Sunday. Race day, Spa Francorchamps.
We woke up early, had breakfast and checked out as we would be heading directly back to Calais to catch the shuttle and Ferry after the race. After our usual fill up with Esso’s finest, we headed to Spa. Some cars needed to fill up twice a day, such was their ferocious appetite for 97 RON unleaded! After the usual ‘go slow’ leaving Amsterdam we loosened the reins a little. The cars had run faultlessly and the drivers had proved themselves so we cut loose…We went as fast as we dared and as conditions allowed. On one particular stretch, I pulled into the middle lane and let the boys do a max speed run. One of the ‘Rarri drivers really cut loose. Lets just say he attained a speed only 24 mph shy of the cars maximum…..He would later say that he had been wasting his car for 2 years. It was an absolute blast. I was beginning to enjoy the journeys to the race track more than the events at the track itself!
We parked in the same car park at Stavelot again and this time there was absolutely no traffic. What gives? we later found out that most of the race fans had been at the track for 3-4 hours before the race. F1 fans in these parts are surely dedicated to their chosen sport.
We headed into the circuit to watch Lewis Hamilton win a close race from Sebastian Vettel. Watching those two trade fastest laps, no more than 2 seconds apart for the entire race was mesmerising. These two are the class of the 2017 F1 field no doubt and the winner of the title this year would have earned it.
Got back to the car park with the intention of making an early getaway as the traffic leaving the circuit is usually biblical, only to discover that the boot of one of the Ferrari’s was jammed, probably by some luggage on the inside. The passport of the driver of said Ferrari was in the boot. Hmmmn. A serious problem.
After spending an hour plus wrestling with the recalcitrant boot without any joy (and waiting for the ‘paddock pass crew’ to finish hob-nobbing with the great and the good of Formula 1) we started the journey back to Calais. It was well past 5 pm, we were stuck in traffic and we had to catch the 20:30 shuttle service in Calais 350 kilometers away. You can see where this is going. We’d just seen Lewis Hamilton use his famous ‘hammer time’ to win the Belgian Grand Prix. It was ‘hammer time’ for us. As soon as we cleared the traffic I put the hammer down, I cut loose and the others followed. We threw caution to the wind and wrung the necks of our cars. I deployed full ‘psycho’ mode, WaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAHHHHHHH! WaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!! the motorsport-derived engine behind me wailed to it’s 9,000 red line! The harder I pushed the car, the more alive the car seemed to be, absolutely wired to your senses, man and machine as one. We were well into high three figure speeds now, ‘just shoot them’ speeds, and it was a thrilling, exhilarating drive. This went on for kilometer after kilometer until I realised I had dropped the rest of the guys. I slowed down a bit and the cream Ferrari was the first to appear back in my rear-view mirror, bobbing and weaving like a boxer about to land the killer blow. Soon I had a whole gaggle of different performance cars attempting to follow our lead and join our fast moving convoy.
We reduced our pace from ‘oh my God!’ fast to just ‘fast’ for the last quarter of the journey as we had reached France now and we were approaching our destination, Calais.
We did not make our scheduled shuttle service despite our best efforts and we were put on the next available shuttle which was at 11:15 so we had a bit of time to grab a bite after clearing immigration. We loaded our cars onto the schedule at the allocated time and waved goodbye to France. Forty odd minutes later we arrived in Folkestone and began the last leg of the epic drive to our various homes.
It was on this last leg driving at UK speed-camera-infested motorway speeds that I started to reflect on the previous 72 hours. .One thing that immediately jumped out was the camaraderie present throughout the trip. The spirit of generosity, the thoughtfulness and concern for others displayed by all present was a joy to experience. Such experiences re-affirm your faith in human beings. There was one particular guy who checked the occupants of each car whenever we stopped and made sure we had all the snacks and drinks we needed. That is just one example of the generous spirit I am talking about.
Then to the road trip itself, everyone present said just how much they enjoyed it. The driving, the cars, the roads, the countryside, the F1 race were all magnificent pieces which added up to a most memorable road trip. Suffice to say we have immediately changed the Whatsapp group name from ‘F1 Spa Drive 2017’ to ‘F1 Spa Drive 2018’.
Clearly, we cannot wait to do it all over again.