The 8.76-mile Spa-Francorchamps circuit was the quickest of all the classic road circuits and, many would say, the greatest. It swept on public roads through the mountains of the Ardennes in Southern Belgium and even in the dry was a character-building circuit. In the wet it was only for heroes and since the region is known as 'The Pisspot of Europe', races have frequently been held in the wet. Spa itself is famous for its water and became a generic name for towns which promote their water for its alleged health-giving properties.
Spa was first used for racing in 1924 and the first Belgian GP was run in 1925 when it was won by Antonio Ascari, father of the Double World Champion, Alberto Ascari. It was then used frequently up to WW2 and became a fixture on the WC calendar from 1950.
Serious discontent with Spa began after a downpour in the 1966 race which caused several crashes, most significantly one involving Jackie Stewart which led to his campaign for improved circuit safety. There is no question that Spa was dangerous, but it was magnificent and a win there was a measure of the standard of a driver.
In 1969 the safety of the circuit was challenged by the Grand Prix Drivers' Association and the Belgian GP was not held that year. In 1970, a chicane was added to slow speeds (Pedro Rodriguez still won at 149.94 mph) but for 1972 the Belgian GP was moved to Nivelles.
The memory of Spa would not die, however, and in 1983 there was a new 4.31-mile circuit which incorporated elements of the original, but with an improved surface and run-off areas. The new Spa, which still incorporates some public roads, is the longest circuit on the F1 calendar and, many believe, the most challenging.
Revisions to the layout have not changed one thing - Spa is still the 'Pisspot of Europe'.