Le Mans Ultimate: Spa Francorchamps Circuit Guide

The definitive guide for you to understand how to be fast at Spa Francorchamps.

Spa Francorchamps has a rich history in Formula 1, GT and Endurance racing and is widely regarded as one of the most challenging tracks in the world.

Here are some nice-to-know facts about the circuit:

  • The circuit was first used for motorsport in 1922, and has since undergone numerous modifications and improvements including the 80 million euro upgrade last year.
  • The track has hosted the Belgian Grand Prix for over 60 years, and is considered one of the classic Formula 1 venues. Notable winners include Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, and Jim Clark
  • Track length is 7.004km
  • 19 corners (9 left-hand corners and 10 right-hand corners)
  • The elevation difference from highest to lowest points of the track is 102.2m
  • Hosts many endurance races from World Endurance Championships, European Le Mans, British GT and the most popular event of them all, the 24hrs of Spa Francorchamps.

This track guide will focus on giving you a comprehensive understanding of this legendary circuit and its technical corners. The focus will be on the racing lines, braking points, where to apex, when to get on the throttle and finally using your vision to maximize your exits and avoiding off tracks.

Turn 1 (La Source)

Turn 1 is a right-hand hairpin with a slight uphill approach that encourages you to push the braking zone.

Approaching T1 position your car to the far left of the track to open up the entry point. Look as far ahead as you can to spot your braking point which is around the 100m board on the left hand side. It is a hard braking zone which requires maximum time spent in a straight line before turning in. A missed timed downshift could cause rear instability while turning in. It is a 1st or 2nd gear corner depending on the car you are driving.

Once you have entered the braking phase your focus should then be on your turning in point and the apex. Aim the car so that it cuts all of the inside kerbing. Remember it is a late apex so turn in later than you think while progressively introducing steering input.

This corner is all about slow in and fast out. Getting on the power as early as you can is of paramount importance with the long flat out Eau Rouge and Kemmel straight section directly following. Beware of track limits on the exit as there is an elevated sausage kerb that runs alongside the astroturf which can unsettle the car and invalidate your lap.

Turn 2,3 and 4 (Eau Rouge and Raidillon)

Turns 2,3 and 4 are collectively known as Eau Rouge and Raidillon, and are two of the most famous corners in motorsport. Eau Rouge is the left hand entry that leads directly into Raidillon, the place where the scene of most accidents occurs with its challenging blind crest and high speed.

The corner has been made safer and slightly less daunting in recent years due to its upgrade over safety concerns, but it still an iconic corner in motorsport. Now with a grand stand for the spectators to enjoy.

Approaching Eau Rouge, keep the car to the right-hand side and stay close to the pit wall. This section is all about carrying speed and not scrubbing off momentum by turning too much. Keep that focus as far ahead as possible so that you can anticipate your next move.

As you run down the hill look to cut the left-hand entry kerb and get the car prepared for the uphill which immediately follows. Using this as much as possible opens up your entry to the following right hander which requires a relatively late apex. Don’t use too much inside kerb on the right hander, rather aim to just kiss it, this is because the car can easily get unloaded as it goes from hard compression to lift. If you get the initial entry point correct you should be able to maintain full throttle. With the correct racing line your trajectory will naturally keep the car settled.

The next part is completely blind as you come over the crest. It takes full commitment and you can once again cut the inside kerb. As long as you keep 2 wheels inside the solid white line your lap will not invalidate. During the direction change, keep your steering as straight as possible to maintain the momentum and stability for the best possible speed down the Kemmel Straight. You can also use the exit kerb on the right hand side quite generously if you need the extra space.

Turn 5,6 and 7 (Les Combes)

Les Combes is a medium-speed sequence of corners, which requires a lot of commitment and precision from the driver, especially in a GT3 car with accurate usage of paramount importance.

The racing line for Les Combes involves hugging the left-hand side of the track as you approach the first corner in the sequence. It requires heavy braking at around the 100m brake board. From 6th gear downshift down to 3rd or 2nd depending on car. Release the brake earlier than you think and carry speed into the first apex where your aim is to climb all over the entry kerb. The aim with this first part is to not be greedy as the left hand part directly following is much more important. 

Prepare the car for the direction change and weight transfer for the next part. To keep the car stable aim to cut the inside kerb and get slightly on to the run off of the left hander with your inside wheels. You’ll find it naturally helps rotate the car once you hook your tyres into that inside kerb. It requires a slight lift off the power to lift the nose to avoid any unnecessary interaction with the kerb. Don’t open the steering too much as you want to stay more to the left for the following right hander.

Change up to 3rd (if you are in 2nd) before the last turn and get as far left as you can to open up the entry. Turn in early and carry the speed in, avoid using too much inside kerb as it can unsettle the rear of the car. Get on the power progressively and as early as you can, look to maximize the exit kerbing to get the run down the short hill to Bruxelles. 

To drive this sequence quickly, precision and timing of inputs takes precedence. You are balancing the weight transfer of the car laterally very hard and so excessive steering angle punishes you very quickly. Overall, Les Combes is a challenging and rewarding sequence of corners for drivers, and a good performance through this section can make a significant difference to lap times.

Turn 8 (Bruxelles formerly Rivage)

Bruxelles is a slow, long right-hand hairpin which can be challenging to navigate given it is all about rolling speed and patience. There are various lines to take but the quickest line in is to hang the brake on entry and hog the inside kerb.

Heading down the hill look for the kerbing that starts on the left hand side on the entry of the corner. This is your braking point reference. Brake as soon as the kerbing starts and point the car towards the entry kerb. Getting the car pointed towards the corner early is important as the inside wheel unloads very quickly as the camber of the road changes. Trail brake while downshifting down to 1st or 2nd gear. You will need to modulate the brake enough so that you minimize ABS activation whilst keeping your minimum speed up.

As you pass the middle of the corner try to avoid running the car out too wide. The faster you can get the front end to bite and get the car rotated the faster you can aim for your exit point  when you want to get back on the throttle. Avoid getting on the power too early and aggressively as this will induce push exit understeer which will cost you valuable time. 

Turn 9 (No name)

No name is a medium to fast speed downhill left-hander and possibly one of the most difficult corners on the track. It requires precision on entry to avoid unsettling the car and to maximize speed going down the following straight.

On entry keep to the right hand side and aim for a late apex coming off the kerb on the right hand side. Some cars require a lift while others might require slight braking to get to the correct trajectory by tucking in the nose. Heading for the apex, keep your steering input constant and use the inside kerb if your car doesn’t get unsettled by it. You should be getting on the power just before you reach the apex and you want to use the exit to maximize the drive.

It’s a basic corner on paper but there can be a lot of time to gain or lose through this section and any understeer will put you in the danger zone on the outside where you’ll start to flirt with track limits.

Turn 10 and 11 (Pouhon)

Pouhon is a high-speed, double left-hand corner, which requires a lot of commitment and precision due to the speed at which you take the corner.It is one of the few corners in motorsport where commitment is still king.

Stick to the right hand side and use the entry kerb as your braking reference. When you’ve reached approximately the halfway mark in the entry kerb start to brake and turn in at the same time. Use 3rd or 4th gear depending on your car.

It’s important to aim for a sweeping apex on the first part of the corner while also carrying the perfect speed in to set you up for the second apex later on. If you go in slow you will have to accelerate too soon and if you go in too fast you will run wide too quickly on to the slippery kerb on the outside. The midway point between the 1st and 2nd apex is generally a good reference for where you need to be on the throttle again. You want to ensure any understeer is eradicated mid corner before committing to the second apex.

If the car is settled immediately get back on the power and use the grip and downforce to pull you through the 2nd apex and out on the exit kerbing. Watch out for crippling understeer if you are slightly off line, you want to keep the steering smooth to keep the momentum up. A tip for this is looking ahead so your hands follow where your eyes are looking.

Turn 12 and 13 (Fagnes or Piff Paff)

Fagnes is a high-speed, sweeping chicane that requires a lot of precision. It’s easy to misjudge this sequence and it can cost you a lot of lap time if you get it wrong.

Stick to the left-hand side on entry and use the start of the entry kerb as your braking reference. Trail brake and downshift to 2nd or 3rd gear. The entry to the first apex is crucial as it sets you up for the left hand turn. Aim behind the kerb and apex late, using the inside kerbing to keep the car planted. Hug the inside kerb while you slightly get back on the throttle, this will help the car rotate while you aim to stick to the right hand side to open up the left hander. 

Ensure during the entry to the first apex that you hang the brake a small amount for a long time deep into the corner, this will encourage the car to rotate naturally without excessive steering angle applied

As you approach the left-hand second part, roll off the throttle and feed the front end in. If you did the first part in 2nd gear you will need to short shift to 3rd gear as you start to turn in. Key is to keep the momentum, so use the inside kerb once again and ease on the throttle as soon as you can. Remember to maximize the exit and use all the runoff.

Turn 14 and 15 (Campus formerly Stavelot and Curve Paul Frere)

Campus is a medium-slow speed right-hand turn that is taken in 2nd gear. It is an important corner due to the fact that it leads onto the long run towards Blanchimont and the Bus Stop. A good exit is needed to have a fast last sector.

Launch the car back to the left-hand side and look for the start of the entry kerb on the left. Brake down to 2nd gear and keep in mind the exit is more important than the entry. Square the corner off and use the inside kerb.If you have apexed correctly you should be able to get on the power really early and this will drag you out to the exit kerb which you can abuse all the way up to the gravel. Open up the steering as early as you can. Stay on the kerb all the way until it’s just about to end.

Just before the kerb ends, start turning in for Curve Paul Frere. This gives you a nice open entry point and should allow you to keep the throttle flatout. Again use all of the exit allowed for a nice run onto the straight.

Turn 16 and 17 (Blanchimont) 

The famous Blanchimont, a high speed left hand turn that has been home to many thrills and spills. It’s taken at full throttle so looking ahead and picturing your entry and exit points are important.

Coming through the left hand kink leading up to Blanchimont, place the car over to the right-hand side of the track. There is some runoff available on entry that you can use to open up the corner. Aim for a late apex and keep your steering smooth and precise to avoid scrubbing off speed. Don’t use the inside kerb, rather just come close to it as it unsettles most cars at high speeds. Use as much of the exit you need but watch out for those track limits.

Turn 18 and 19 (Bus Stop)

A very slow speed right-left chicane and the last 2 corners to complete a lap at Spa. It can be very tricky to spot your braking point due to the high speed you reach the corner at.

On approach stay to the left-hand and lookout for the solid white line that crosses the circuit under the sponsorship banner. You can brake just after the solid white line, maximizing your braking in a straight line to stop the car as fast as possible. You can also be aggressive with the downshifts to maximize the engine braking.

The first apex is blind and only reveals itself just as you start to turn in. Stay tight and aim for a late apex for the first part of the chicane while avoiding the sausage kerb on the inside. In this sequence it’s better to sacrifice the entry so that you can focus on getting a good exit out the 2nd part of the chicane.

By staying more right out of the first part it allows you to open up the 2nd part. Roll off the throttle earlier than you think to get the turn in for the 2nd part. Use the inside kerb but again avoid the sausage which can launch the car and cause TC intervention, which you do not want in the traction zone. Once the car is rotated and you are past the second kerb, open up the steering and get on the throttle as fast as you can without breaking traction. Use as much of the exit kerb as you need while still keeping in mind the track limits.

This completes a lap at the amazing and highly technical Spa Francorchamps GP circuit.

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