What a weekend!
In late August 2018, three of us drove from the UK to Belgium to witness the Belgium GP in Spa Francochamps, which was won by Sebastian Vettel. Although it was called the "Belgoum GP", you could have called it the "Dutch GP", but more on that later...
We decided to make the trip to the Belgium a 'road trip' - starting off in the UK, then going into France, before heading into Belgium.
Here are the day by day highlights:
We left at 7am from Basingstoke and made the drive to the Channel Tunnel, in Folkestone, Kent. This bit of the drive was okay, as it was in the UK. However, going into mainland Europe was a big concern for me - as it would mean I had to drive on the other side of the road - i.e the incorrect side of the road.
Looking back now, I have no idea why I was so worried. It takes a few miles to adjust but after that - there were no issues. Getting to Belgium is quite easy (and boring, to be brutally honest) as it is just one massive straight road. We hit traffic near Brussells but made it to the campsite without any trouble. (The delay meant we missed the chance to walk down the pit lane :( )
We pitched up with ease, and then decided to go for a walk around our campsite, and the surronding ones. What I saw, it's safe to say I wasn't expecting...
It was like a festival. There were large lorries, arcade machines, camper vans, marquees, make-shift bars (both with bottled beer and kegs), DJ decks, sofas, pianos and so much more! One group even made a 'makeshift hot tub' using a trailer, and was boiling water using a old oil drum and fire underneath.
It was mental!
After a extremely long drive, however, we decided to turn in, ready to go round the track tomorrow.
Our alarm clock, was the sound of GP2 engines, roaring in the forest. It sounded incredible.
Friday, was our first day on the track, which was a scouting mission. The idea being, we go round the whole track, and see where it was best to sit for both qualifying and the race, in the areas in which we were able to get to.
As we were walking around, all we saw were Dutch (Max Verstappen) supporters. I guess that seeing as Holland is so close to Belgium, they see that as their 'home grand prix'.
The track was beautiful. We went everywhere our passes would let us (which is everywhere apart from the pit straight). - whilst watching all the racing that was on. The thing that stood out the most is how steep Eau Rouge was!
After Free Practice 1, we wandered into the F1 Fanzone and saw an interview with Ross Brawn, which was really cool (if you haven't reaad his book, Total Competition I highly recommend it!)
After a long day walking around the longest track in F1, we got back to the 'Youth Village', the campsite we booked ourselves in. We ate some food and drank beers.
As part of our camping ticket, we got access to live music and 'club' that had been erected whilst we were at the track, within the campsite. There was lots of house music and a live saxaphone! (On another note, we saw a big ass bouncer push a relatively drunk person about 30 meters - different to how bouncers in the UK would treat the drunk! :P).
Due to the previous nights antics, we got up late (roughly 10am) - which may not be so late for a Saturday afternoon, but it was late enough for the queue to be massive to get into the race track.
It took us around 30 minutes to get in - which meant that FP3 had started. Despite this, we managed to get into the free stand, near the top of the Kemmel straight, and watched the cars zoom past (literally).
Once that finished, we moved to where we wanted to be for qualifying - on the hill near the final chicane, which was a great view.
We were served up with a great qualifying session - which Lewis Hamilton came on top (and the Force India's 3rd and 4th) - it was raining near the end of the last session - which caused havoc. It's incredible how sensitive F1 cars are to a bit of rain!
We headed back to the fanzone and caught an interview with Max Verstappen, and saw the band Jungle perform. (really good band, those who play FIFA 15 will know ;))
We stayed to watch GP2 race and afterwards, we walkled back to the campsite, ate, and had an early night - ready for the next day.
We were up at 6:30am and packed up the tent - in preperation for the long car journey back to the UK after the race. We then made the short walk to the track (where there was a smaller queue than the day before), and then we made the short walk to where we wanted to be based for the race.
We sat at the first bend at Double Gauche. We chose this place as the cars go through at a slower pace than usual, which is good as it meant we could see the cars properly - and we thought it would be a good place for overtaking.(which turned out not to be the case :D ).
In the morning, it was FREEZING! But as the day progressed, it got warmer and it turned out to be a beautiful day.
The race itself was relatively boring. It didn't take long for Vettel to overtake Hamilton, and the race was then decided from then-on-in.
We decided to leave as soon as the race ended and the drivers had done their in lap - seeing as we were nowhere near the pit lane, and hence couldn't see the podium.
The journey back was long and painful (and I wasn't even driving), and this began just trying to get out of the campsite. Because it took so long to get out of the campsite, we arrived at the channel tunnel as our tunnel booking was 'supposed' to leave. Fortunately, we weren't delayed for 'that' long - as we got back home at 02:32 GMT - 11 hours after we set off initially!
It was an incredible weekend. Not only the whole experience of being at the Formula 1, but also the whole experience of driving through Europe, the madness of the campsites and all the fun activities that were included in the event as a whole were experiences that I will not forget in a long time.
I'd love to go to another 'prestigious' race track. Something like a Monza, Silverstone or Monaco ring a bell. I'd also like to go to something like Le Mans.
Watch this space.
Thanks for reading. :) x