Sports & Outdoors

Everything you need to know about Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps

Experience one of the world’s greatest motor racing circuits, and explore the Ardennes, a beautiful area of Belgium. A Spa break with a difference!

Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, or Spa as it is more commonly known, is one of motor racing’s most iconic circuits. The home of the Belgian Grand Prix, the track is one of the fastest and most challenging in the sport.

Its location in the pretty Ardennes area, with its dense forests and rolling hills, makes Spa-Francorchamps an attractive destination for F1 fans. Even if you come to watch the Belgian Grand Prix, or any of the other races which are held here during the summer months, there are plenty of other things to see and do around Spa in a car.

Where is the Spa Francorchamps circuit?

Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is located in the Ardennes region of Wallonia in eastern Belgium, around 40km from the nearest city of Liège.

Driving to Spa from Calais

The ultimate road trip to Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps starts at Eurotunnel Le Shuttle Calais Terminal. It takes around 4 hours via the E40 motorway (with tolls). Your journey will take you almost entirely across Belgium, so if you want to rest up overnight, why not choose Ghent? We couldn’t think of a more picturesque pit stop!

A motor racing circuit running through dense forest, with the sun about to set.

The history of the circuit

The idea for a race around the public roads of the Ardennes forest came in 1920, from the owner of the Liège newspaper Jules de Their and racing driver Henri Langlois van Ophem. The first Grand Prix was held on the original 14km circuit in 1925, and Spa hosted one of the seven races of the inaugural World Championship in 1950. The great Italian driver Juan Manuel Fangio was its first winner.

Spa became notorious for its long straights and fast corners, especially the Masta Kink and Eau Rouge and Raidillon. High speed crashes and fatalities were sadly all too common, and driver Jackie Stewart led a campaign that forced the F1 governing body to drop Spa because it was too dangerous. It still hosted other races, such as the Spa 24 Hours and the Belgian motorcycle Grand Prix.

In 1979, to increase driver safety, the circuit was redesigned, becoming the 7km track we know today. However, it incorporated some of the road circuit’s original features, including the Eau Rouge and Raidillon.  F1 returned to the track and Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps has been the venue of the Belgian Grand Prix every year since 1985.

One of the things a visitor can do today is to drive sections of the original road circuit, because they are still the main public roads between the towns of Spa-Francorchamps, Malmedy and Stavelot. Keeping to the speed limit will still give you a sense of the excitement, danger and challenge that faced those brave early drivers in the Belgian Grand Prix.

The Formula One circuit

The current Spa-Francorchamps circuit represents a supreme test of an F1 driver’s skill and nerve.

Just over 7km long, it is the longest in F1, consisting of 20 corners and several long straights, which means drivers can reach speeds of up to 330 km/h (210 mph). The Eau Rouge corner, which sweeps uphill into the Raidillon bend, is the undisputed highlight of the track. It is no coincidence that a bronze statue made of Ayrton Senna, who won the Belgian Grand Prix every year from 1988-91, shows the Brazilian driver as he contorts his body in his cockpit to negotiate the Eau Rouge and Raidillon section.

As Senna said: “If you take away Eau Rouge, you take away the reason why I do this.”

Can you drive Spa Francorchamps?

Red car driving round a bend on a motor racing circuit, with crash barriers either side of the track and forest outside the track.

Yes! The Spa-Francorchamps circuit holds several public driving experience days every year, for drivers to experience the track from the wheel of their own car. A limited number of spaces are available for each day, with the basic package being a 25-minute run on the track, but up to five runs can be booked.

Safety briefings are given and those lucky enough to be able to drive on Spa-Francorchamps are expected to do so in a friendly spirit, rather than hurtle round Spa like Lewis Hamilton!

Explore the surrounding area

Even the most passionate petrolhead will need a break from the revving engines and tarmac of the Spa Francorchamps circuit. There are plenty of things to do around this part of the Ardennes, even if the thrill and excitement of the racing track is never far away.

Stavelot

Stone road bridge surrounded by leafless trees with a tower and two small waterfalls with abundant water flowing on a sunny winter’s day.

The town of Stavelot is around 8km from Spa-Francorchamps at the southern end of the old Grand Prix circuit. It is worth a visit for the imposing and historic Stavelot Abbey, which conveniently also houses the Spa-Francorchamps Racetrack museum, full of vintage cars that raced around the nearby circuit.

Walkers, cyclists and runners will appreciate the nature trails and paths through the woods and meadows just outside the town, while the nearby Coo waterfall offers a host of adventure activities from kayaking to tree climbing.

Malmedy

Take the main road from Stavelot (along the infamous Masta straight) and you reach the town of Malmedy, its modern streets overlooked by the Ardennes. The town suffered in both world wars, most tragically in December 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge, when 84 US prisoners of war were shot dead by the Nazi SS, known as the Malmedy massacre.

Today it is a peaceful place, the setting off point for numerous walking, mountain biking and trail running routes through the surrounding woods, forests and valleys.

Spa

Spa itself is around a 20 minute drive north west from the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. The town’s natural mineral springs are its worldwide claim to fame and earnt Spa UNESCO World Heritage status as one of ‘The Great Spas of Europe’. The main springs are on a hillside to the south of the town, and there are more than 300 cold mineral springs in the surrounding area.

You just have to take the waters at Les Thermes de Spa, a plush complex of indoor and outdoor pools, jacuzzis, steam rooms and saunas. Soak in the thermal waters heated to 33°C and drink in the views of the stunning Wallonian hills and valleys.

Pays de Herve

Selection of cheeses on a board with bread and glasses of beer in background .

A little to the north of Spa and you will find yourself in the Pays de Herve, a quiet agricultural region nestled between the Vesdre and the Meuse rivers, characterised by peaceful meadows, hedgerows, hills and orchards.

Here you can completely take your foot off the accelerator, unwind and discover beautiful villages, delicious local food and drink, woodland walks and quiet rivers. The only dangerous corners here are when the wedges of cheese are shrinking too quickly!

Start your journey to Spa Francorchamps with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

The starting grid on your Spa-Francorchamps journey is Folkestone, and France is just 35 minutes away via Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. Eurotunnel Le Shuttle can also help take you on road trips to other legendary motorsport circuits on the continent, such as Le Mans or the Nürburgring

In the words of the late, great Murray Walker … Go! Go! Go! Book your Eurotunnel Le Shuttle tickets today.

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