The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is one of motor racing most historic and exciting venues, as its incredible high-speed corners, unpredictable weather and forest setting make it a unique location.
Momentum here is key, as you reach over 200 mph (320 kph) at least 3 times around the circuit and the average lap speed is almost 150 mph (240 kph).
The Belgian Grand Prix has called Spa its only home since 1985, but the circuit first hosted the event back in 1925, with the first F1 race taking place in 1950. The circuit has changed dramatically since the old days, being shortened from 15 km (9 miles) to its current 7 km (4.3 miles) in the 80's.
Overtaking is easy but maximising your lap requires a lot of practice. This guide will show you how to have the perfect Spa break!
La Source & Turn 2
La Source is the first corner on the circuit and getting a good run around it is absolutely crucial to a quick lap time. You'll be flat out from Turn 1 all the way until the end of the Kemmel Straight, making it the longest flat out zone on the calender, other than Baku's start-finish straight.
There are two racing lines through La Source, the tight line and the wide line, and both are quick. Personally, I prefer the wide line, as traction is usually better on the outside on exit and it suits a low downforce setup, which I run on this track.
Because there's two fast lines through this corner, and a DRS zone preceding it, this is an overtaking spot. However, don't throw the car into a dive-bomb, if you over-extend, you'll be extremely vulnerable up Kemmel.
Get as far to the left of the track as possible before braking just before the 100m board and down into second gear for La Source. Swing the right lock on the steering and avoid all the kerbs, especially on the outside of exit, as this can ruin your traction.
Traction is better than you'd expect here as it's downhill on exit, so get back on the power as soon as you've straightened up again.
Turn 2 is just a kink to the right which won't cause you any problems.
Raidillon & Eau Rouge
The Raidillon-Eau Rouge complex is one that used to be the most challenging in the sport. These days, it's an easy flat, but underestimate it at your peril, as getting the line wrong can end in disaster. You'll be touching 200 mph before climbing back up the hill to Kemmel, so the correct line is imperative.
You can use plenty of the inside kerb on entry to give you the best line of attack, but don't touch the inside kerb on Raidillon, it'll send the cat into a spin. For Eau Rouge, cut the inside kerb, but not much more than a wheel, as your lap will be invalidated. You can use some exit kerb, but I avoid it, as it isn't the optimal line.
In reality, it's just a left-right-left set of kinks, but the corners look so daunting that you have to practice this corner and build up your confidence. Whatever you do, don't go flat-out on your first attempt like Ricardo Zonta tried 20 years ago.
Turn 6 is another right-handed kink that won't cause you any problems, but the Turns 7-9 complex of Les Combes is a challenge to perfect. As there's a long DRS zone before this, the Kemmel straight is the main overtaking point on the track, as the slipstream is really powerful around here.
You'll be arriving into the braking zone at over 210 mph (338 kph) and need to brake at about 80m down to fourth gear.
Don't use any of the inside kerb for 7 but use a little for 8 and about a wheel's width for T9. You're constantly tempted to brake for Turns 8 or 9, but don't, lifting and rolling through them is the fastest way. You'll be up to fifth gear for the exit but don't get on the power too early, as there's little run-off on exit, just ask Fernando Alonso.
Running too wide on exit will also land you in trouble with the virtual stewards, as taking more than wheel's width of kerb will invalidate your lap.
Bruxelles & No Name
Bruxelles is Spa's answer to Silverstone's Luffield, as it's a corner where you're always cursed with understeer. Brake when the white polystyrene "welcome" sign on the right disappears from view in T-cam mode down to third gear, steering as you do so when you're rounding the corner.
Avoid all of the kerbs, especially the inside one, as it will send the car into a spin. When you're about two thirds of the way around the turn, hammer the throttle down again to go towards no name. A tight line around here is fastest, but taking a wider line doesn't cost you as much time as you'd expect.
No Name (Turn 11) is a 90-degree left-hander but it bites on the exit as it tightens. Run your right-front tyre over the kerb on entry to get the optimal line, just as you do in Hungary for Turn 4. A braking point is hard to find, so I just do so when the revs lights appear in fifth gear.
Dab the brakes but remain in fifth, being sure to use a wheel's width of inside kerb going round the corner, but ensure that only kiss the outside kerbing on exit.
The real-life racers probably won't need to brake for Pouhon this year, but you'll have to in this game. Not much more than a dab down to seventh gear is required, you can keep it in eighth, but the acceleration is usually better in the lower gear. Get back on the power as soon as you get into seventh and hang on through this thrilling corner.
This is a triple apex corner and getting it spot on requires a lot of practice in time trial. Avoid the inside kerb on entry but run a wheel over the outside kerbing on mid-corner and be sure to miss the exit kerb too, as that will send you into a spin. Don't run too much more than a wheel over any kerb, track limits are strictly enforced here.
Incredibly, you'll be arriving here at 200 mph, if you nailed Pouhon, but the braking zone is very short. Brake at 50m down to fifth gear and avoid the kerbing on the outside of entry, as this can send you wide and cost you time.
Campus is a high-speed chicane, so squirt the throttle in between the two corners but remain in fifth or you'll end up in the gravel on exit. Don't use any of the inside kerbs but run the car over the outside ones on exit, not much more than a wheel, though. Get back on the power hard but only one you've rounded the corner fully.
Like a lot of the slower corners on the track, Stavelot lures you into thinking you can always go faster around it, only to throw you in the gravel as a punishment. Brake when the rev lights are showing in sixth gear down to fourth gear. Don't worry about hitting the apex, you can run wide here as long as you don't go into the gravel.
Accelerate hard on exit and towards to Turn 16, a corner you can take flat in the faster cars. Use a little inside kerb and on the outside, but there isn't much margin for error here, so build up to it like you do with Eau Rouge.
Another 200 mph corner is Blanchimont and no matter how experienced you are, it always takes a few attempts to get the right line. You don't need to use any kerbs here and should avoid them on exit, as track limits are enforced here. The corner is flat-out and you shouldn't scrub off much speed at all if you get the line correct.
Brake at the 100m board down to second gear for the final two corners on the track. There's no DRS before these corners, but this is definitely an overtaking spot because of the slipstream running through Blanchimont. Avoid the inside kerbing for Turn 19 but use a little for Turn 20 to get a good run onto the start/ finish straight.
Like with Campus, you need to squirt the throttle between the two corners for the best run. The DRS zone begins straight after T20, so straighten up as quickly as you can and avoid using the outside runn-off on exit.
Low downforce is key to being quick in Spa, because of the long flat-out zones which make up almost all of the first and third sectors. I went with 2/4 wings, as this is the lowest you can get away with while still having grip around the corners.
For the transmission, you have to be towards the locked side to have outright traction, but not too far to make it a smoother ride, I went with 85%/ 80%. As long as you don't push too hard through the second sector in the race, tyre wear isn't an issue, so the camber and toe angles can low.
You don't need to use the kerbs too much here but you also need soft springs in case you make a mistake, 1/3 for front and rear suspension. The anti-roll bar has to be pretty stiff because of the high-speed chicanes, 11/6. The ride height is the same as usual, low to help straight line speed at 3/4.
The brakes should be at a lower pressure than normal, as high pressure brakes kill you momentum though the longer corners, although there are some big stops around here. I went with 75% pressure with the bias 54% towards the front.
Lastly, the tyre pressures should be as they are normally, 23.4 psi on the front and slightly higher 21.5 psi on the rears.