The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
Some call it the most beautiful track in the world. It’s certainly located in a beautiful place. It’s called Spa-Francorchamps and is often referred to simply as ‘Spa’ but the circuit lies on the outskirts of Francorchamps, a beautiful little village about 8kms from the small city called Spa. Having now visited the circuit, I can’t imagine how this place must be completely transformed when the Belgian Grand Prix is on.
The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps lives in the shadow of the Nurburgring in terms of being a challenging drive, but make no mistake – this track is one that is coveted by champions in all disciplines. And champions invariably seek to enhance their legacy by winning here.
Schumacher, Senna, Clark, Fangio, Raikkonen, Hill, Ascari, Fittipaldi, Lauda, Prost and even the young wunderkind Sebastian Vettel; all are multiple Grands Prix winners at Spa.
In fact, the Belgian Grand Prix has been won just three times in the last 30 years by a driver who was not either a past, reigning or future world champion. And two of those three guys both finished runners up in the world Formula 1 championship at least once. That’s Spa – it rarely allows for or accepts anything but the best.
Koenigsegg is at Spa with our One:1 factory development car to participate in a track event hosted by Ron Simons Racing, or RSR. Our One:1 car is in constant evolution. We constantly test new vehicle settings and materials that we can use to enhance future cars, such as the new Agera RS. The One:1 is the perfect test bed and an event such as this RSR Spa track meeting is the perfect setting.
Last time we were at Spa, we set what we believe is a lap record of 2:33.26 for a road-legal production car. If we sliced and diced the best sector times of the day from that previous meeting, we recorded a theoretical time just above 2:30. That’s our unofficial benchmark here at Spa in proving the performance capability of the One:1.
So what are the obstacles that might stop us?
Our factory driver, Robert Serwanski, is still a relative newcomer to Spa. The last time we were here was actually his first time here. There is a LOT to learn when you come to a technical track like Spa. Having a car with the raw power and handling capabilities of the Koenigsegg One:1 gives you a definite advantage but such an advantage should never lead to complacency.
As an aside – there’s a fine line between what may be seen my some as excuses, which are actually reasons (or in this case, obstacles). Anyone who considered the above to be an excuse rather than a reason has never driven a fast car on a world class racetrack. The guys who achieve the fastest times at a track like the Nurburgring, for example, have all usually done hundreds, if not thousands of laps there.
Our host, Ron Simons, took participants in this event for a “track walk”, which doesnt’ involve much walking but does involve a tour around some of the trickier parts of the track. His warnings about the more dangerous parts of the track were not subtle and Ron is a Spa specialist with over 20 years experience and innumerable race wins here. Ron’s teachings about Spa are well worth listening to. Robert’s education at Spa is ongoing.
The weather is always a potential player and the local track jockeys here at Spa tell me you can almost throw the weather forecast out the window. Spa can be like it’s own little microclimate sometimes and rain can come even if there is none forecast.
The final obstacle is one that very few people would consider unless their regular track day participants – noise.
The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is situated not around 1km from the village of Francorchamps. The circuit is used most days of the year, which means there’s a certain level of cooperation required between those who use the track and the community that hosts them.
Bottom line – you’ve got a limit of 103 decibels at your disposal. Cars that exceed this limit are warned. Cars that continue to exceed this limit can be removed from an event. Cars that are continually removed from events may be ruled ineligible for future events. This noise restriction means that a driver has to find a way around the track that minimises trips to the red-line. Shorter shifting, for example. It may slightly reduce the power advantage the One:1 enjoys but there’s no use having a power advantage if you’re stuck in the pits.
Can we get around it? There’s the driver-centric solution discussed above but maybe there’s a mechanical solution, too. We’ll explore that first thing tomorrow morning.
And speaking of tomorrow leads me to today, which was day 1 of the RSR Spa event. Let’s start with a map of the track, shall we?
As mentioned before, we started the day with a ‘track walk’. The track walk actually involved us getting into cars to drive to two of the prominent sections of the track – Eau Rouge and Pouhon – described by Ron Simons as “the two most beautiful corners in the world”.
This is Eau Rouge, below. Neither this photo, nor any other photo I’ve ever seen does this corner justice. The elevation change as you go down the small straight and then up the hill after the kink is breathtaking. And the corner itself is much more compact in person than it appears either here or in any video you’ve seen. It’s a very tricky proposition.
Pouhon is a sweeping left-hander that turns through nearly 180 degrees over the course of about 500 meters. It’s one of those corners that just keeps going. I’m standing at the end of the run-off area and you can see how far away I am from the track. There’s were plenty of tire marks in the run-off area, too. It attracts some victims.
Our morning stint was cut short by a red flag on the track during our first stint. The afternoon saw a lot more laps completed. The first stints were used to measure tire behaviour and determine the right tire pressures, as well as confirming previous aero settings, etc. There are a lot of variables with the One:1, as there are with most track-focused cars.
So how did we go?
The ongoing education and fine-tuning of the car continues. There were showers in the afternoon, which didn’t help, especially as the One:1 is running on the same tires as it had the last time we were here, over a month ago. Fresh rubber was fitted late this afternoon in preparation for tomorrow.
We did manage laps faster than our previous best, which is encouraging, but we have not yet reached our goal. The good news is that the car is tight and running beautifully. We’re quite optimistic that with good weather tomorrow (which is expected) we can get a lot out of the session.
The fleet at the RSR event was made up of a wide variety of cars, from hardened race cars to weekend warriors, as well as RSR’s own fleet of cars for hire. See the gallery below. Anyone who claims that Porsches are common probably has a decent track history because there were Porsches a-plenty here today.
Click on the images to enlarge…..