Last weekend the BaT team braved the unpredictable weather conditions for the first trip of the year to Spa Francorchamps. Over the years the March Spa trip has become more and more popular and this year was no exception – although the weather seemed intent on spoiling our fun.
In the week leading up to the event there was a big focus on weather reports, Spa circuit webcams and any news we could get from the circuit. Luckily, by the time we hit Wednesday the 6 inches of snow that had buried the track the week before had disappeared and we were all set to go.
A very early start for seven of the BaT team members kick started the weekend, as we headed to Manchester Airport for a short flight to Brussels. Although it seemed way too early to be out and about it was much later than the time our photographers – Sally and Stuart Baines – were on the road for! As we landed it was great to be greeted by a dry runway and sunshine, before we headed straight to the circuit. As we arrived the Dutch BMW Club were keeping the track busy; happy that we had not arrived to a circuit under snow we headed to the house we were staying in to await the arrival of the rest of the team.
As we awoke on Saturday morning we were pleasantly surprised to see it was dry outside, although very, very cold. The BaT team are always very busy on the first day, with a lot to set up and the signing on process. As Sarah, Amy and Sarah began to sign on the masses, Clive Walker and I headed out to label up the garages. After the driver’s briefing it was time to head out for the sighting laps, however as the sighting laps got underway tiny flakes of snow began to fall. We quickly moved onto the second group of sighting laps, as the snow became heavier. As we waited for the cars to return to the pits one of the circuit staff members stopped by the pit exit to tell us he was concerned about the track conditions, with ice on the track at various points, one of which was Blanchimont. More waiting followed, as we awaited a verdict from the circuit staff as to whether we could get the trackday underway. Finally a decision was made to postpone the start for an hour, so the circuit staff could review the situation. I took the opportunity to get a cup of tea and enjoy some time in front of the heater; despite the many layers I had on it was set to be a cold day in the pitlane.
After an hour or so the decision was made to run as many cars as we could get together in two separate groups, to try and clear the bit of snow that had started to collect on track. As ever our customers were very keen to get on track, and very helpful in this situation, as many headed to the pitlane for another series of laps at sighting lap pace. With 70 or so cars circling the conditions soon improved and we were able to open the track properly.
Luckily, the weather decided to be kind to us for the rest of the day, and as the snow stopped we ran on a wet track for the remainder of play. Track action was relatively tame considering the conditions, with the odd red flag breaking up the afternoon. The majority of customers seemed to enjoy ample track time, and it was great to see a nice selection of cars out on track. The temperature didn’t rise above freezing all day, and for the first time I had to ask for relief from pitlane for a while, whilst I defrosted. A bit different to the sunstroke we all nearly suffered last year! Originally, it had been our intention to run until 6pm, to ensure a high quality of track time for everyone; however with the adverse conditions that were thrown at us during the day this seemed threatened at times. But considering what we had faced we did well to secure a finish as close to 6pm.
A quick tidy up at the circuit left everything ready for day two, as we all headed back to the house, ready to enjoy some home cooked chilli and jacket potatoes courtesy of Sandra, Amy and their “catering underlings” Linzi and Jan. After a relaxing evening we were all ready for day two, but as we looked out of the window Sunday morning it seemed the weather again had other ideas. Spa had turned into a snow covered playground overnight, and although it was very scenic, it was not the scene we wanted to see. Most of us headed to the circuit to await those customers that did turn up and to ultimately pack up. Those of you that did manage to arrive were understanding of the situation, which we appreciate. Before leaving the circuit, the opportunity to take a BaT team photo on the snow clad pit straight presented itself – who would want to turn it down! So over the pitwall we climbed (with some help from the boys).
By breakfast time Monday morning, much of the team had dispersed, with their various trips taking them back to the UK. Those of us flying had an entire day to pass, and after being inside the previous day some of our instructors were in need of some fresh air. David Bailey, Simon Mason, Clive and I thought we’d take the opportunity to do a bit of sight seeing, with our trip taking us to the site of the Battle of Waterloo. With lunch at the aptly named Wellington Café, we added a bit of culture to our day with a visit to the on-site museum. A climb of the 226 steps to see the view over the battle site was interesting; although my legs were definitely paying for it the following day!
Despite the weather issues it was another great BaT trip, and I’d like to say a massive thank you to Jonny and Sarah! And of course a huge thanks to all involved in the catering squad – Amy, Sandra, Jan, Linzi, and Sally for the amazing meals we enjoyed all weekend, including the biggest Sunday dinner I have seen! Finally I want to thank the many customers and of course BaT staff who offered me endless cups of tea, biscuits and soup during the day – it helped defrost my end of the pitlane!
Hope to see you all soon,
Richard Williams enjoying the challenge of driving BAT1 up Eau Rouge on a very cold track, David Edge in his F40 at La Source, the sign-on desk - yes there is a heater under there and the staff team taking advantage of a snowy photo opportunity!
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