While we look ahead to this weekend’s race at one of F1’s classic circuits, 30 years ago today another of the great grand prix tracks got a new lease of life.
The dauntingly fast layout of the original 8.7-mile track was gone, along with it the terrifying Masta Kink. But the new 4.3-mile layout retained several of the track’s highlights, including the signature Eau Rouge climb and the high-speed Blanchimont kink.
To that several excellent new corners were added. These include the mighty downhill Pouhon, followed by the rapid Les Fagnes and Stavelot corners.
The 1983 season was the year of turbo power and the 1.5-litre cars were in their element on Spa’s long straights. However it took even the fastest cars more than two minutes to lap the track, Alain Prost setting pole position with a time of 2’04.615.
Andrea de Cesaris brilliantly led the opening laps for Alfa Romeo until the team botched his pit stop. That let Prost in to win, though as the video above shows the appearance of the checkered flag came as a surprise to the commentators as the race distance had been shortened following a false start.
F1’s return to Spa was a welcome change for the Belgian Grand Prix. The previous two races in Zolder had seen acrimony and tragedy: Gilles Villeneuve was killed in 1982, mechanic Giovanni Amadeo lost his life in 1981 and another, Dave Luckett, was injured in a horrifying start line accident the same year.
F1 bade farewell to Zolder in 1984: Spa has been F1’s Belgian home ever since. Many drivers rate it as the best on the calendar. If only a few more of F1’s old-to-new circuit conversions had been done so well.