Getting There!

Francorchamps Travel Blog

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The huge signs which directed us?

This was purely an opportunity of chance. We had changed banks for our business and as part of that we automatically received free tickets for the ING Formula 1 race in Belgium. The ING Bank are actually sponsors of this race and also sponsor one of the cars. The first we knew about all this was when the bank rang us saying we had won a prize to have free tickets to the VIP tent at the race. The tickets were for a special parking section nearby the race course and entry to the VIP tent were would get a brunch, then free tickets for two to actual race along with special seating, a catered lunch and drinks and then drinks after the race. We were over the moon and many of our family and friends were very jealous at the opportunity we had and for free. During the lead up week we received some mail from the bank with tickets and the day before we left the bank manager with our contact with them came to our place to take a photo etc and give us our tickets and parking passes.

Highway over a valley
We had mentioned already receiving a letter from the bank with similar stuff, they just had different colours on them and it was presumed that this was just additional parking stuff etc to do with what we had one. It was when we actually got to the race that we found out that what we had received in the mail was just an award for changing the bank account and getting a loan and it included two free entry tickets and a parking pass close by. What the bank had given us in person was parking for the VIP section access to the VIP tent and also free tickets for the race. Apparently we actually had 4 free tickets for the race, so we could of given two tickets to our friends, but by this time no one we knew would have had time to actually make it to the race…so we thought it best not to tell them right away and provide further disappointment.

 

We had been in Germany the night before at Cologne for work visiting the Kind und Jugend baby fair so our trip to Francorchamps wasn’t a long one the morning of the race.

ING Formula 1 Race Car
The signage for the parking for the VIP parking area and tent was a little harder find however as it only consisted of a green sign by the side of the highway. And by sign I mean an A4 sheet of green paper saying “VIP Parking” which of course we only noticed after we passed it doing the usual speed limit of 120 kilometres per hour on the highway… so about 10 minutes down the road we were able to finally turn around at the next exit. So going back the way we had come from this time we knew to look out for a “small” green sign indicating the way to our parking.

 

As we kept driving through a really nice area of Belgium with lots of winding roads amongst the hills and through some really nice looking villages, we would occasionally pass another little green sign indicating that yes we were indeed still on the right road to find our parking… at times we had wondered if we were going the right way… after about 30 minutes of following these signs we eventually came across some parking attendants and were pointed towards a nice green grassy hill a amongst the amazing forest we had now entered.

French Chef
Luckily for us we had taken delivery of our new lease car earlier that month a brand new shiny Mazda 5 which was lucky as I think if we had of taken our other car a 1995 Ford Mondeo, complete with a few dents and some business signage, they might not of let us park on that hill amongst all the sparkling new and expensive looking Mercedes, BMW’S and whatever brand of sports cars we passed trying to find a park. It almost felt like I should have been wearing my suit just to stand on the grass of the hill.

 

We were still wondering if we were in the right place, but as we stepped out of the car we could hear what we had come for… somewhere in the distance was the faint noise of some kind of fast car, but all we could see were obviously the cars parked on the hill and around us seemed lush forest areas, it was somewhat surreal to think that a race track could be amongst such a serene countryside, the only sign was the noise.

VIP Tent

 

We made our toward the VIP tent and attempted to find our contact from the ING bank and also to our Brunch at the VIP tent. We were hungry so made our way into the tent receiving an ING pack once we registered which included all sorts of goodies like a hat, some binoculars etc, all with prominent ING logo’s. The Brunch was served up by elegant looking waiters speaking French (this is apparently the French speaking part of Belgium) and we sat down to alleviate our hunger.

 

After this we found our contact from the bank who had traveled into Belgium without enough fuel and then had trouble paying for fuel into her company car as the only access to money was her Dutch bank account which wasn’t working at the Belgium petrol station.

VIP Parking Sticker
After some pictures to be used for the bank in the internal marketing we made our way to the buses awaiting to take us to the race track. It was still a few hours until the race, but there was a Porsche Cup on in the mean time that I was very keen to see. Once the bus was full it started traveling through some of the forest along some very winding dirt roads until we came to a stop amongst it, where we left the buss to start following yet more signs indicating where our seats were. There was still no signs of a race track, but what we could hear meant something must be near. There were helicopters flying everywhere and then the sound of the race cars, the Porsches I had wanted to see.

stephen_j_white1 says:
This is "F"ing AWESOME. I'm already jealous.
Posted on: Jun 24, 2008
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The Race Track

As we got closer we started to see parts of the track and also what looked like painting trestles or some what like what you would see around the renovations of old building, oh and of course our little signs indicating where our seats were. It’s not what I had expected and after the VIP tent with our French waiters and Chefs, not what I was counting on. Eventually we made our way to our numbered seats, which were perched on these trestles which lingered precariously amongst the hills on the slopes of the race track amongst the forest. The seats themselves were just plastic and bolted to wooden floor boards that somehow seemed attached to the trestles or I hoped they were attached to the trestles. The seats were very close together and seemed to suit the body of a child more rather than my huge 169cm body and not quite broad shoulders.

Race track to our left

 

Now after the whole process of getting here we looked out onto part of the track. I had imagined our seats being amongst some gold plated balcony over looking one of the straights or even the pits, but I suppose these were free tickets. To our left almost nestled amongst the tress at the edge of the forest was more seating and in front of us was part of the race track which winded its way out of site to our left around what seemed to be a bend over a small hill. Across the track was more seating like our and to our left was a straight part of the race track and way off over past that were some more stands, that looked liked the seating I had been expected with permanent solid seating. This was turning into one real experience though, with a few surprises along the way.

Seating across the track from us

 

In a little while we started to hear see and hear the Porsches, the race was about to begin… wow I was excited. Coming from a big country town Australia even seeing a car like that was a little overbearing and not something that happened everyday to me. And now I was about to see a race with them. Amazing how some things can make grown men seem like little children again, but I suppose this is something the female race has learnt to live with through the ages whatever the culture I think this could be universal. As the race began we were finding it really hard to hear anything  above the roar of the big grunty engines of the racing cars and then as they started racing around the track the atmosphere was incredible.

Line up for the Porsche Cup
At the beginning of the race everyone on their seat would stand up as the grouped cars swished by, the noise was deafening as about 25 Porches raced around the track all at once. The first few laps all the cars were grouped together so every time they came to our part of the track everyone would stand up again cameras in hand trying to get a photo or glimpse of the cars racing by. Helicopters seemed everywhere in the sky with cameras jutting out the side swooping here and there taking video footage of the race. As the laps progressed the cars started having distance between them and they spread out as they raced. Now we were able to simply watch and listen. There was a TV screen way off in the distance which I presumed had race coverage from a TV station but it was so far off that it seemed like a little tiny screen from an Iipod held at three arms lengths away, so I couldn’t make out anything.
Lap 2
I had no idea who was driving what car and could barely see the numbers on the cars as they raced around, but still it was exhilarating watching these cars race around the track.

 

I have watched many such races from the confines or an arm chair before whilst listening to commentators call the race and hearing  who was leading, but now I had no idea, but I didn’t care. Watching and listening like this was simply amazing. After about 30 minutes we no longer had to wait 2-3 minutes for the cars to keep coming around the track to where we sat, the cars we so spread out that there was one coming through our section every few seconds, and seconds is all it took for these cars to almost literally fly past us as they revved their motors to their limits and pushed the car to the edge of it’s capabilities.

Porsche
And before I knew it the race was over, I have no how long or short it took or who won or lost but I didn’t care for that matter. I seemed like it was over before it began and so much different than watching from the lounge room.

 

We had an hour or two now to wait for the big event, the Formula 1 race. So we left our seats and headed to the marketing area, where you could buy every type of merchandising paraphernalia possible… there were shirts, jackets, caps, cups everything associated with the big brand racing companies like McLaren, Williams and Honda and all at a price. I went in search of a little toy car for each of the girls, so I could give them something from the race, which I thought was an easy enough task.

Merv posing with some famous racing drivers
After a few stops and seeing the prices for even a tiny little match box car would set me back 30 euros I decided against buying even one of them and figured the girls would probably be just as happy getting a pair of binoculars from my free VIP tent bag with ING on the side.

 

Next we were hungry, so back to our seating area where we had passes to get a free packed lunch and drink. Once we had this we went back to our cramped little seats and somehow managed to tuck in our elbows enough to eat something. I can’t even remember what we ate, but I do remember it didn’t taste very good whatever it was and I ate very little. It wasn’t long now and as the seats around us filled obviously making it more cramped the race start was approaching. Before we new it our wait was over and the Formula race cars started doing warm up laps.

Seating Ticket

Now I found out why there were complimentary ear plugs provided in a VIP bag. The cars weren’t even is race mode as they swerved over the track warming their tyres for the battle that was about to commence and assumedly not even traveling fast yet, but they were screaming already, which took me by surprise. This race cars are at the cutting edge of technology with many production cars based on the engine refinement that is founded on these pieces of machines. The engines are big bulky powerful work horses produces many massive amounts of power to hurtle them to gut wrenching speeds around the track at speeds that many of us have never experienced. The sound of a throbbing V8 engine or the previous meaty Porches was now replaced with a sort of high pitched whining whiz or wiring sound as they started to make there way around the race track and this was just the warm up.

Lap 4

 

Before we knew it the cars stopped their warm up and as the race time approached the seats around us filled to capacity. At this stage I wondered if the scaffolding that was attached to the seats below our bottoms could support such amazing masses of people perched upon them. After a few minutes of contemplation I came to the assumption that as this wasn’t the first ever race here and the fact the one hadn’t collapsed already, not that I had read about (it does help that as I can’t read Dutch I hadn’t exactly been reading many newspapers lately) that they must be safe enough. So now time to wait until the race started, which wasn’t long.

 

I had already put my earplugs in not that they really did much apart from make talking to the person beside you hard.

Blur!!!
Anyway, when the race started everyone was on the edge of the seat. By now we had overheard on the also very large speakers surrounding the seating which had commentary in Dutch (which I couldn’t understand) that the ING sponsored car had broken down and would even make it into the starting grid, which for the ING Bank who sponsored the entire race was a blow.

 

Before we knew it the race had started and that whine I described before now became a thunder or roaring machines in the distance that grew louder as the approached the corner before the straight we could see in the distance. Seeing these race tracks on TV you have no perspective or the real layout of such race tracks, the hills and bends etc, so being here and although what we could see might be 500 meters of track it was high in places that we could see and dipped in others that we couldn’t.

Formula 1 Car x 2
As the roar of engines became louder in the distance we got our first glimpse of the cars in action as they approached us grouped together in a pack after the beginning of the race.

 

As the noise of the whirring engines became closer and very very loud, even with the earplugs in place, people started to stand all around us to catch these race cars at full speed hurtling themselves across the bitumen around the track. For someone of not so modest height (Ok, I’m short, very short amongst Europeans and the Dutch especially), I too had to stand and all I could see at the height of the noise was heads and shoulders in front of me… not a Formula 1 car in sight… I knew they had to be there as the noise became a deafening high pitched scream louder than anything I had every imagined as all 30 or so cars raced past us… presumably that is why everyone had stood up also? Then as the scream of engines became less, people started to sit down… my first ever Formula 1 lap of an actual race and I had seen nothing? I started now to compliment my height and the though of asking my doctor for some growth hormones should I ever return to such an event that I might actually grow tall enough to be one of the lucky tall people of the world that could use the sense of sight at such an event.

Pit lane
I was now sitting almost bewildered as to what was happening as although I could hear everything I started to doubt if I would ever see these racing cars in action. As the second lap was upon us the noise of the engines once again became louder and once again as the cars turned the bend to start racing down the straight we could see in the distance, every stood up again… only this time for longer as the cars noises now seemed to last longer, I presumed from this a the raced the cars were now starting to spread out during the race.

 

Slowly the noise became duller then people started sitting again. Now I was wondering if this would keep up for the entire race and I would see one of these cars in full action.

Formula 1 Car x 2
By the time the cars returned for their 3rd lap I had decided not to stand up as there was no point as I couldn’t see anything anyway, but by this time less people stood and those towards the back actually started yelling to people up front not to stand as they couldn’t see anything either… so it wasn’t just me and my height, others too even ones taller than me also weren’t seeing anything. By the time the noise of the cars now just became one constant roar and I presume the field of the race now became a spread over more of the race track their must have been about 6 or 7 laps of the race completed, the crowd around me got to a point where the standing stopped and now I was actually at a point where I could see the race track, which made me smile.

 

Now I was thinking I could really enjoy this experience and the race, so I started to look and watch and obviously hear the cars still screeching and whirring around the track.

Formula 1 Car
So who’s leading I wondered as I got my first glimpse of the machines racing around the track, but it wasn’t so much of a glimpse that I got… it was more of a blur as the noise deafened me and a blur seem to flash before my eyes. In the previous race I knew that the cars were fast, a Porsche usually is, that is what they are made for, but I never really contemplated or got the real impression from TV exactly what fast was until one of these cars literally blurred past my eyesight range. We have all heard of the expression don’t blink or you’ll miss it… well I am convinced that the person that first thought of that was at a Formula 1 race when that expression came to their mind.

 

My god these cars where not only something incredibly noisy there were also incredibly fast, nothing like I had seen before.

Formula 1 Car
Now where was my camera I thought I wonder if I could get a photo of one to convince my eyes they was actually an object behind those blurs. After a few attempts I gave up in vain as I accepted that my feeble little mind just wasn’t capable of operating on it’s own or with the help of technology to capture what was unfolding in front of me… All I can say is wow these cars are REALLY fast! And I accepted that I would never become a professional Formula 1 photographer.

 

Now back to the race… what number is on that… whoops it’s gone already… OK the next car maybe I can catch a … gone again… this was hard. I got my binoculars out and attempted to see that tinny little Ipod screen in the distance, maybe there I could find out which numbered car was leading, maybe what colour it was….

Formula 1 Car
Nope too far a way to even resemble an Ipod screen at two arms lengths now. Ok back to watching the blurs, I wondered who was winning… by now the cars were very spread out and rather than a big group coming by every 2 minutes they had spread out enough see we had 1-2 cars whizzing past us almost constantly and the noise was just there, a constant whirring of high powered engines, the helicopters above us kept circling and filming the noise from them was loud also. I now was becoming confused… wasn’t this a race? But I had no idea who was who or what colour or number they were and who was winning, which lets face it is the reason for a race. Whenever I had watched in the past this information was something I now longed for, so I was now becoming a little confused and my enjoyment was becoming somewhat less than it had before, in fact apart from the noise and blurs I was not enjoying this much at all.
Porsche x 3
I was too confused and still could barely what was making the noise.

The road out!

After yelling this to Trish she agreed so we decided we would leave at this stage and go for a walk to the Merchandising area. While we walked we could at a certain point see part of the track from a little closer, and actually see the cars, but we were both as confused as each other and had come to the same conclusion. We weren’t really enjoying this part of the Formula 1 experience, so from there we decided to head back to the VIP tent where we knew that champagne and beer was flowing and those incredible French speaking waiters were walking around offering nibblies. We weren’t the only ones leaving at this stage either.

 

Back along the winding forest roads and ten minutes later we were eating and drinking.

Merv and the ING Formula 1 Race Car
We both surmised that although the experience of being at a Formula 1 race was amazing with the noises and sounds, which although a few kilometres now from the race track were still deafening us, it wasn’t one we enjoyed too much. It was however an experience that I think everyone should experience and one I won’t forget. The VIP tent started to get very busy during the next hour or so as the race finished (I still don’t know who won, or even really cared by now) more and more VIP’s returned to this little spot perched upon on a hill somewhere in Belgium. The drinks were cold the food still served by the great sounding French waiters and we all started to relax. We soon found the rest of the Dutch contingent from the ING Bank and we sat and chatted about the day.

 

We now found out how lucky we were to have found 1 nights accommodation in the area so we could stay the night in this area and only a week before the race.

Trish relaxing in the VIP tent
Well done to Trish for that and her skill on travel web sites for this. Apparently at this time of the year with all the race goers, hotel rooms are usually booked out months before the race. So we were very lucky!

 

After a while people started leaving so we decided to head towards our accommodation for the night, a small motel in the Belgium town of Spa, yes where the water comes from. Unfortunately our navigation system had others ideas of navigating then all the race official who were directing us away from where the it wanted to go.

Trish before the navigation problems
So we had no choice but to follow the direction that we were told by the traffic directors which seemed to be leading us away from our destination. After a while we entered a highway and the navigation system soon redirected us according to our current direction, but then the traffic started to slow. What no-one had mentioned to us is that when you squeeze ten of thousands of people into a road system design for merely hundreds there tends to be some traffic problem following and one of those usually happens after the Formula 1 race. Our bladders literally full after the effects of a few drinks, we edged along in the traffic hoping there would be a reprieve soon and we could get the next 10 kilometres to our destination.

 

Why is it that when traffic, cars, directions and husbands and wives are involved does it seem to cause fights between the later two? We argued a bit about what we should do… stay on the highway and follow the navigation system or get off and try and find an alternative route, we did the later and got off the highway and the navigation system redirected us so we followed for a bit only to find yet another traffic official directing us from where we wanted to go.

Trish after the navigation problems
By the time we re-entered the highway and the traffic jam again we were only 6 kilometres from the motel and almost an hour had passed since we jumped in the car… we only had 10 kilometres to travel in the first place??? The next chance we got we once again got off the highway and this time we actually found some moving traffic and when the navigation system reset itself we found we were even closer, I think 5 kilometres away from the motel and ahead of us were cars that were actually moving… yeah for us… and within 10 minutes we entered the town of Spa and then quickly found our accommodation and a bathroom… after 10 kilometres and 1.5 hours that was a god send.

 

Once we checked in and put our bags in our room we went in search of a quiet drink and something to eat. It was probably about 7.30 when we settled into a drink and then ordered food and we were tired.

Finally we arrive in Spa
After eating we went back to our room and then very early fell asleep… what a day that was. At breakfast the next morning we heard that the traffic jam towards the Dutch border was still going at 9.30 the previous night… I once again told Trish how smart she was to find a nice quiet motel room for us for the night!

 

In summary, it was an experience I will never forget and the treatment at the VIP tents was amazing, but as for the race, next year I’ll watch it from the confines of my own lounge chair on my own TV. I am glad we went and got to have the experience, but I wouldn’t have been happy paying for it.

 

stephen_j_white1 says:
That sounds like an awesome experience. I have been to NASCAR events in the state, and many people camp out at them. They are weekend events.
Posted on: Jun 24, 2008
The huge signs which directed us?
The huge signs which directed us?
Highway over a valley
Highway over a valley
ING Formula 1 Race Car
ING Formula 1 Race Car
French Chef
French Chef
VIP Tent
VIP Tent
VIP Parking Sticker
VIP Parking Sticker
The Race Track
The Race Track
Race track to our left
Race track to our left
Seating across the track from us
Seating across the track from us
Line up for the Porsche Cup
Line up for the Porsche Cup
Lap 2
Lap 2
Porsche
Porsche
Merv posing with some famous racin…
Merv posing with some famous raci…
Seating Ticket
Seating Ticket
Lap 4
Lap 4
Blur!!!
Blur!!!
Formula 1 Car x 2
Formula 1 Car x 2
Pit lane
Pit lane
Formula 1 Car x 2
Formula 1 Car x 2
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Porsche x 3
Porsche x 3
The road out!
The road out!
Merv and the ING Formula 1 Race Car
Merv and the ING Formula 1 Race Car
Trish relaxing in the VIP tent
Trish relaxing in the VIP tent
Trish before the navigation proble…
Trish before the navigation probl…
Trish after the navigation problems
Trish after the navigation problems
Finally we arrive in Spa
Finally we arrive in Spa
The Forest
The Forest
Pit Lane
Pit Lane
Porsche
Porsche
Porsche
Porsche
Porsche
Porsche
Porsche x 2
Porsche x 2
Race Track
Race Track
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Lap 6
Lap 6
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car x 2
Formula 1 Car x 2
Formula 1 Car x 4
Formula 1 Car x 4
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car
Formula 1 Car x 2
Formula 1 Car x 2
Formula 1 Car x 2
Formula 1 Car x 2
Formula 1 Car x 2
Formula 1 Car x 2
Forest
Forest
Forest
Forest
Plaque
Plaque
Main restaurant street
Main restaurant street
Old building
Old building
House
House
Sponsored Links
Francorchamps
photo by: ice4swervin