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…

F1 Racing (UK) - - CONTENTS -

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.