7km from the circuit just before junction 10 (The Stavelot exit) on the E-42. It took as about an hour to cover 1km! The Max Verstappen fans were out in force. A few of us had to abandon the cars and make the rest of the journey to the media center on foot to beat the 12 noon paddock pass collection deadline.
We parked in the town of Stavelot for a very reasonable 10 euros all day. Many corners on this F1 circuit are named after the nearby towns and districts. So we have Stavelot, Blanchimont etc..We watched Lewis Hamilton take pole position from my favorite viewing position at the bottom of Eau Rouge.
Saturday night, Amsterdam.
We waited in the car park for the paddock pass crew to finish mingling with the F1 drivers, stars and celebrities and started the journey back to Amsterdam. By now, many of the boys were growing in confidence, confidence in themselves and their cars and were beginning to push it. Every time I stepped up the pace they were never too far behind, even the monstrous G63. Good stuff.