The Open Road
The Open Road
The Open Road

The Open Road

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The Open Road

By the 1970s Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps was the last of the grand old European open road circuits. The 9.31-mile circuit run on public roads was the fastest road racing circuit of the era. In 1973 French driver Henri Pescarolo lapped the circuit at an average speed of 163mph.

Amazingly safety was minimal to not existent. I would start photographing at the Burnenville corner and work my way to the Masta Straight. When you get to the Malmady corner it is possible to hear the cars across the valley as they make the left turn at Les Combes and start the descent to Burnenville. The high-pitch screech of the V12 Matra was unique and easy to identify. The throatier sound of the Ford DFV in the Gulf Mirage took a little longer to pick out.

During the 1974 Spa 1000km race I was making my way from Malmady to the Masta Kink. I was walking along the train track running alongside the public roads that comprised the circuit I could make out the Gulf Mirage entering the valley and a few moments later by the Matra. Shortly after that the cars would pass by me as they headed to the Masta straight. In the course of the few laps it took me to walk to the Masta Straight I could hear that the Matra was getting closer to the Mirage. By time I got onto the Masta straight and looked back towards Malmady the Matra had caught and passed the Mirage.

The Open Road captures the essence of open road racing. The Matra is ahead of the Mirage as they pass 2 houses on the public roads that comprised the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.