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Spa Francorchamps 2014
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Ultimate F1 Road Trip guest blog: Favourite memories from Spa weekend
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Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Sep 2012   |  3:41 pm GMT  |  11 comments

Four winners of the JA on F1/Shell V Power “Ultimate F1 Road Trip” competition drove down to Spa Francorchamps for an unforgettable weekend and were in the circuit for qualifying and race day, taking in a visit to the paddock, the Ferrari garage and the Shell Track Lab, testing out a simulator, enjoying hospitality at Eau Rouge and even meeting Bernie Ecclestone in a local restaurant!

Here, one of the winners, Andrew Jacobs, recounts his favourite moments from the trip.

Andrew Jacobs writes: “Having been treated to a sumptuous four course meal at the rather chic Hotel Derlon in Maastricht Ruth and I decided to venture out to improve Anglo-European relations. Having drunk copious amounts of beer and wine with Luc and Valpor, whilst discussing the future of the Euro, we eventually found our way back to our room at around 2:30am.

“Having made the 9am reveille with just five minutes to spare we hit the road with our intrepid driver, Fiona from Shell. Two minutes later we found ourselves at some playing fields where a local Saturday morning football match was about to kick off.

“Realising that we were not in the heart of the Ardennes Forest we reset the Sat’ Nav’ accordingly. Ninety minutes later we arrived at the motor circuit that is Spa Francorchamps. Anticipation was palpable amongst the group as we glimpsed the sacred tarmac that is Eau Rouge. Having been informed year in and year out by many an F1 TV presenter how steep the climb is, I was still stunned at the gradient. The excitement of the gathering crowd was like the buzzing of a swarm of flies and the merchandise stalls were busy with people jockeying for position to acquire a memento.


“As we walked through the tunnel under the track final practice three had just begun and we could hear the cars roaring above us. We emerged into bright sunshine and had our first glimpse of the Shell hospitality building that was to be our home for the day. This strangely resembled a Tudor mansion yet once inside we realized how vast the structure was. Shell had invited around 800 guests from all walks of life. The drink stations were already busy with people queuing for beer, wine and assortment of refreshments. We saw FP3 to its conclusion, and had been convinced Alonso would be in pole position.

“Lunch was one of the finest large scale catering events I have ever attended, the smell of the gourmet chicken kebabs and frankfurters enticed us to join the line. Mike, our group’s resident expert on Shell fuels was commandeered to give an impromptu briefing to the assembled masses. It is more than impressive the efforts that he and his 40 strong team go to in providing Ferrari with the Shell V-Power fuel that gives them the competitive advantage.

“It was now time for qualifying and the intensity of the ‘flies buzzing’ had now increased whilst we took our amazing seats in the stand on Eau Rouge. We could hear James’ BBC 5 Live commentary on our fanVision handsets and even this F1 media veteran appeared to be incredulous at the way the sessions evolved.


“Following the pit lane tour as described by my co-blogger we were treated to a private session in the Shell F1 simulator, with the group’s times varying from 2 minutes and 21 seconds to over 5 minutes to complete a lap of this most historic circuit. It was now time for dinner with James, and for me this was the highlight of the weekend. The privilege of spending three hours with someone who had lived and breathed F1 for over 20 years was one of unrivalled value. Of course there were some tales I cannot repeat but that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

“All in all a priceless day that money can’t buy and one that will live with me forever.”

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11 Comments
  1. Kam says:

    Sounds great.

    However, as much as I love F1 and motorsport in general the average fan at the cicuit gets treated like dirt.

    We pay a lot of money to stand in a under developed patch of land, where as the people who don’t really get the sport get entry pass’ past door man/pretty ladies into plush areas where the drivers are forced to spend time with sponsors (chats and Q&A sessions).

    This stems all the way through to BTCC. Le Mans this year was a joke too.

    Anyway, it sounds great, however F1 needs to lean a lot from the USA, where “normal nobody” fans get the treatment they deserve.

    Kam

    1. AJ says:

      I couldn’t agree more Kam. I have been a fan for 30 years and I couldn’t believe that certain Shell guests (no one in our group)…watched about 10 laps of the race from our fabulous vantage point at Eua Rouge and then disappeared off to the free bar to watch it on the screens.

      Re developing the fan experience at circuits: The problem is the tracks budgets are so tight that many of them don’t make a profit and rely on government support to pay the fees to F1.

      They have been paying more and more each year but I believe F1 has reached a tipping point in its present revenue generation methods… And some things will have to change.

    2. Sammy says:

      Agree on that.
      If you want to visit the paddock or a pit walk you pay about € 2000.
      A grand stand ticket is about 350-550€, just for race day.
      And then you see invitees who don’t care about F1 walking in the pit lane and taking pictures of things they don’t know anything about.
      Please, give me a break.

      1. AJ says:

        You’re right Sammy in fact I think you underestimate some of the grandstand ticket prices.

        There are ways to get closer to the F1 teams though.

        Friends of mine who are regular Joe’s have joined a certain very recent winning team’s fan club (there is a fee of about £30 a year). They have received offers of pit lane walks for free during testing in Barcelona and Jerez and have attended one of these.

        This included some hospitality, a garage visit during lunch and some goodies from the team.

        They also attended a day at the teams factory for a fee of about £60 I believe.

      2. Jodum5 says:

        Sorry, but a track like Spa really isn’t the type of circuit to go to for luxury. Abu Dhabi is probably best for this.

      3. AJ says:

        To be honest, it was a pretty hectic weekend. Saturday we left Maastricht at 8am and returned at 11:30pm – which was the first opportunity to write my blog. So if it wasn’t too succinct, that’s because my brain was a little fried.

        So we had little time to appreciate our accommodation. Yes the food was splendid in Shell hospitality, but we were only there to eat, then the rest of the time was spent out and about this incredible location.

        I’ve not been to Abu Dhabi but I have to say, it would have to go some… to beat this amazing historic venue and the experience we had.

        Hey, but James…My diary is clear 1st weekend of November and I’m up for writing a comparative piece on the experience of visiting for the first time a historic and then a 21st century F1 venue. lol.

    3. Monza01 says:

      As far as F1 is concerned, we all agree with you, Kam but LeMans a joke ? You must have been at a different race to us.

      We were again camping in Maison Blanche and, compared with a Grand Prix, the access we enjoyed was just fine and inexpensive.

      Included in our race ticket, costing around £50 for the whole week, was access to scrutineering, every public areas around the track for practice and all qualifying sessions, a Pit Walk on Friday and similar access for the whole race.

      We were on the start line right opposite the Audi pits for the start and finish of the race and could see everything : no extra charge.

      There are excellent and frequent shuttle buses to take fans from one area to another and every spectator area gets you much closer to the track than anywhere at Silverstone.

      Changes to the camp site at Maison Blanche in recent years means you now get a superb view of cars exiting the Porsche curves.

      Yes, we would all like a few more big screens but with Radio LeMans doing such a superlative job, it’s fine as it is.

      Any motorsport fan who hasn’t made this particular pilgrimage, you really need to go at least once.

      But I warn you, you can get hooked !

    4. James Allen says:

      I agree with your post, but please bear in mind that the whole point of this exercise, in fact of all the JA on F1 initiatives, is to bring the fans closer to the sport and that means creating opportunities for people like AJ to see all sides of the F1 experience from Ferrari garage tour to hospitality unit.

      There’s nothing elitist about that!

  2. Tim says:

    Nice account of an even better time. I only wish F1 would become more affordable and the teams more accessible to the people who, ultimately, pay the bills. The average fan.

    1. AJ says:

      Completely agree Tim. I am that average fan of 30 years standing. This was a once in a lifetime experience for me and I feel very privileged. One I will never forget. Humble thanks once again to James and Shell

  3. Kathryn says:

    Where is Megan’s blog?

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