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The Way It Was - Spa Francorchamps Circa 1973


The evening before the 1973 running of the Spa 1000km race, Scuderia Ferrari had its two 312PB prototypes in the pit lane. The day’s track activities had ended and the public roads of the Spa Francorchamps circuit had been reopened. Belgian driver Jacky Ickx watched as the engineers and mechanics made changes to the cars. With the pit lane preparations complete, it was time to take the cars back to the team’s garage.

Jacky Ickx watches mechanics attend to the Ferrari 312PB

A day earlier Ickx had qualified the 312PB on pole position with a 163.679 mph lap on the 8.761 mile circuit. Le Mans ran 24 hours and Nürburgring Nordschleife was more challenging. But for the Grand European tradition of high-speed racing on public roads, Circuit National de Franchochamps was the place to be.

Spectators examine 312PB s/n 0888. The Ickx/Redman car started from the pole but retired with an oil leak.

Antonio Bellentani joins evening traffic on the public roads of Spa-Francorchamps

 The 8.76 mile Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps circuit was the fastest in Europe. Although Le Mans had the 3.7 mile Mulsanne straight, the average lap speeds were slower than Spa. During the 1973 Spa 1000km race Henri Pescarolo set the fastest lap in a 3-liter Matra-Simca MS670 at 163.09 mph. This was on public roads and with the exception of the La Source turn, the cars are flat out‚ the amazing aspect is that the circuit is mostly turns. L'Eau Rouge is well known as the fast wiggle at the bottom of the old pit straight, but Burnenville was stunning. The corner was a very long gentle downhill right turn that the fastest cars took at over 140mph. The spectators could stand in the doorway of the cafe at the apex of Burnenville with the cars going by yards away.

Burnenville captures the atmosphere of the circuit with the buildings close to the track, spectators closeup, Brian Redman in the Ferrari 312PB and the wonderful rural setting in the Belgian Ardennes countryside.





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