words and photo by Felix Page
I'd come across Spa before, almost by accident. Driving to the ferry port in France at the end of a road trip a few years ago with a friend, we passed the sign. With enough time in hand, we made a quick detour. It was a misty autumn morning with the track in front of us, weaving up to Eau Rouge, we glanced through galvanised gates.
Fast forward a couple of years and I find myself back in Malmedy on a Friday evening. My flüssig car suffered a headgasket failure days before, and what was supposed to be a turbo charged adventure, turns into a diesel drag with dad. We have to pick up our tickets from a hotel close to the circuit and we decide on a quick recce, if only to see where the car park is for the next morning. Suddenly, we're wandering through the paddock area.
"...where else can you head up to the grandstand, walk the pit lane or loiter in the garages, all in one evening?"
Just minutes later we're in the pit lane, basking in the rumble of 60's endurance cars, heated as we face the evening sun. Immersion is almost immediate and the atmosphere invites you to explore, seeking out mechanical heroes. Some you may have seen before, either in print or metal. Then there's some you never even knew existed. All of them you have time for, and all of them have time for you. To me, this is the draw of historic racing, it's an equaliser. Everyone present shares the same burning passion, be they marshal, spectator, mechanic or driver. With this comes a mutual trust, where else can you head up to the grandstand, walk the pit lane or loiter in the garages, all in one evening?
Come Saturday afternoon and the headline act, the Spa 6 hours is upon us. At first, you could be mistaken for thinking it was a GT40 series, with a single AC Cobra flirting amongst them in the top 10 places at the start. But as the pictures prove: there was a lot more in the rest of the constantly reducing field of cars. The reason it was reducing? Well by the evening, neglecting the advise to bring an umbrella appeared all too optimistic.
The rain was torrential. Atop the pit building at the bar, we would chase en-masse inside to the restaurant, fixated on the timing screens as lighting flashed in the background. As soon as one person ventured outside again, we'd all move out once more, sipping beer on the terrace. Night fell with the rain and the spectacle was turned to headlights threading their way around the circuit. Back here in the UK, we're fortunate to have some classic tracks and a host of characterful smaller circuits to nourish interest on a local level. Spa is a world apart, steeped in the theatre of the Ardenne forest, we left invigorated, until next time.