Type: Road course
Length: 15.082 km (1921-24)
14.983 km (1925-29)
14.914 km (1930-33)
14.864 km (1934-1937)
14.500 km (1939)
14.120 km (1948-56)
14.100 km (1957-70)
Location: Eastern Belgium in the triangle between villages Francorchamps, Malmedy and Stavelot.
Used: 1921 - 1975
The Spa Francorchamps circuit was designed in 1920 by Jules de Thier, manager of the newspaper "La Meuse", and Henri Langlois Van Ophem, Chairman of the Sports Commission of the Belgium Automobile Club.
The track selected was a triangle surrounding a beautiful wooded valley in the hilly green Ardennes drawn by the public roads between the towns of Francorchamps, Malmèdy and Stavelot. It was one of the first permanent race circuits in Europe and one of the most spectacular and beautiful ever. It was quite revolutionary at its time as earlier circuits had consisted mostly of long straights and sharp corners. Rising and falling, twisting and turning the new circuit demanded good brakes and good acceleration as well as good speed.
The start and finish line, grand stand and pit were located on a downhill section with the first curve being the left hander at the bottom of the hill passing over the stream of L'Eau Rouge (altitude 390m). It was followed by an upwards section with a right hand hairpin at the Virage de l'Ancienne Douanne, which after a left hand curve took the cars up on a straight towards the Kemmel curve. At Les Combes at the top of the hill (alt. 470m) the circuit turned left and continued downhill past Haut de la Côte to Virage de Burnenville, a fast banked downhill right hand curve (alt. 376 m). It was followed by Virage de Malmèdy, another fast left hander that led out to the almost 4 km long straight that was interrupted in the middle by the Masta kink between farm houses, Masta has been called "by far the most difficult corner in the world". The straight ended at the Virage de Holowell, the lowest part of the circuit (alt. 300m). It was followed by a sharp right hander at the edge of the town of Stavelot. Then followed a long section including a fast left hander called Virage de la Carriere, which led the course uphill towards two high speed curves, the first one an unnamed right hander and the second one the left handed Virage de Blanchimot (alt. 416m). That led on towards the right hand hairpin Virage de La Source (alt. 430m) where after the circuit led back to the start line.
A race was already scheduled for August 1921 but had to be scratched due to just one entry being received. The first race was thus held in 1922 by motorcycles followed by a car race the same year and in 1924 the first 24h race was held just one year after the inaugural Le Mans 24h race.
The original length of the circuit was 15.082 km. A different layout of 15.5 km running via Hausta instead of Masta, (road N664 instead of N68) had also been considered. At Eau Rouge the road passed between two houses (the one to the west of the road, the former customs office for the German boarder, is still there standing between the pit entry and Eau Rouge). For the 1925 Grand Prix the road was straightened out, now passing east of both houses. The start was also relocated some 200 meters. The new circuit length was 14.983 km.
In 1925 the European Grand Prix was won by Antonio Ascari in an Alfa Romeo. It was the infamous race where the Belgian crowd demonstrated against the team as only their two cars were left running and Vittorio Jano replied by serving the drivers a meal round a table in the pit during a very long pit stop.
After improvements before the 1930 European GP the length changed to 14.914 km. The race was held to the fuel consumption formula and was won by Louis Chiron (Bugatti). The 10-hour 1931 Belgian GP was won by "W. Williams" and "Caberto" Conelli in a Bugatti. In 1932 there were some changes, the course making a shorter way at the Masta corners but the circuit lenght seems not have been changed. There was no 1932 Grand Prix but the 1933 race was dominated by Nuvolari in a Maserati.
The Belgians took pride in that the circuit was to be the fastest in Europe. For 1934 the circuit was vastly improved and was much faster than hitherto. The Malmèdy corner was eased to a fast bend, the Stavelot turn was eased as well and slightly banked, and the hairpin at la Source got wider and more steeply banked than before. The new circuit length was 14.864 km.
Dreyfus in a Bugatti won the 1934 race after the German teams withdrew after a clash with the Belgian customs. The Germans were back in 1935 with Caracciola winning for Mercedes. In 1937 the race clashed with the Vanderbilt Cup and with the top names away in USA Hasse took the victory in an Auto Union.
In 1939 the circuit was made yet faster as Virage de l'Ancienne Douanne was bypassed and as L'Eau Rouge was followed by a steep rising Raidillon curve shortening the circuit to 14.5 km. Lang won the rainy Grand Prix but the event is mostly remembered for Seamans's fatal crash.
During World War II the terrain was badly involved in the battle of the Bulge in December 1944 with Kampfgruppe Pieper from the 1 SS-Panzer Division attacking along the line Malmèdy - Stavelot before being pushed back.
After repairs the circuit was back in action in 1947, now with a length of 14.12 km. In 1950 the hairpin at Stavelot was changed. With minor changes in 1957 Grand Prix racing continued until the late 1960s but as Spa became notorious for fatal accidents it was considered too dangerous and finally boycotted by the drivers. The last GP race was run in 1970.
In 1979 the circuit was replaced by the new 7 km variant.
1925 GRAND PRIX DE EUROPE
1929 GRAND PRIX DES FRONTIÈRES
CIRCUIT VAN ANTWERPEN LINKEROEVER - Antwerpen (B)
Type: Road Course
Length: 6.005 km
Location: Left bank of river Schelde, near the city of Antwerpen, Belgium
Used: 1938 - 1939
FINDEL - LUXEMBOURG (L)
Type: Road course
Length: 3.764 km
Location: Findel, north of Luxembourg airport.
Used: 1939 - 1952
While it has been clamed racing at Findel started only in 1949 there was actually a race there 10 years earlier. The 1939 Grand Prix du Centenaire was a 60 lap sports car race for atotal length of 225.8km with 10 competitors. It was won by Wimille in a Bugatti.
CIRCUIT DE MONACO (MC)
Type: Street circuit
Length: 3.180 km
Location: On the streets of Monte Carlo, Monaco
Used: 1929 -
The "Automobile Club de Monaco" was actually founded in 1890 as a bicycle club "Sport Vélocipédique de la Principauté". The first Monaco Rally was held in 1911 and then again next year. After the war the 1st Automobile week was held in 1921 and the Monte Carlo Rally was held from 1924 onwards. In 1925 the name of the club was changed to Automobile Club de Monaco and Antony Noghès, son of club president Alexandre Noghès, was tasked to take the club's application to AIACR's headquarters for an international membership. However, that was denied as AIACR claimed there was no racing taking place within the territory of Monaco. In some desperation Antony Noghès announced the plans to hold an international race on the streets.
With tourism being a chief source of income for Monaco the plans got the support of Prince Peter of Monaco and with the assistance of Louis Chiron and Jacques Taffe, Antony Noghès took on the demanding task. At the AIACR meeting in Paris October 13, 1928 the Monaco Grand Prix was approved to take place on April 14, 1929, organized by l'Automobile Club de Monaco.
The original Monaco circuit was 3180m long. The course began at the harbour in front of the grandstands on Boulevard Albert Première; then followed through the right turn at the little church of Sainte Dévote up the hill and through the left hander Massenet towards the Casino between the kerbstones and electricity poles, across the tram tracks, past the terraces of the hotels and around the colourful flower beds at the Casino. From here the course went downhill, past the Casino gardens, passing hotel Mirabeau down to the narrow hairpin at the train station surrounded on the outside by a wall of sandbags, followed through a downhill right turn to the sea front. Here another right, then the course went along Boulevard Louis II and passed through the Tir aux Pigeons tunnel, which was brightly lit by electrical arc lamps, towards the harbour. There followed the only more or less straight stretch along the quay through the chicane, most of it heavily protected with sandbags. At its end loomed the challenging left hand Tabac corner with the stone steps to the right side which were protected by a solid wooden fence. From here the track led towards the back of the pits on the right, then a bit further around the right turn Gasometer hairpin with the tram tacks, leading back towards the front of the pits with the start and finish area.
The first race, won by William Grover, was an immediate success and Monaco was soon copied in Southern Europe by a multitude of street circuits but none of them managed to rival Monaco for splendour and spectacle.
In 1933 Monaco was the first Grand Prix race where grid positions were decided by qualifying. That race was possibly the greatest Monaco race ever, a tremendous battle between Varzi and Nuvolari. Voiturette racing was added in 1936 and a sports car race in 1937. Racing went on until 1937 and continued after WW2 in 1948 and then 1950 when also a F3 race was added. The 1952 race was restricted to sports cars. Monaco returned to the F1 calendar in 1955 and in 1959 F3 racing was added. F3000 was raced in 1998-2004 followed by GP2 and F2.
The circuit did not undergo any major changes before the war. The tram lines along the Boulevard Albert Première and up the Avenue de Monte Carlo were removed in 1932. On 1935 the chicane was moved 183m further down the quay towards Tabac. The circuit length remained 3180m. In 1952 modifications to the St. Dévote curve changed the circuit length to 3145m. From 1955 to 1962 the start and finish line was located on the waterside before the Gasometer, approx. where the swimming pool is now.
In 1973 there was a major change of the track with the addition of a new section at the port around the new swimming pool and with the Gasometer replaced by a hairpin bend around the restaurant "La Rascasse". A new longer tunnel was built under Loews hotel (3278m).
In 1976 two chicanes were added, one to St. Dévote, the other coming round the "La Rascasse" hairpin (3312m).
In 1986 the chicane at "Quai des Etats Unis" was rebuilt adding 16 meter in circuit length (3328m).
In 1997 the first part of "Virages Piscine" around the swimming pool was rebuilt and renamed "Louis Chiron". Announced circuit lengths were 3366m in 1997, 3367m in 1998-99 and 3370m in 2000-2002.
2003: A translation of the former race line by about ten meters towards the waterfront. The impact point of the chicane was pushed back by 14.6m (3340m).
2015: The section around the "Tabac" curve was moved 2m70cm towards the sea (3337m).
1929 GRAND PRIX DE MONACO
LASARTE - San Sebastian (E)
Type: Road course
Length: 17.320 km
Location: Southwest of the City of San Sebastián on the Spanish northcoast,
near the French border.
Used: 1923 - 1935
1924 GRAN PREMIO DE SAN SEBASTIAN
CIRCUIT DE MONTJUÏC / CIRCUITO DE MONTJUIC - Barcelona (E)
Type: Park circuit
Length: 3.791 km
Location: In a park in downtown Barcelona, Spain
Used: 1933 - 1975
From 1921 to 1923 the Penya Rhin, a rather minor event, was held on the Vilafranca del Penedès street circuit some 30 km west of Barcelona. After an interval of ten years the Penya Rhin race returned to Catalonia on the Montjuïc circuit. Organized by the Automóvil Club de España, the race was to be a full Grand Prix.
The Montjuïc Park on top of a 180 m high hill southwest of the Barcelona centre was overlooking the harbor. In 1913 it was selected to host an international exposition (world's fair). From 1917 onwards a lot of construction took place in the area for the fair. The park became dominated by the main building, the Palau Nacional, inspired by St Peter's Basilica in Rome. After several delays the fair finally took place in 1929.
Another major building was the Olympic Stadium, Estadi Olímpic de Montjuïc, built in 1927. In April 1931 Barcelona lost the bid for the 1936 Olympics to Berlin, with votes 43-16 and the stadium had to wait another 61 years to host the Olympic games.
The street course in Barcelona twisted up and down around the base of the Montjuich hill, crested by the national museum and the world exhibition buildings. Cobbled pavement changed with asphalt and the city streets sections required even to cross street car tracks. The start and finish was located on Avinguda de Rius i Taulet under the grand staircase leading to the Palau Nacional and near the Font Magica fountain. From there the road went uphill and eastwards in a long fast sweeping left hand curve to Avinguda de l'Estadi that led downhill past the Olympic Stadium. This was followed by another uphill section to the highest point of the circuit to lead to a left hand hairpin that led downhill into a series of several slow corners through the park back to the pits and start.
1933 GRAN PREMIO DE PENYA RHIN
AUTÓDROMO NACIONAL DE SITGES-TERRAMAR (E)
Length: 2.0 km (1.24 mi)
Location: 1km west of downtown Sitges, 35 km west of Barcelona
Used: 1923 - 1950s
VILA REAL (P)
Type: Road Course
Location: Vila Real, 80 km East of Porto, Northern Portugal
Used: 1931 - ?
Type: Street Circuit
Length: 2.81 km
Location: 20 km West of Lisbon, Portugal
© 2020 Leif Snellman - Last updated: 17.07.2020