Saturday we had 2x45 minute sessions in the morning. After damp start the track dried out and the rest of the day was mainly dry. I had visited Spa once before but it had always been a wet track, so this was the first time in the dry and what a track - real proper high-speed corners and fantastic fun. The car felt great (as it did all weekend) and Gary's (Freestyle) help at Llandow the week before on damper and roll bar settings were spot on. I had hardly any of the understeer I had had at Llandow on these sweeping corners. On a drying track Eau Rouge was great - you could feel the car under you moving from damp patches to dry as it went through the corner. Throughout the weekend the Kemel Straight would be my least favourite part of the track - more powerful cars could sail past us here and would then hold us up for the rest of the lap! But never mind, still huge fun.
After a good nights sleep at the Hotel beau site, we arrived back at the circuit at 8am to register and sign on. The weather was not brilliant, with light drizzle, but as the morning went on it cleared up and the sun came out between the clouds - sometimes! A wet track at first soon became a damp track, then a dry track.
Registration saw us get our first ever set of numbers - suddenly I WAS a number - 35!
Seven-Mania had 2x45 minute sessions on Saturday morning, where we would share the track with the Piston Club and the huge variety or exotica that had arrived to drive Spa this weekend. For qualifying and the race on Sunday, we would have the track to ourselves.
...we are off!!
Braking into La Source, on a rapidly drying track in the second session.
Suddenly its all over! the car has behaved perfectly and driving Spa in the dry for the first time has confirmed it as my favourite track - it just flows from one high speed corner to the next - there will be more opportunity on track later that afternoon as we can buy extra time by the hour through Piston Club.
View over looking Eau Rouge on the left, and the start of the pit 'straight' and pitlane on the right, taken from the F1 control tower above the pits.
Joachim and Mattius gave a very very good and thorough drivers briefing. EVERY aspect of the weekend was covered in German and English, with a big emphasis on safety, gentlemanly sporting behavior and making sure we ALL had fun.
Joachim gave a very thorough briefing from Seven Mania - all in German and English (thank you) which stressed the friendly nature of the whole event, and the absolute priority of safety. There was not one incident or accident between any of the drivers throughout the whole weekend (some of the so-called professionals driving in the Piston Club sessions where not nearly as polite or skilled it seems - a certain 360 Challenge car and a yellow Maserati displayed the worst driving I have ever seen on track, something noticed by many of us it seemed) One of the key areas of safety was to be the start method. At no point was there going to be a standing start with us all heading towards the first corner, and Seven Mania and the Spa track officials worked hard to work out the safest way to start the 'event'. This would end up with us forming up on the grid in order (a la F1) then being waved off in 2's - then no overtaking until after Radillon.
Obviously everyone listened, because the whole weekend subscribed to all these requirements in every way.
In the afternoon Seven Mania drivers has the chance to buy more track time with the Pistonclub. We paid for another 2 hours or so (though a stoppage meant we only had about 1.5 hours) and it was a good time to take passengers out. Whenever we were not on track there was always something to watch up and down the pit lane.
In the afternoon we paid for a few sessions on track, and it was in these that I was able to take out Tony, Adil and Sven for a few laps. I hope they enjoyed it!
Taking pictures of fast moving vehicles with a digital camera that has a delay between pressing the button and taking the picture is very hard!
We had a slight scare when the car would not start after one session - a little fiddling and the usual help you get at these events from fellow drivers seemed to point to a slightly lose or corroded low tension wire around the coil area - whatever it was it never came back and the car was great. It was the first time I really saw the rev limit light in most gears, not just 1st, sothe car was thrashed and as usual seemed to relish it. Incidentally, we were the only car with clamshell wings! Most people seemed to know it through our website though.
Another session finished and it is back to the pits. the bullet camera can be seen fixed to the roll bar behind me.
I would like to say we were downloading data in order to optimize the handling and performance of the car. We weren't - we were looking at the days pictures on Holgers laptop!
As the day came to an end, the cars were parked up. Thank you to the guys at MOG Racing who had space for our car and bits and pieces in their garage.
That evening we all returned to the pits for a grill and beer evening. Cannot stress how friendly the whole trip was, and standing outside the pit, Hatz beer in one hand (thank you for driving Tony!), some sort of German grill in the other, surrounded by fellow petrol heads quietly chatting about the day, looking over towards Eau Rouge as the sun went down I could not help but smile to myself and think that there was no better place to be.
A grill was set up, and a crate of beer opened. A relaxing evening of banter and joking in the pits around the cars was a really nice way to wind up a great first day.
Tony has a new digital camera and needs a little tripod for these dark pictures, but I actually like the blurred nature of them. More people just relaxing and talking over a beer and a hot dog.
As I took this picture, beer in hand, and looked at all our new friends, for that they all were, I looked over my shoulder at Eau Rouge in the dusk and thought of no better place to be.
Except closer to the cars perhaps!
Of course Tony could well have been drunk when he took these blurred pictures - I hope not as he was driving us, along with Sven, back to the Hotel!
Most of the competitors were staying in the paddock, either in motorhomes or actually camping in the pits. Had we known we would have done the same - though it was cold!
So we returned to the Hotel, where we had a good hearty meal and another beer and discussed the days events so far. All agreed it had been most pleasant - we were looking forward to race day!