Going to the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps
18th August 2014, 13:06 at 1:06 pm #270599
We’re staying at Camping Spa-Francorchamps (well that’s what it says on Google Maps anyway) and going through Pillow Adventure Travel. This is very close to Francorchamps, so I suspect we’ll spend most of our time up this end of the track unless there are regular public transport services to the two southern towns?
We have our check list and the old ponchos are packed and ready – just chekced the forecast, showers and 12-18degrees throughout.
Good information though, thanks for the Co-op tip.
I guess it all depends how much food/drink we can physically take with us without it compromising space in the tent and our muscles to carry it with!!!
Not sure my girlfriend is a fence climber. I’m going to have to do some persuading to get her to walk around the track, so I’ll do some delving in how best to approach this when we get there.
I’m sure the travel reps will help us when we get there, but I like a bit of prior knowledge to settle me before any journey into the unknown.18th August 2014, 14:32 at 2:32 pm #270604
Depending on what time you arrive at on Thursday – I would definitely recommend the pit walk. The teams and drivers are very accessible and it gives you a unique opportunity to get pictures on the start/finish straight!
With regards to the fence climbing… this is just one option in order to get across quickly – there are other way to get onto the track and the marshalls will help you out as well once it becomes clear that the track is already infested with people!
People there are very helpful and will point you in the right direction for anything you need. It was one of the most laid back trips I’ve had, everything just flowed incredibly well… so don’t panic!20th August 2014, 9:03 at 9:03 am #270742
Off to Spa for the first time and wondered from anyone who has been before what time to get to the circuit for the pit walk tomorrow?
We are staying at l’eau rouge campsite after seeing the recommendations on this forum.
Any other tips or advice for us first timers would be appreciated.
Tania20th August 2014, 9:56 at 9:56 am #270747
Someone who know what other classes will be racing at the circuit whis weekend and at what time?
Can’t find info on it on the web.. :(20th August 2014, 17:16 at 5:16 pm #270834
for those that will drive to Spa respect the speed limit, the police will do extra speed control this week.21st August 2014, 8:30 at 8:30 am #270861
Joe M RushParticipant
Leaving Bristol Friday a.m and hoping to arrive for FP2, anyone know if possible to just turn up at Green Camping Fri eve and get a spot? Nothing booked and slightly concerned!
Thanks…21st August 2014, 8:30 at 8:30 am #270765
@juniper – it’s quite busy there on the Thursday, and I can’t quite remember the time the pit lane opens… 4pm rings a bell. My advice is to get there at least an hour early (remember your three day ticket) in order to get to the front of the queue and maximise your time there.
If you wait outside the right garages at the right time, you’ll see some famous faces so even if you’re getting bored standing and waiting, hold out… we saw Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel last year.
It’s a great start to the weekend and really enjoyable to just be at the circuit, looking down to Eau Rouge.
You’ve made a great choice with L’Eau Rouge… a really nice, scenic site… quiet enough for sleep but enough atmosphere to keep your excitement up. One thing I’d recommend is wet-wipes to get rid of mud, sweat, rain etc as there is often a long queue for showers.
Hope you have a great time.26th August 2014, 19:09 at 7:09 pm #272363
Hi @Mark Adams, thanks for the advice. Ended up grabbing a spot looking back up the hill as cars came out of Rivage and could see down to where they entered Pouhon. Decent view of a screen from there too so all good. This was around midday. You were right the Pouhon bank was jammed by that time. Was a great time, and awesome track to look around. Would definitely consider going again next year.
In case others are reading this planning for 2015 we parked in the red Blanchimont car park field. Arriving on these smaller roads at around 8.30am on Sunday was great. Mists were beautiful, road is a fantastic winding approach through forests and rolling hills, and there was barely anyone else entering this way at that time in the morning.
Leaving was not so great. The place was a swamp by the end of day – even though it didn’t rain on race day itself. We were 1hr 50mins to get from the parking field to the road… a distance of about 15yds. Total trip back to where we were staying in Marche-en-Famenne was 3hrs (was 1hr on the way to the track). Would have been better to park on the side of the approach road (Route de L’Eau Rouge). The really smart people had turned their cars to face the way out. Even walking a mile or so from here to the track and back would have saved at least an hour on the return journey. Live and learn.28th August 2014, 8:31 at 8:31 am #272431
I know that in January, when I was planning my trip to watch the F1 at Spa I spent ages trawling the internet (and asking on here!) looking for what other people’s experiences had been. I struggled to find much, so with this in mind please find below my trip report. Hopefully some people will find it useful.
Some background: We were a family (grown up kids) from the UK, coming across via ferry and Eurostar and camping for the Thursday-Sunday nights. We had a mix of seated (gold) and general admission (bronze) tickets. I was basing my expectations on a mixture of trips to various (British) music festivals and the Goodwood Revival last year – Spa is not like this. The facilities are worse and the food / drink / conduct of fellow attendees is often much worse…Anyway….
Firstly – essential kit:
*A proper waterproof tent* – it rains *a lot* in Spa, heavily and unpredictably. Don’t bring some pop-up rubbish unless you want to be wet and cold all weekend.
*Waterproof clothing* – see above. You might have a covered grand stand seat but if the heavens decide to open when you are having a walk to look at Eau Rouge, you will still get very, very wet. It pours with rain – going from light drizzle to weeing in about 10 seconds. Waterproof trousers and a good jacket are a must. The trousers especially so if you are on general admission and end up perching on banking somewhere. Ponchos over the waterproof jacket are a good idea to keep as much rain off as possible and stop it just running off your back and into your trousers! NB everyone – jeans are NOT waterproof. Nor do they dry quickly if wet. Walking trousers may not be fashionable but they are practical.
*Sensible footwear* – Spa is hilly. Very hilly. The TV does not in any way do justice to the elevation change at Eau Rouge. It is also a long circuit and you will do a lot of walking. Yes most of the paths are tarmac but many are not (including the one to our grandstand seat, and the one to the disabled stand!). Ladies – this means that high heels, ballet flats and beaded sandals are NOT appropriate footwear! Yes – I did see a lady being helped down the muddy gravel path alongside Eau Rouge wearing high heeled boots. You will get muddy and wet. Wear walking boots, comfortable wellies or stout trainers. If you are camping then this is absolutely essential as at the first signs of rain the campsite will be a quagmire.
*Warm clothing* – Sitting still for 6+ hours to secure your ultimate viewing spot in 10 C is not warm. Or comfortable. Even in the grandstands. I have never seen so many people sat looking cold as I did waiting for quali on Saturday. Yes it’s August but the weather in the Ardennes is unpredictable. Pack layers and thermals, and a hat and gloves. Wear them. If it’s sunny it can be quite warm but as soon as it clouds over (which it does a lot) and the wind blows then the temperature drops and the wind chill sets in dramatically. Walking around you might be fine but do not underestimate the chill factor of sitting still and doing nothing. It gets down to about 5C at night too. I wore a thermal long sleeved shirt, a t shirt, a fleece and a waterproof jacket out to the track most days. One day I added a jumper too.
*Food and drink* – ok, so the signs outside say no glass or cans but you can tell that Belgium doesn’t have the problem of dealing with terrorist threats as no one searches any bags. People wheel in whole cool-boxes on trolleys which they pack with booze. Do bring your own food and drink. The prices inside are astronomical and the quality looked pretty awful. I was expecting British festival standard but it is a long way below that. It was burgers, hotdogs, kebabs (10 euro!), chips (5 euro, sauce 1 euro extra!) and waffles. So make your own lunch. There are lots of supermarkets in the nearby towns and the campsites have bakers visit every morning. Buy a load of cheese and salami on the way down, buy the bread fresh in the morning and make your own sandwiches. Take some choccie bars and an apple. Bring your own beer – remember you are in Belgium so this means proper beer (try the Trappist Rochefort, v nice) and not commercialised Leffe or crappy Juliper larger. Definitely bring your own water as there is NO FREE DRINKING WATER in Belgium anywhere. Ask, even in restaurants and you will be refused. Bottled water costs 3.50 euro at the track.
*Ear defenders* – Not required for F1. Are useful for GP2 and GP3 races though. And for noisy campsite neighbours (see below).
*FM radio* – now there is trackside commentary at Spa (when they decide to turn it on – we had no commentary on Friday). You get 3-5 minutes of French, 3-5 minutes of English and 3-5 minutes of Flemish. You can’t hear it when the cars are going past your part of the track. I thought you might get a trackside radio in the programme pack (like Goodwood) or be able to buy one, but no. Bring your own FM radio and earpiece and you will be able to tune into their frequency and hear better. Even more preferable, bring your own roaming-enabled FM phone and listen to 5 live instead. The 4G roaming reception I had trackside was surprisingly good. The wifi though was astronomically expensive (12 euro for 2 hours or something).
*Hygiene* – it’s Belgium. There’s no toilet roll in any of the portaloos either on track or on the campsites. There’s no soap either. There’s no hand sanitizer. There’s no way to wash your hands at all at the track (exception – the paid loos, but I think only for gold, see below). Bring loo roll, and hand sanitizer gel if that kind of thing bothers you. I did try to leave my trips to the loo until after I’d eaten my sandwiches! The showers in the campsite were 50 cents each, and not earthed.
*Pitwalk* – We arrived on Thursday afternoon hoping to do the pit walk for the weekend pass people. This didn’t happen – the roadworks on the motorway meant we were late; there was an hour queue to book in at the campsite; and then when we did get in and sorted apparently our closest track entrance gate was shut and it was a 10k round trip to the open one (at La Source I think). So, we missed it. If you want to do the pitwalk (starts 4pm I think) and you’re staying on the far side of the circuit you need to arrive at your campsite for latest midday, or even on Wednesday. Then you have plenty of time to work out what’s happening. Arriving at 2 or 3pm, with a plan to dump everything and run just isn’t going to work. I don’t know if you can drive straight to La Source and park in the carpark up there or not, but regardless, leave plenty of time.
*Smoking* – Everyone smokes everywhere, including in the grandstands. Apparently this was meant to be banned on the Sunday, but since no one enforced it on Friday or Saturday, most people just carried on (wooden grandstands as well!)
*Staff* – on the ticket scanners and entrances are multi-lingual, generally good, mostly helpful and often international – I came across a lot of Brits. The food stalls and crowd safety is all done by Belgian teenagers. English and degree of helpfulness here is very variable. The often won’t know things they aren’t there to do – so don’t bother asking the chip shop boy where the nearest toilet is, or if you can by a radio anywhere. I have passable French and even then I had problems.
My thoughts on our seats:
We were in gold 7. Where they good seats? Yes. We had an excellent view of the first corner (La Source) and the run up to Eau Rouge, and the pit exit. We had easy access to the gate to get onto the start/finish straight for the presentations at the end. There’s a TV. The downsides were that the view was entirely through the safety mesh (not high enough to see over it), and the fact we only had paid toilets (70 cents!!) in our block – and not enough of them either, huge queues. No portaloos.
Next to us was Gold 8 which has a great view of the start / finish straight, the pits and the first corner, but less of Eau Rouge.
Gold 3 and 4 (one of which is covered) have an amazing view down Eau Rouge all the way to the first corner. You can see over the safety mesh I think. You can actually get right up to the edge of one of these stands on a general admission ticket which must be one of the most prime areas to watch, although you are watching through the fence. Gold 5 is on the other side and the view appears less good.
It is definitely worth playing for a covered grandstand – given the weather. If you can only afford (uncovered) silver, I would either buy bronze general admission and put the extra towards decent accommodation and a good rain coat, or I would start saving harder. If you are on bronze there are a lot of places to sit under the trees, if you’re on a uncovered grandstand and it rains, you’re stuffed. If you get there about 7:45am you can get a pretty good spot on race day – we did.
By the way – the disabled stand is uncovered. It also only has 2 (large) portaloos and on the Friday – the first day! – these were in a disgusting state – overflowing with that horrible blue fluid and almost full to the top (they were for general use on Friday and Saturday, disabled only Sunday). The path to get to the stand isn’t tarmac but muddy gravel but most people in chairs seemed to be managing ok.
The other place we watched from was the banking up by the last chicane. This is very popular but you usually get some good action / overtakes / lockups, you have the pit entry, a tv, and you can get onto the track quickly at the end. And you can see over the fences.
Where we stayed:
We camped at Camping Eau Rouge. The facilities were usual continental stuff – clean enough (main block was fine, the secondary camping block less so), no toilet roll, no facilities to dry hands, no soap, showers 50 cents for 5 minutes (with 2 mins of pause – not earthed – I got an electric shock, luke warm, poor pressure).
There was a baker (good). There was a free shuttle service to the track (otherwise a 30 minute walk to the gate, or bring bikes. You’ll have to walk back the Sunday pm, as the roads get jammed). It was a good spread of nationalities, but my hope of there being some inter-European chat and sharing of beers and F1 stories didn’t really transpire. They stuck all the Brits in the overflow field (good planning on their part, or just because we all arrived at the same time off the ferry, who knows?).
Alas the main thing that put us off was the noise. There were quite a few sound systems – most were good natured and popular / rock music and not too loud and kept it down at night. One group bought a full widescreen TV and their F1 simulator game! The rules about sound were quiet at 11pm, and silence at midnight. It wasn’t enforced – certainly not out at our overflow field. By sheer bad luck we were camped next to a large group of English yobbo chavs who decided to play loud R+B and drum’n’bass music (ugh) all day and into the small hours – they treated the whole thing like a trip to Ibiza or Marbella or wherever else chavs go on holiday to get wasted and smoke fags and try (and fail) to chat up ‘the birds’. They stayed up drinking and talking every night until 2-4am. Repeated requests to shut up by various neighbours had no effect. The campsite couldn’t / wouldn’t control them. One particularly obnoxious member was going on about his right to have a party being more important than our right to sleep, as we would all wake him up in the morning at 7am (hello? there’s racing on! That’s what we’re here for!) – he also kept trying to drum up support for having a fight with the Germans to ‘teach them a lesson’. What a horrible piece of work. Needless to say we got about 2-3 hours sleep each night, and spent a lot of time thinking of ways to get revenge, but came up with nothing as we were too worried about getting thumped (or worse), or our tent slashed. On the Sunday evening, everyone around them had upped and gone. A few other people on the site had moved too, but nothing like the scale around us. We went and got a good last-minute deal on a lovely hotel in Eupen. It was warm, quiet, and wonderful. I will never, ever stay at Camping Eau Rouge ever again – those morons almost ruined my weekend. It’s really sad as we met some nice Dutch and Italian people queuing for the bus – would have been so much nicer to be staying next to them instead!
Leaving the site on the Sunday was fine, actually. We packed the tent and had some dinner, and by that point it was 7:45 and the roads were clear. So maybe don’t try to escape too quickly?
So, in summary: pack for the cold and wet, bring food and beers, something to sit on, loo roll and hand gel, and a radio. Don’t camp at Eau Rouge if you want to sleep – a B&B would be my preference now, or at least a campsite with a designated family / quiet area.28th August 2014, 10:54 at 10:54 am #272513
As a Belgian and a regular Spa visitor I agree with some items you mentioned but straigth up offended by others. I can only assume your expections were mile high and Spa did somehow not deliver for you.28th August 2014, 11:55 at 11:55 am #272516
I think that’s a very good review Lottie.
Was also my first time at Spa, in general it was a good one but it’s a very raw experience and not one I’d feel like taking my kids too if I had any!
Our campsite right on the circuit was a proper european rave and although it was fun there was a real feeling of anything goes much like a musical festival. Some of the Germans roll up with serious music gear played out of the back of arctic lorries! Lots of very loud music until 4am from so many people you’d never be able to control it (not that there was anyone in charge). Toilet facilities were a utter joke but luckily we were all men! Didn’t shower all weekend.
General admission area is very good, lots of elevation so you get some great views better than the grandstands, you just have to get there 7/8am. Just looking at the circuit food made me feel ill. No chance. We took our own.The rain was like no where I’ve ever been and the temperature changes are incredible, layers are essential. At times like that you realise just how vastly F1 is out of touch with it’s average fan. Long long way from the paddock club.
So I’d recommend it for a weekend at a proper race circuit with amazing views (we even went bare foot through a stream and forest to try and make the pit walk in time) but preparation and being aware that you will not get much sleep is the key to it.
Think Glastonbury meets F1.28th August 2014, 12:28 at 12:28 pm #272521
I was also a first timer as above posts show and Lottie, while you do make a very good list of things to expect, it sounds like your whole experience war marred by not expecting most of what your grumbles are about.
All the info was available from reviews on this and other websites.
One thing that will always happen at Spa is RAIN – this is a given, so pack accordingly!!!
I was in GOLD 8, the toilets were fine and how did you not see the portaloos right next to the €0.70 toilets? These were accessible by all GOLD 7 and 8 for the whole weekend and it seems you missed the other entrance that was fully tarmaced by the race track.
Also, if you went to the entrance/exit by GOLD 8 you could either use the single portaloo there or even check out and visit one of the 3 portaloos 5yards from the entrance/exit that were very clean, not to mention taking a quick walk down to the entertainment and mechandise area where there were excellent toilets here too.
You have to expect the worst and so take your own toilet roll and hand sanitiser.
The food was fine, it isn’t gormet, it’s simple grub. £5 a burger was very reasonable, try comparing this to festivals. Admittedly the chips were a little overpriced, but hey we can’t have it all can we.
I guess there is nothing you can do about the camping area you chose, although we avoided based on the general mass of people and reports on it.
Try a reputable trip organiser as they will enforce camp site rules and help with any issues you have – some just 15min walk from the entrances.
I personally thought the Beligans were great hosts.
Excellent restaurant service, great in the local shops and the stewards were all very helpful.
Everyone has their own experience, but not being prepared is the worst thing anyone can do.
Just read up as much as you can and always expect the worst.
For me it was a dream trip and one I will always treasure.
A truely wonderful life experience and one thing off my bucket list as I walked the entire track at the end of the race.
Thankyou SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS :)29th August 2014, 2:38 at 2:38 am #272582
It’s a couple of years since I was last at Spa but we stayed in a hotel in Liege. This involved a train journey to the circuit every day (with plenty of other racegoers) but we got a decent hotel and a great time away from the circuit. Liege has plenty of places to eat to suit all budgets, some nice bars and the odd club if you want to make more of your evenings. For us, we had a bit of a weekend break away experiencing Belgian culture as well as seeing the racing and I would recommend it for anyone with reservations about camping, I heard lots of stories of miserable camping experiences as we chatted to various people at the circuit.
We went for general admission tickets and moved around during the sessions, including the race, so we saw the action from all the corners. I would personally always do this as I like to experience the racing at the circuit in the flesh and sitting in one place gives you only one small piece.
In short, don’t discount staying in Liege, there is a transfer involved, but lot of other benefits imo.29th August 2014, 13:54 at 1:54 pm #272602
Thanks @kittyl48 for your in-depth review — it’s always helpful when you’re planning to attend a GP to read the experiences of people who’ve been before.
I do agree with some others though that perhaps your expectations may have been a bit high. In some respects, my experience at Spa this year far surpassed my expectations. The fact that the gate stewards don’t check bags, for instance, was a bit of a godsend in comparison with circuits like Sepang where you can’t take in any food or drink (even bottled water) at all, or Albert Park where you can only take in sealed bottles of soft drink, so if you’ve had just one sip of your water while queuing, they will tip the whole lot out and hand you the empty bottle (although at least there are drinking water taps to refill your bottle for free… no such luck in Sepang). A couple of years ago a friend of mine had a thermos flask confiscated when entering the Circuit de Catalunya; I think we’d have died without our flasks of coffee at Spa on Sunday morning!
I thought the food was pretty average for a GP and was impressed by €5 for a large can of beer, as that’s not too bad for a live sports event of any kind! I also thought the toilets were pretty good; yes, I’d rather not pay 70 cents, but for luxuries like toilet roll and a real sink (at a GP, I definitely consider these luxuries!) it’s sometimes worth it. My friends and I sat on the bank at Pouhon and had access to two sets of ‘proper’ 70 cent toilets, along with a few portaloos which very few people used (meaning they weren’t disgusting by midday, which is what I’d been expecting!) The bonus of all the woodland at Spa is that the vast majority of men tended to simply walk into the woods to relieve themselves, meaning the portaloos were left mostly unused… I didn’t even have to queue for the toilet after the GP2 race on Sunday, which is unheard of at other tracks.
Warm and waterproof clothing is definitely a must. We were prepared for rain but not for how cold it would get… next time I’ll be taking a hat and gloves as well as hoodies and head-to-toe waterproofs. It’s worth mentioning, though, that when the sun comes out it can get HOT. Fortunately I was wearing layers so I could peel them off fairly easily, but I did see some more extreme and inventive solutions — during the F1 race, a girl sitting near us actually cut off her jeans with a penknife to make them into shorts! So I would advise lots of layers rather than just thick winter clothing.
We usually sit in grandstands at GPs but as Spa is pretty expensive, we opted for general admission (Bronze). I thoroughly recommend it, as long as you have a camping chair and golf umbrella! We walked around the whole track on Friday and I thought that some of the grandstands looked pretty shonky compared with those at other (far cheaper) circuits. Also, the atmosphere in GA is brilliant. Yes, you have to get there early in the morning to secure a good spot, but if you’re not dedicated enough to get there early then you definitely aren’t dedicated enough to sit through a raging hailstorm so you’re probably better off in a covered grandstand! I’d agree with Lottie’s comment that GA is a better option than an uncovered grandstand, particularly considering the cost difference.
I can’t comment on the camping situation as we stayed in nearby Malmedy, and we drove to the track (which was very easy, as was parking). There are a few small towns in the area, most of which are really beautiful, and you can get pretty reasonable accommodation if you do your research. We booked our accommodation in June and it cost €30/night each.
I didn’t have much contact with staff at the track but all the stewards we spoke to were lovely. Overall it was a fantastic experience. This was actually my third Belgian GP but my first as an adult; previously I went with my family in the late 1980s when I was 7/8 years old, and my parents certainly didn’t think it was a bad place to take the kids!21st September 2014, 1:15 at 1:15 am #275442
We attended the 2014 SPA race. We stayed in Leige and drove to the track each day. The commute wasn’t bad at all, a little over an hour. Coincidentally, many of the Red Bull support staff stayed at the same motel. At breakfast on Sunday morning at the motel they gave each of us a beautiful 2013 publication of the Red Bull season. That was a touch of class on their part.
Our seats were in the covered Gold 3 stands at Eau Rouge. We were amazed at the amount of climbing required to get to the seats each day. You have to be in shape and used to a lot of arduous walking to attend Spa. Once in our seats we were very pleased with our seats that we had spent a lot of time selecting in the spring.
Our disappointment was with the parking. We bought #3 premium parking. That worked real well on Friday and Saturday, but when we arrived for parking on Sunday, we were moved way past the #3 lot and parked in a cow pasture very far from where we had purchased parking. It was pointless arguing with the attendants, they just pointed to the one lane road and broke eye contact.
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