Spa & Zolder ReportThe beginning of July marked a very hectic time for the BaT staff with our busiest European trip in the 2015 event calendar; our Summer Spa Francorchamps track days! With 138 cars across the two days and just shy of 200 drivers, it was expected to be a busy and exciting few days.
After a very swift comfortable flight with BMI (we had yet to set off and I was already snoozing) I woke up after what felt like a 5 minute flight in Brussels airport. We collected our hire car and arrived in Malmedy in the early evening. Members of staff who had arrived earlier in the day were kind enough to head straight to the circuit to set up ready for the busy morning ahead.
It was a fairly pleasant early start on Monday, with the sun shining, and birds singing, we just had enough time to wake up, come around, get ready and have breakfast before all piling into vehicles to be at the circuit for 07:00.
Upon arrival, our fleet of Caterhams were all lined up in the pit lane ready for our 'arrive and drive' clients. Every staff member quickly stepped into role and all pulled together to get all the minor finishing touches done such as filling the all-important boiler for a well needed cup of tea or coffee before the first set of drivers arrived. Surprisingly, I had a nice steady, staggered flow of drivers to sign-on across the morning, unlike the fraught sign-on in March where everyone seemed to turn up at the same time.
It was a pleasant surprise for Jonny to welcome a number of new drivers to Spa, as well as two members of the Bat team Dan (pit lane control) and Hutch (ARDS instructor). As repetitive as it may be for those drivers who have heard the safety briefing over and over again, the lack of stoppages and discourteous dangerous driving (with only 2 stoppages, we only missed 40 minutes of driving in total over both days) just proves how important it is to clearly communicate the rules to all drivers, some of which speak a number of different languages. It is essential to enforce these rules for every participant's safety and to make it a much more enjoyable experience for all involved. I think Spike our Chief Instructor only had to discipline one, if not two drivers over both days.
After two rounds of sighting laps to help those who were new to the circuit familiarise themselves with the configuration, driving began from 09:30. As you can imagine the circuit was very busy at the beginning of the day with drivers eager to get out on track and conquer the challenge that is Spa.
Linzi, Amy, Sarah and Sally worked extremely hard all morning to prepare a range of delicious snacks for lunch, tomato and chicken soup and a variety of toppings on soft crunchy French bread for over 250 people. Can you imagine? That is a large number to cater for! Their efforts were greatly appreciated by all! With no clouds in the sky and the sun blazing, it was a constant battle to keep on top of the topping up of the hot and cold drinks station! With the hot weather drivers were thirsty and with a long day ahead, everyone needed to keep hydrated.
Dan soon realised after a few hours of standing in the direct sun at the end of the pit lane with no sun cream that he needed to retreat to the sliver of shade against the pit wall. His face was looking pretty rosy!
That evening Linzi and Amy prepared delicious pork, apple and cider stew for all the staff back at the house, it was a very civilized dinner and a lovely opportunity to wind down after a busy day.
The second day seemed to be repeating itself with the weather, glorious blue sky and sunshine in the morning. We had a few extra divers as it was the noisier day of the two at Spa Francorchamps. With only a few clients to sign on and brief, it was a quieter morning in the sign on garage as most of our drivers had attended the previous day. Driving standards were good all day and we got to see some very sexy cars out on track.
Over the lunch hour a few of us decided to kick start BaT fit. Jonny Leroux (Big Boss) Stuart Baines (Photographer) and Giles Roadnight (Platinum Member) decided to cycle around the full circuit. I on the other hand, had said back in March I would attempt to run around it and after not having the correct footwear back then, decided I couldn't go back on my word. I set off at 12:00 sharp before the cyclists, ironically I found Eau Rouge and the Kemmel Staight to be alright, don't get me wrong, it was exhausting and my face quickly resembled a tomato but my legs had had a chance to warm up by then. The fleet of bicycles overtook me at Bruxelles and it wasn't until then that I realised I couldn't really remember the configuration of the circuit. I saw the pit garages from afar and thought to myself 'Ahhhh this will be easy' forgetting that I still had a whole other section (about 2/3) of the circuit still to complete. I managed to keep running with the support of the marshals who cheered me on from certain points around the track and Chris Reed who ensured I didn't collapse in an exhausted sweaty heap in the middle of the circuit. My determination to not stop the entire way around came to a quick change in decision by the time I reached the karting circuit, with no breeze and 23 degree heat, the circuit did defeat me at Blanchimont and I had to stop and walk to regain some blood to my head. I reached the exit of the pit lane after 43 minutes. Challenge completed, safe to say I will not attempt again any time soon!
Tuesday evening was bliss for the BaT staff; we had a banquet for dinner prepared by the catering team. BBQ, salad and potatoes was for dinner plus a number of delicious homemade baked treats for dessert, thanks to Linzi Roadnight. We all had a very relaxed evening, as Wednesday was our travel day to Zolder, a few of us even managed to squeeze in a swim in the pool.
Wednesday was a travel day. At a nice comfortable hour we all departed Malmedy and made our way to Zolder. Luckily we had access to the circuit from early afternoon, which allowed us to have a relaxed set up.
Zolder was a slightly cooler and cloudy morning; everyone was up bright and early to take advantage of the buffet breakfast, ready for the final day. It was an unsilenced day, which meant we had a number of loud cars on track. There were again a surprising number of clients who had never driven around Zolder before so we organised siting laps before driving began. I managed to have a wander around site to different viewpoints and stands throughout the day to gain a clearer idea of the configuration and size of the circuit.
In the afternoon Peter Dougill was kind enough to take me out for a spin in his Elise as I had never had the opportunity to experience Zolder before. Yet another fantastic circuit I can tick off my list. As a passenger I really enjoyed the fast sweeping bend of Kanaalbocht and Lucien Blanchibocht and the technical tight bends of Kleine Chicane and Terlamenbocht before the speedy straight between Jacky Ickxbocht and Earste. It's a real shame that this circuit has taken a bit of a back seat to Spa because it does offer both fast straights and bends and slower tight technical corners and it sits in a beautiful part of Belgium.
I am sure I am not just speaking for myself when I say I had a fantastic trip to Belgium, and I hope everyone who attended will agree. I look forward to see you all again soon at our events in the UK and our next 4 day European event in Valencia and Barcelona (Monday 14 September Valencia and Wednesday 16/Thursday 17 September Barcelona). Don't forget we have our final trip to Spa this year on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 November.
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23 July 2015
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