We pay a visit to the derelict former site of the Belgian GP
Seventy miles west of Spa-francorchamps lie the crumbling remnants of the circuit that once aspired to snatch its crown. F1 Racing took a road trip to the former Belgian GP venue of Nivelles-baulers to see it before it disappears for good…
The 1972 and 1974 Belgian GPS were crucial wins for Emerson Fittipaldi on his way to championship glory, but today the expanse of Walloon countryside where they took place is better remembered for a different battle: Wellington’s victory over Napoleon, a few miles up the road, in 1815.
The passing years have not been kind to Nivelles-baulers, the circuit that once formed part of a lofty plan to split the hosting of the Belgian GP between the Flemish (represented by Zolder) and Wallonian parts of the country on alternate years, in place of safety-compromised Spa-francorchamps.
Derided from the off as an unchallenging substitute for Spa, Nivelles-baulers met its – ahem – Waterloo when the money ran out within three years of it opening its gates. The owners had already failed to acquire enough land to deliver the full extent of celebrated track designer John Hugenholtz’s vision, and the circuit’s slide into bankruptcy sealed the deal.
Safety improvements made Spa an acceptable venue again, F1 never looked back, and, after closing in 1981 Nivellesbaulers began to return to nature. Over the past two decades the footprint of the 2.3-mile circuit has been converted into the perimeter road of a new industrial estate, with construction spoil dumped on the rest to dissuade illegal racing. Beyond this lies a tree-lined hinterland of litter. Soon the last vestiges of the old asphalt will be gone, and with it the last links to an interesting cul-de-sac in Formula 1 history.
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair: once heralded as the new Spa, Nivellesbaulers is now sadly abandoned, and a mixture of scrub and industrial land