Formula 1 World Championship 2002 - Round 14
Spa Francorchamps, Belgium




circuit mapI wasn't the only one to decide this year that Silverstone was just too expensive - Rhona (aka Speedscot), Bill and Mickey (aka the Raceaces) were of a similar opinion and thus the plan was hatched to make the journey to Spa - after all, tickets, ferry crossing, camping and petrol would come to less than the ticket cost at Silverstone! So the tickets were booked before Christmas, the ferry in the new year and all was set ... so we thought! The party was subsequently expanded to include Nicola (aka Polecat) and Yohan (aka Yoyofever) and Rhona dropped out for a while only to rejoin at the last minute (literally) when her sub was unable to make it (huge thanks to her very new and very tolerant husband!)

And so this motley crew (below left) set off in a very red minibus, arriving safely at our destination - a remarkably civilised campsite about 2 miles from the circuit with showers, bar and friterie on site - early Thursday evening.

The circuit map above right shows our various viewing points during the weekend - the super quick approach to Blanchimont for Friday 1st practice (no pics from here, they're just too damn quick!), the bank above the Bus Stop for Friday 2nd practice, the hill above Pouhon for Saturday and the exit of Pouhon for Sunday.

Click on pics to enlarge

the crew

The crew enjoying some refreshments

PdlR

Pedro de la Rosa approaching Bus Stop

RS

Ralf Schumacher (Williams)

JV

Jacques Villeneuve (BAR)

JT

Jarno Trulli (Renault)

OP RS

Olivier Panis (BAR), Ralf Schumacher

GF

Giancarlo Fisichella (Jordan)

DC

David Coulthard (McLaren) cutting corners

NH MSc

Nick Heidfeld, Michael Schumacher

Friday dawned damp and misty and the hike to the circuit on Friday morning was long and uphill, but we weren't complaining ... we were walking part of the old Spa circuit on our way to a race weekend :-) Entering the circuit at Stavelot, we headed along to Blanchimont and settled in the trees just above the track to await the first session. Delayed by an hour due to fog making helicopter transport to the designated hospitals impossible, when it eventually started you can hear the engines echoing across the valley from the far side of the circuit, but the ear-splitting volume as they hurtled past our spot was almost enough to resort to earplugs, if I'd had any!

We moved up to the Bus Stop for the second session, watching first from the trees above the entry to the chicane (see left) then moving to a point opposite the new pit lane entrance where Rhona and I put our rock climbing skills to the test to get most of the pictures shown on this page. Many of you who have been to a GP will recall the wide, irrepressible grin that appears on first hearing those engines ... it was an absolute delight to witness this phenomena on the face of Yohan, the GP virgin amongst us (see above right), and I only wish I'd captured his expression after the first race lap, it was a classic :-)

Practice sessions over, we headed down to check out the team displays below Eau Rouge and I stood at the bottom of that awesome hill, amazed once again at the steepness that you simply can't see on the TV, before hiking off through the infield to scout out possible viewing points for the rest of the weekend. The hill above Pouhon seemed to offer the key elements ... a good view of a fast corner and a giant screen to keep track of the rest of the action ... but an early start would be necessary to secure a good spot.

The walk seemed shorter on Saturday and we headed straight for Pouhon, grabbing a spot on the hill just above the grandstand, which we held on to all day by taking shifts for loo breaks, etc ... that was the theory anyway, but with the loos up the hill running out of water, three of our party headed off on the first "shift" in search of alternatives just after second practice and only just made it back for qualifying! The threat of rain brought the cars out fairly quickly at the beginning of the session and those equipped with either radios or binoculars (to read the giant screen) kept us in touch with the timings. The only surprise about Schumacher's pole was that it was his first at this circuit, but it was good to see Kimi breaking up the Ferrari's and Irvine in his highest qualifying position of the season. The F3000 race rounded off a great day and the light drizzle that eventually started to fall was a welcome cooling mechanism as we walked back to the campsite!

By the end of Saturday, the effects of perching on a tripod stool on a hill for 7 hours were being felt and we decided an alternative (flatter) perch was in order for Sunday. There was a fairly promising spot on the inside of Stavelot, but the view was restricted to that corner and the giant screen was behind us, so we made an early start and headed back to Pouhon, finding a perfect "six man" gap along the fencing at the exit of the corner, still within sight of the giant screen and with a great view up to Fagnes.

And so the long wait began ... 2 1/2 hours till warm-up, then another 4 hours till the race! Of course there was the Porsche Supercup to keep us amused, their engines whisper-quiet compared to the F1 cars, and the driver's parade ... and then it was time! The installation laps over, the parade lap completed, the lights went out and from our position half way round the circuit we heard the scream of the engines as they pulled off the grid ... they echo through the trees as they stream along from Kemmel to Les Combes, then the engine notes change as they enter the downhill section through Rivage and on towards Pouhon, then they come rocketing into sight at Pouhon, Schumacher already pulling away from his team-mate in second, and stream away out of sight around Fagnes. It goes quiet for a few seconds then the engines scream through the woods behind us along to Blanchimont and the Bus Stop. Lap 1 over, another 43 to go ...

Lap 2 found us right on the spot to witness Montoya take advantage of Raikkonen's slide at Pouhon, Lap 11 saw Button's demise from engine failure and on Lap 18 Davidson was kind enough to spin right in front of us, an unfortunate end to an impressive weekend from the young Brit. The one thing we were all agreed on was how fast the race goes when you're watching it live ... when the first car pits you think he's got a problem, then realise that a third of the race has already gone! It's important at Spa to keep track of the laps because there is no victory lap, you have to cheer your driver home on the last lap and hope nothing happens (or perhaps hope something does happen) to change the position between there and the chequered flag!

While the others set out to walk the circuit, Rhona and I headed back to camp to relax and reflect on a wonderful weekend. Thanks to all for your excellent company ... where are we going next year?!

GP virgin grin

Note grin on face of GP virgin Yohan!

Minardi

Minardi at Bus Stop

Irvine

Eddie Irvine (Jaguar)

KR

Kimi Raikkonen bouncing over curbs

MSc

Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)

RS

Ralf Schumacher takes unusual line

NH JV

Nick Heidfeld (Sauber), Jacques Villeneuve

JB

Jenson Button (Renault)

JPM

Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams)

Full race results can be found here

Ferrari

Ferrari approaching Pouhon

RS

Ralf Schumacher at Pouhon

JPM MSc

Juan Pablo Montoya, Michael Schumacher

Jordans Mclaren

Jordans and McLaren cruising in after Q

Pouhon

Pouhon - click to see where we were sitting!

AD

Anthony Davidson (Minardi) retires, lap 18

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