Motorsport Wonderland

Central Europe is lousy with racing, and I have made it a point to attend as much of it as I can during my time here. It is home to some of the biggest and most significant events in motorsport, as well as a lot of somewhat quirky smaller scale local events that can be even more fun. It has been not only thoroughly enjoyable, but in many ways inspiring as well.

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One of my dreams for Europe was to spectate a lot of motor racing. That may seem a bit unambitious, just to go watch some races, but as a longtime race fan and aspiring motorsport photographer, central Europe is something of a Mecca in that regard. Spa and NΓΌrburgring are regarded as two of the most scenic race courses in the world, in addition to hosting a number of high-profile events each. Not to mention the other slightly lower-profile tracks nearby that host their share of events, as well as local hillclimbs and rallys. Between all these options, there was some kind of motorsport to see on almost every weekend from February through November if I wanted to. I just had to pull up the schedule I put together, and see what I was in the mood for.

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Track Days (Here and There)

Lots of people have travel blogs. I hoped to do something a little different, and make a motorsport-oriented travel blog, but that hasn’t quite come together like I wanted. Between the shipping delays and a couple of abortive attempts at track days last year, I’m about eight months behind on the track-touring experience I wanted to pursue. But finally I’ve had a mostly successful day driving at Zandvoort, so things are getting underway, and boy is it a different experience than going to tracks in the US.

 

Back in the States, I went to to 5 track days at 5 different tracks with 5 different organizations. So far in Europe I have done 4 track days at 3 tracks with 1 organization. And even though two of those have been largely unsuccessful, with one noise violation and one minor accident, it’s enough for me to be able to spout some more-informed-than-average nonsense about it on the internet.

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Le Mans 2016

For years I have wanted to attend the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I finally made it this year, and I don’t think I was ready for it. It was my first time camping at a racetrack, first time at a race longer than three hours, and first time spectating at a track longer than 4 miles. Not to mention my first road trip in Europe. All of this a mere two weeks after getting my car back. Altogether it added up to a pretty overwhelming experience, but I kind of think that’s the point of Le Mans.

For those that don’t know, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world’s greatest motor race. It is the only motorsport even on National Geographic’s list of the World’s Greatest Sporting Events, and it tops the list at #1. Teams enter the race by invitation, and push themselves as hard and fast as they can for 24 hours straight on a track that’s twice as long as most. It is a race of attrition as much as speed, as cars inevitably break down or crash, and limp back to the pits if they can, where team mechanics replace turbos, transmissions, or suspensions in as little as five or ten minutes.

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Recent Outings

As I mentioned previously, not having a car for the last four months was really cramping my style, and generally interfering with things I wanted to do. I didn’t let it stop me entirely though; I did manage to get myself out of town for a few day- or weekend trips in that time, and each one of them helped drive home why I moved here.

Ardennes

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The First of Many Race Weekends

This weekend I made my first of hopefully very many trips to a local racetrack. Well, not technically the first; I had been to Zolder on my interview trip and had a fun time. In a way this was my triumphant return! But this was the first time I went to Zolder as a “local” track, complete with a Zolder Racing Club (season pass) membership and infield parking. I gotta say, it felt pretty good, even though this particular trip came with its share of challenges.

The main reason I cite as motivation to move to Belgium is “because of the racetracks.” I am, you may have noticed, quite a big fan of motorsports (which, as usual, should be appended with “but not particularly NASCAR so much”), and my location (and work schedule) in Hampton made it somewhat difficult to engage in this hobby as much as I wanted to. The closest “decent” road course (i.e. one that hosted any professional events at all) was VIR, and that was almost four hours away. That distance made it pretty impractical to visit the track regularly for any race events.

For comparison, here are the “decent” road courses that are a shorter drive from where I live now than VIR was:

  • Circuit Mettet
  • Zolder
  • Spa
  • Zandvoort
  • Nurburgring
  • Assen
  • Hockenhiem
  • Lydden Hill

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