“My as­so­ci­a­tion with the daunt­ing Bel­gian Grand Prix cir­cuit at Spa-Fran­cor­champs goes back a fair bit…”

F1 Racing - - CHEQUERED FLAG -

I first went there as a child in the 1920s when my fa­ther, Graham Walker, was a works rider for the Nor­ton, Sun­beam and RudgeWhit­worth mo­tor­cy­cle race teams. In those days, it was the fa­bled 8.75-mile cir­cuit, first used in 1925 and since re­duced to 4.35 miles, with, as I once em­bar­rass­ingly re­marked: “Lots of gra­di­ent – not just up, but down as well!” In ei­ther form it was, and is, a ma­jor chal­lenge and, for my money, it is still by far the best GP cir­cuit of them all.

I re­call Fred­die Dixon, the wild pre-war car and mo­tor­cy­cle ace, shoot­ing out the Spa street lights with the FN pis­tol he’d been awarded for his Bel­gian GP vic­tory and then pre­vent­ing a po­lice-car chase by stuff­ing a potato up their ex­haust pipe. I’d like to say that I’ve en­joyed ev­ery visit, but that would be an ex­ag­ger­a­tion. In the bit­ter win­ter of 1944, I was in­volved in the Bat­tle of the Bulge in my Sher­man tank, as Hitler’s Wehrma­cht made a last ef­fort to re­verse the flow of World War II in the West by try­ing to lunge through the Ar­dennes to the French coast. I cer­tainly wasn’t think­ing too much about the glo­ries of the nearby Spa cir­cuit then!

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