Belgian GP Tyrrell Preview

BELGIAN GRAND PRIX PREVIEW BELGIAN TREAT Monaco may be the circuit best known by Formula One fans the world over, but it is Spa-Francorchamps that...

BELGIAN GRAND PRIX PREVIEW BELGIAN TREAT Monaco may be the circuit best known by Formula One fans the world over, but it is Spa-Francorchamps that is undoubtedly the favourite of most of the drivers and engineers. Nestled deep in the verdant Ardennes forest between Brussels and Liege, this is a circuit that just reeks of motor racing history. The track may have been shortened and modified some years ago to comply with modern Formula One requirements, but the alterations were carried out sympathetically with the result that the home of the Belgian Grand Prix remains one of the greatest road racing circuits in the world. Mention the names of some of Spa's famous corners - Malmedy, Stavelot, Blanchimont and La Source - and the blood of any self-respecting motor racing fan is guaranteed to start pumping faster. And then there's Eau Rouge - a sinewy, downhill-uphill, left-right-left strip of tarmac that is quite possibly the most daunting challenge a racing driver is likely to encounter anywhere. Get it right, and the sense of elation will be great. Get it wrong, or find yourself struggling with an ill-handling car, and it can be the most unpleasant roller-coaster ride on earth. It's a view clearly shared by Tyrrell race engineer, David Brown. "Spa is one of the best - if not the best - circuits we visit during the season," he says. "Even though there have been changes, it remains an old circuit with great character. There are fantastic corners, terrific scenery and wonderful elevation changes, all of which help to make it a brilliant place.

"In terms of set-up for the cars, there is a great feeling of freedom at Spa after the restrictive nature of places like Monaco, Hungary, and to a lesser extent, Austria. This is a circuit where you can really let a Formula One car off its leash and driver bravery and skill become even more significant factors than normal. "Technically, chassis set-up for Spa is a compromise between reducing drag, for straight-line speed, and generating downforce, to help keep cornering speeds up. For instance, there is the blast up from Stavelot and through Blanchimont, where the cars hit a maximum speed of 300 km/h before drivers brake down to perhaps 70 km/h for "Bus Stop". Very heavy braking is required here and you require downforce to assist vehicle stability. "At the same time, you can't afford to carry so much downforce that you compromise your speed for the long, high-speed sections, such as the run down from La Source, up through Eau Rouge, and along through Raidillon and Kemmel to Les Combes. What it means in practical terms is that everyone is likely to be playing around with wing levels. "There are a few bumps at Spa - notably exiting Bus Stop - so you need to ensure your car rides these effectively, but the track is nothing like as rough as the Hungaroring. Happily, the Belgian surface is not particularly abrasive either, so there shouldn't be any worries about being forced into additional pit stops because of tyre wear problems. "Spectators can usually look forward to plenty of action at Spa since there are a couple of long straights leading into slow corners, and that is normally just the formula you want to assist drivers with overtaking manoeuvres." Listening to David describe the challenges of the famous Belgian circuit, you get the distinct feeling he is bullish about the prospects for his driver, Toranosuke Takagi. "Absolutely," he replies. "He had one of his best showings there in the Porsche Supercup last year and I think it's the sort of circuit he likes. He appears to be particularly strong on high-speed circuits, like Suzuka, where driver bravery is a significant component of the lap time. I'm really looking forward to Spa. I think Tiger could go well there." This year's Belgian Grand Prix gets underway at 14:00 hrs local time on Sunday, August 30. The race will consist of 44 laps of the 6.968-km/4.329-mile Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Last year's event, run in changeable weather conditions, was won by Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, the German star making it four wins from six starts in Belgium. Giancarlo Fisichella (Benetton) and Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) were second and third respectively. The Formula One lap records for this demanding circuit date back to 1993, when Alain Prost claimed pole position in his Williams with a time of 1 min 47.571 secs and set a fastest race lap of 1:51.095. TYRRELL CHASSIS DETAILS 1998 Belgian Grand Prix Ricardo Rosset (No 20) 026/04 Toranosuke Takagi (No 21) 026/05 Spare car 026/03

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Mika Hakkinen , Tora Takagi , Ricardo Rosset , Alain Prost , David Brown
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Benetton