I led the convoy out of Brussels and onto the the smooth, wide motorway that led to our destination, the Formula 1 race track at Spa Francorchamps.
We got to an arrow-straight section of the motorway and I knew the boys would want to have some fun so I upped the pace, conscious that our only female driver in the fabulous Cayman GT4 (nicknamed ‘Bumblebee’) was bringing up the rear of the convoy. I pulled into the middle lane as first the white Porsche 911 GTS thundered past, hotly pursued by the black Porsche 911 Carrera S and then the stunning Mercedes AMG GT, Its twin turbo V8 roaring as it blasted past..Then came Red 2’s Mercedes E400, as ever punching beyond its horsepower figures would suggest..
Where was Lisa in the GT4? These were ‘ungodly’ speeds and no way would any of us have entered heaven should the worst have happened. Then the awesome Ferrari California T screamed into view and stuck to its boot was Lisa in the yellow GT4! Why was I worried? They fell in behind me and we pushed to catch the others…..
When we got to Spa, I asked her: “How did you find the drive?” Her answer was very revealing and also startling:
“I could have had that Ferrari” she replied matter-of-factly.
Bravo Lisa! Bravo!
The Race. We settled down to watch the race and it was a battle initially between the two leading drivers of this season, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Sebatstian Vettel, starting second, stayed behind Lewis through Eau Rouge and used the Ferrari’s superior traction and power out of Radillon with the help of a ‘tow’ off Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes to blast past Hamilton along the Kemmel straight. Hamilton later remarked: “He drove past me like I wasn’t even there on the straight”. And that was that.
We were able to walk down the track in reverse from our grandstand at Bruxelles through Les Combes, down the Kemmel straight, down Eau Rouge and up to turn 1 at La Source. Fantastic.
The ‘Twisty’ Route.
Race done, it was time accomplish one of my primary goals for going on this trip. You see, the Ardennes is famous for its roads and terrain. Indeed the F1 track, which is one of the most challenging and rewarding race tracks in the world started as just a road. The original triangular track layout used public roads between the Belgian towns of Francorchamps, Malmedy and Stavelot, so we aimed for the town of Ville Du Bois via Stavelot as we left the race track and I’m glad we did.
What a route! Fast straights, sweepers, tight corners, downhill hairpins, uphill hairpins, massive gradient changes as much as 13% in some areas and stunning scenery. This went on for miles and miles and miles, it was as if someone had multiplied the length of the F1 track by 10 and laid it out for us to drive! Initially tight, hilly and bumpy through Stavelot, the route opened up into fast ***mph straights followed by tight hairpins, into another undulating straight into another uphill/downhill **mph sweeper. We all thought we had died and gone to motoring heaven.
This is what driving and super/sports cars is all about. We pushed..and pushed…and pushed…although I kept things to about 7 tenths due to the unfamiliarity of the roads and it is always prudent to keep a margin of safety when tackling unfamiliar roads.This proved invaluable when the road tightened unexpectedly after the fastest straight we had encountered, my GT3 just barely made it into the corner, Red 2, in his Mercedes E400 almost did not make it….his brakes cried ‘ENOUGH!’ after that as the brake pedal lengthened and he experienced brake fade. We stopped to let his brakes cool down shortly afterwards.
What a road! The 911 GTS driver remarked afterwards: “I’ve fallen in love with my car all over again”, the co-pilot in the Ferrari said: “This is the first time on this trip I’ve regretted not not bringing my car”.