Dropping into Spa-Francorchamps for the first time is a special experience, and it’s improved even more when you’re at the wheel of a McLaren 650S Spider.
The car’s accomplishments have been widely feted, but I wasn’t prepared for how pretty Spa would look in the afternoon sunshine, as a wooded approach road opens up to the spectacular vista that welcomes visitors to the circuit entrance.
Rumbling down towards the car park, the first thing you see is one of motor-racing’s most infamous corners, the terrifying Eau Rouge/Raidillon complex, climbing steeply and much more dramatically up the Eau Rouge river valley side than TV coverage or any console game would suggest. To the right lies the old staggered pit complex on the down-hill straight into Eau Rouge, while the ‘new’ F1 pits and grandstands rise above them. The whole circuit nestles within a beautiful valley section of the Ardennes forest, and once inside the gates we made a beeline for the roof-top terrace restaurant at the top of the F1 pit building. The views are superb, and the bar very tempting… although we headed straight back down to the GT paddock for a catch up with our hosts for the weekend, McLaren GT.
We last bumped into the McLaren GT crew at the Festival of Speed where they launched the spectacular 650S GT3 car. The new racer (a major update on the 12C GT3) is drawing a bit of attention here at Spa too, and hopefully we’ll bring you a more detailed look at it later with some proper insider info.
But first down to business, as yesterday saw first qualifying for the teams running McLaren GT3 machines in the legendary 24 Hours of Spa Race and although there’s no works team, McLaren GT is here to support them all – including two cars in the Pro Cup where the serious action takes place
McLaren racers ART Grand Prix are a French outfit leading the team championship as the 24hr weekend kicks off, but they’re only a single point ahead of M-Sport Bentley running the beautifully brutish Continental GT3 – and one of the two ART cars is currently out of commission following a pre-qualifying prang. With endurance specialists Audi and Mercedes also contending fiercely, it looks as though we’re going to have some great racing.
First qualifying took place yesterday evening, followed by a night session in the hours before midnight, giving us a fantastic taste of the spectacle and drama to come. There’s a ‘Super Pole’ shootout taking place this evening where race start positions are finalised, but today we want to find out a bit more about what McLaren GT are up to.
Check out our gallery pictures above, and if you want to keep up with the race itself – results and TV scheduling info are available on the Blancpain GT series website.