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