The Belgian Grand Prix discussion page on F1 Fanatic was teeming with over 800 messages between F1 Fanatics planning their trip to last weekend’s race.
Carol Treurnicht was among those at Spa last weekend and met up with loads of other F1 fans. They got soaked, blagged some paddock passes and one of them got hit by lightning! Read about their adventures below.
We arrived on Wednesday around 5pm and luckily had enough of a break between downpours to get our base camp set up. Luckily some of the guys from last year were already there so with all the help we got done pretty quickly. After a quick bite we all set off for the pub, which was supposed to be open for us, but wasn’t, so back to base where we all chatted and watched others arrive.
Thursday was equally dreadful weather-wise as it poured all day. The site was pretty full by Thursday lunchtime already and poor Michael was getting a bit stressed as to how to fit everyone in.
Luckily the rain cleared up for a few hours as we headed off for our paddock visit courtesy of Renault. We were collected at the entrance in one of those flashy press busses, which made us feel pretty important, and then off through the labyrinth of tunnels to the holy place known as the paddock.
We were given an hour to wander around and were to meet up at 3pm for a trip to the garage. We felt a bit lost at first so we wandered and peeked into the motorhomes. They are amazing. Some are like palaces and others like double decker buses. The difference were immense and helped us to understand the different characters of the teams – from ice cold modernity to the homely like Renault with the nice yellow flowers on the tables.
We spent quite a bit of time being amazed at the hive of activity at the Bridgestone “factory” – it was like a branch of Kwik Fit. We all thought the tyres come ready just to hand out to the teams – not so. They were fitting wets and dries onto mountings, balancing them, putting on the barcodes and then one by one the teams turned up to collect their allocation.
We wondered if those people – many of whom were ladies – might lose their jobs at the end of the season when the tyres come from Pirelli next year. It would be a shame if they did.
Then we slowly wandered back peeking into more motorhomes. At HRT we met Bruno Senna – a really nice guy who gladly signed our book, photos and whatever else we wanted him to.
We also saw Vitaly Petrov who wa in a rush but he also grinningly signed our book too. Sadly Rubens Barrichello was just too fast for a 300-year-old.
Then off to meet Renault again for the trip to the garage. At first we were told they had just turned on the engines and we might want to wait a bit. Of course we weren’t having any of that – we wanted noise and lots of it. So we stood there, mesmerised for half an hour while Renault answered all our questions and watched the boys at work on these amazing pieces of machinery. What an experience.
After that we had another half hour to wander so we got more adventurous. We managed to wake Jarno Trulli up to sign our book, also Sebastien Buemiand Kamui Kobayashi who was with Peter Sauber. We wished Button Snr senior well for Jenson and then had to go.
On the way out we bumped into Fernando Alonso and Stefano Domenicali – and got the signatures of a double world champion and his Ferrari team boss in our book too.
Exhausted, blistered and soaked we made it back to camp and off to the pub – with a warm welcome from Mr Bertrand – and it was like being back home.
A shock on Friday
Friday began with a bang as a thunderstorm hit the track – and one of our friends. He was struck by lightning while charging his mobile ‘phone on his motorbike. We saw the strike hit the power line – he said he was in spasm throughout his body and the phone exploded. Fortunatley he was otherwise OK.
But we did not care about being soaked while we watched all the action on the track. And no, it wasn’t us who climbed on the fence and got the session stopped.
In the evening we met up with other F1 Fanatics – the place was packed and I’m not sure we managed to speak to everyone there. We had a great evening predicting qualifying and chatting about F1.
A whole bunch of us got there early to get a good seat for a great day action with a healthy sprinkling of rain to keep the drivers guessing.
In the evening we met more new folks as our crowd just kept growing. Today it was the turn to meet a super couple from Perth in Australia. They were travelling for a few months and won paddock club tickets for race day.
Off to bed not too late as we needed to be at the track on Sunday at 7am.
Giving up gold seats
We meet FOFA base camp at 6:30 and oh dear, what a soggy lot we were. But we made it and bagged the best spots right at the top of the Kemmel straight directly in front of a video screen.
Then breakfast and a call from our friendly Australians who gave me the grandstand tickets they no longer needed for Eau Rouge. So off we went to collect them and say goodbye to our new best friends.
The drivers’ parade came by in classic cars rather than the Bernie truck. We clambered up to Gold 3. What a crush. The seats are built for midgets and we found ourselves so squashed we soon ran back to our old places. Were we mad? Probably.
The race was a treat with all the rain and action. Then the highlight – off to Eau Rouge for our goodbye beer but this – like those on the podium – we had champagne too. Our pal Kimi had carried a bottle with him all day for us to spray about and drink the last drops – we had a ball on the hill there in the pouring rain till they threw us out.
There are no shuttle buses after the race due to traffic controls so we trekked back to base, got changed and off to the cafe for a bite to eat and a great evening comparing notes and exchanging email addresses. Mr Bertrand (Gaston to us now, we see him every year) gave us a special champagne glass engraved with Francorchamps.
Next year we hope to do the double – Silverstone and Spa. We can’t wait!
Pictures from Spa
Here’s a collection of pictures from Spa, mostly taken by Quentin and a few from another person at the race who left them in the F1 Fanatic drop.io.
From the stands
- F1 still struggling to gain a foothold in India
- Why the Hungarian Grand Prix is a must-see race
- Why the Spanish GP was better in person than on TV
- Watching Brazil’s spellbinding F1 season finale
- Silverstone fans’ mixed views on the rain-hit weekend
- Nigel’s memories from the last 37 British Grands Prix
- F1 Fanatics meet up in Melbourne
- Watching at the Paddock Club, Parabolica and podium at Monza
- In the Paddock Club and in the stands at Spa
- Steven’s 51 F1 race visits in 25 years