The Spa Classic

Yesterday I checked the tyre pressures, the fluid levels and all the lights to ensure they were working because this morning we drove to Folkstone to catch the Euro Tunnel shuttle to Calais on our way to attend the Spa Classic at the magnificent Spa Francochamps circuit in Belgium.

This was our first time on the shuttle and I must say it is by far the best way to cross the channel. Our scheduled time of crossing was 09.20 but that didn’t concern the nice folks at Folkstone when we pitched up 2 hours early, they asked “would you like to travel on the next crossing?” to which we replied “yes please”. So we queued to get on the train and 35 minutes after departure we were driving down the road on our way to Spa.

The journey took us across country along the E42 towards the borders of France and Belgium in the direction of Liege, after a couple of hours behind the wheel we pulled into a motorway service station to take on some refreshments and fill up with fuel. Two hours later we arrived at the circuit and parked in a great space in the paddock which had been pre arranged by our chosen tour company, Travel Destinations. As soon as we stepped out of the car several people crowded around Jagger to take photographs it was almost like as if they had never seen a E-Type before! While all this was going on someone pointed out that the rear passenger side tyre was looking like it needed more air - it seems we must have driven over a sharp object as we entered the circuit because it was evident we were suffering from a slow puncture.

I immediately drove the car to one of the tyre crews in the paddock who were understandably too occupied to fix the puncture, but at least filled the tyre with air so we could drive to a local tyre shop in the village. Fortunately a few miles from the circuit we stumbled upon a tyre fitting outfit called Speed Tyres. Even though my French leaves a lot to be desired and the folks there could hardly speak a word of English, they managed to sort out the problem. I was asked to drive Jagger on the ramp and as I got out of the car I emptied the boot in search of the copper hammer and the brass ring tool which fits over the spinner. The fitter raised the ramp and pretty soon he was merrily smashing the hammer against the brass ring trying to release the spinner, eventually the wheel was off and he set about searching for and repairing the problem.

The Michelin’s have inner tubes fitted which saved me big time on this occasion because after inspecting the tyre and finding nothing wrong, the fitter found a tiny hole in the tube which resulted in him fitting a patch. Once the patch was securely in place he returned the inner tube back inside the tyre, balanced the wheel and 10 Euro’s later we were on our way with our barely used Michelin’s still intact.

By the time we left the tyre shop it was around 5.30 so instead of returning to the circuit we decided to head for our hotel and what a hotel it is! When we arrived the car park was littered with Bentley’s, Aston Martin’s, Jaguars and as we stepped out of Jagger, four Ferrari’s pitched up, one of them being a F40 for goodness sake!!

After unpacking the car and checking in to the hotel I returned to clean all the dead bugs from the windscreen before having dinner with my lovely wife Georgia. I feel this coming weekend is going to be fun, fun, fun - just what the doctor ordered!

Patiently waiting in line at Folkestone for our first trip onboard the Euro Tunnel Shuttle.

Three wheels on my wagon and I'm not rolling along..........

A rather blurred picture of our friendly and helpful tyre fitter doing his best to get Jagger back on the road.

 

 

This morning we returned to the track and parked in the same area inside the paddock we were briefly in yesterday. Very quickly one gets the feeling that once you have entered the circuit it is access all areas and no one seems to mind where you go. We met up with Raphael our French friend who was parked a short distance from us with the MX5 club of France. After a brief chat we arranged to meet later in the day because Raphael is a keen photographer who knows Spa Francochamps like the back of his hand and suggested we take a drive to some interesting parts of the circuit so we could take pictures of Jagger.

At the agreed time we followed Raphael in his Miata through the paddock and along a narrow track parallel to Eau Rouge, up a steep hill where we stopped at the top to look down at the circuit. The views up there are spectacular which hopefully you can get a sense of from this photograph. To give you a good idea of how high up we are, take a look at that tiny spec on the circuit, it's actually a Ferrari!

 

After spending about 40 minutes at what I imagine is the highest point of the circuit we drove back down the hill and through the crowded paddocks to return to our parking space.

Our tour operator has a hospitality lounge overlooking the pit straight so we paid them a visit for a sit down and a complimentary cup of tea and some biscuits.

Georgia and I are enjoying a lovely time here, the cars are great, the circuit is fantastic with spectacular views and scenery and we are being made to feel welcome by everyone we come into contact with. In addition we are enjoying good conversations with some of the admirers of Jagger who pay kind comments about our pride and joy while asking many questions about him, it’s great fun!

So here is the much talked about superb parking space, the part of the circuit you can see in the picture is the exit of the famous Eau Rouge.

We are not the only one's who drove from the UK in a iconic sports car from the '70's - who wouldn't want to own this gorgeous Dino?

This morning as we prepared to visit the circuit I couldn’t help but take a picture of Jagger alongside the F40 parked in the hotel car park.

Regular followers of this site will be well aware of my dislike of driving fast on race tracks in Jagger for the reason that my pride and joy is approaching his 43rd birthday and needs to be treated with respect. However, one email I received from the tour operator a few weeks ago included an invitation to take part in a 25 minute track session and after a lengthy telephone conversation with them I was assured it would be a worthwhile experience to participate in and so I signed up.

Georgia was not too keen to join me and suggested I take Raphael instead because he would appreciate it more, so that’s what happened. A huge number of cars lined up in the pit lane which included everything from the F40 to a Triumph Spitfire and once the session started it was certainly a test of one’s concentration skills as cars flew by at break neck speed. Raphael enjoyed himself and armed with his camera in the passenger seat he took photo’s of what seemed like most of the cars on the circuit as they swiftly approached us and screamed past.

When the session was over Georgia and I enjoyed lunch in the Brasserie located high up in the main building overlooking the pit straight and I explained that although I had enjoyed the experience, it’s not something I wish to repeat. When lunch was over we took a walk around the concession stands before visiting the hospitality suite provided by our tour operator.

It’s worth mentioning that although this has been our first trip with Travel Destinations we have felt very welcome by Andrew, Lisa and Richard and we are so impressed with the excellent service and attention to detail they provide that we feel certain this will not be the last trip we go on with them. After enjoying a coffee in the suite we went in search of a good vantage point to watch the Group C race before filling up with fuel at the on site petrol station in preparation for our drive home in the morning.

We are both in agreement this has been a magnificent trip which has included many good moments, not least because everyone we have been in contact with has been pleasant and polite and we will definitely return to attend this event again.

Below is evidence of my statement further up the page regarding access all area's - here are a few shots I took as we strolled inside the garages housing the Group C cars.

The ex Martin Brundle/Derek Warwick Jaguar XJR14

The ex Mauro Baldi/ Michael Schumacher Sauber Mercedes C11 - Keep Fighting Michael.

Another fine looking classic parked in the hotel car park.

This morning after breakfast we started our journey home and after spending a couple of hours driving on the E42 we pulled into the same motorway service station at Mons we had stopped at on Friday and parked close to these lovely classics.

After a short pit stop we got back on the road enroute to the Euro Tunnel terminal in Calais, we travelled onboard the 2.06 shuttle back to Folkstone and after a 90 minute drive we reached home. Apart from the slow puncture we picked up in Spa, Jagger never missed a beat and I'm thrilled with the way he is running, tomorrow I'll give him a much needed clean and a check over but after driving for most of the day I need a rest!