BEL­GIUM

Classic Racer - - CLASSIC RACER PHIL WAIN MOTO GP -

Part of the in­au­gu­ral year of 1949, the spec­tac­u­lar cir­cuit of Spa-fran­cor­champs hosted the Bel­gian Grand Prix ev­ery year, ex­cept one, up un­til 1990. De­signed in 1920, the orig­i­nal 14km (8.7 mile) cir­cuit was a tri­an­gu­lar-shaped course which used the pub­lic roads be­tween the towns of Fran­cor­champs, Malm­edy and Stavelot; it was es­sen­tially a speed course. In­deed, it re­mains the fastest mo­tor­cy­cle cir­cuit ever used, with Barry Sheene’s in­cred­i­ble 1977 lap record of 220.72kph (137.15mph) never bet­tered. Spa was a true test of a rider’s skill and brav­ery and, ly­ing deep in the Ar­dennes for­est, was of­ten hit by heavy rain. Sur­rounded by houses, trees and other ob­sta­cles, safety con­cerns led to a new, shorter 7km (4.3 mile) course be­ing built for the 1979 sea­son. How­ever, it was boy­cotted by many of the top rid­ers in its first year due to the poor sur­face. It re­tained much of its char­ac­ter in­clud­ing the Eau Rouge, Radil­lon and Blanchi­mont sec­tions, but in­stead of turn­ing left at the end of the Kem­mel straight and head­ing along the Masta straight, it now turned right, ne­go­ti­at­ing a new, pur­pose-built sec­tion be­fore re­join­ing the old pub­lic road cir­cuit just be­fore Blanchi­mont. It was still very fast and still very chal­leng­ing and the ever-in­creas­ing speeds and dan­gers meant it was taken off the cal­en­dar af­ter 1990, Wayne Rainey win­ning the fi­nal GP to be held at Spa. The only other Bel­gian cir­cuit to host a Grand Prix was Zolder, which made a one-off ap­pear­ance in 1980 while Spa was be­ing re­vamped. Randy Mamola won a rel­a­tively un­event­ful race, al­though it was sig­nif­i­cant in that it wit­nessed the first ap­pear­ance in a GP by Fred­die Spencer.

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