Spa-Francorchamps is probably the best racetrack in the world and Eau Rouge is its most famous corner. It’s a wild, violent downhill-left-uphill-right ride and English racing driver Andy Dickens of Spawny Whippet Motorsport is here to tell us how to take it flat out in an open-wheel race car:
With regards to Eau Rouge, the corner is very much steeper on descent and ascent than you can make out in that photo or on TV. The corner is a complex series of curves with a blind exit taken at full throttle following on from a long downhill straight in top gear. (We used the highest gear ratio of the season for this corner.) The driver uses the aerodynamics of the car fully to give enough downforce and hence grip to take such a sharp corner at maximum speed. The aim is to exit the corner on the right side of the track with the highest speed possible for the long drag up the hill. This corner can make or lose you many places, as the speed you carry through the corner makes a huge difference on the following straight. I have frequently passed more powerful cars on this section for this reason. Incidentally, the problems usually occur if you are overtaking into the corner and are forced to lift off the throttle, causing a loss of fore-aft car balance, mechanical grip and aero grip all at the same time and you often spin out. For this reason I once ended up rolling backwards up the pit lane exit at over 120 mph with my left wheels inches from the Armco.
That’s Andy himself in his red Van Diemen race car at a 2006 Formula Ireland event, ready to take on Eau Rouge. He qualified and finished 4th in a field of 37.
Incidentally, Eau Rouge’s steepness was mentioned at this year’s Belgian Grand Prix, which was Michael Schumacher’s 20th anniversary in the sport. After his talent and a fib landed him his accidental drive with Eddie Jordan for the 1991 race, he took a bicycle around the track and found out that Eau Rouge is like a mountain. A mountain with a blind exit, that is.
Photo Credit: Andy Dickens