It’s been a busy week with all the different tracks used in the different UKGPL divisions, and I wanted to try and help Novices as well, even if I’m personally not racing there. It makes more sense that such a track guide is more needed to those with less experience, so I’ll try to do more of these whenever possible.
Being a very fast and flowing track, Spa requires as early acceleration as possible so you can reach high speeds over the long straights. It also demands smooth driving as any unnecessary input loses you precious km/h (or mph if you prefer).
The use of braking is scarce at best, and most of the corners are taken predominantly with just a temporary lift of the throttle pedal. That said, there are 2 more serious braking zones which can easily catch you out if you get used too much to the high speed sections.
Here’s a map for the track that you can use as a reference:
The most important thing when making your setup for Spa is the gear ratios. I did quite a number of adjustments before I settled with the gears I use at the moment. I’m not sure how it is with the other fast 65 cars, but the Honda has a rather narrow optimal torque range, so there was a trade off between acceleration and top speed, especially in 5th and 6th gear.
I tried two approaches:
1) Using 2nd gear at Les Combes, 4th at Stavelot and L’Eau Rouge, and staying in 5th instead of 6th for the shorter straights, as well as through the 2nd part of Burnenville.
2) Using 3rd at Les Combes, 6th on all straights and through Burnenville, and 5th through Stavelot and L’Eau Rouge. 2nd gear not used for any corner.
On paper, lap times seemed identical. The 1st approach is definitely better in terms of having more torque to play with through and out of corners, but it also requires a higher number of gear changes. Some gear shifting had to be done through fast corners and this meant overreving if I don’t lift up properly.
So I decided to focus on improving the 2nd approach and try to find out the best possible gear ratios that would be a decent trade off between top speed and acceleration. My final choice of gear ratio for 6th gear was 5.333 (with a diff ratio of 9/36) and it works well through the corners where the revs drop and you lose some drive. I was getting a top speed of 273 km/h before Stavelot (don’t know what that is in mph, but you can find out on your own).
I tried using 5.280 and it was producing 0.5-1 km/h higher top speed at the end of the straight after Masta, but at the same time I was dropping more revs and losing torque through Burnenville, thus losing about 1 km/h there. As I said, it’s a trade off and I went for the shorter 6th, to get a slightly better drive through the corners. Of course, it depends on how fast you can actually go, so if you’re going slower, use shorter gears.
For the race, I would not go lower than 5.143 for 6th, otherwise you risk losing a lot of speed through the corners, especially if you’re not in the slipstream of someone in front of you.
A few words about the revs in the Honda – the highest revs you should go up to seem to be around 12.1k-12.2k. Anything higher than that seems to be pointless, especially at high speed as the car stops gaining any speed at all. The optimal torque appears to be between 10k-10.5k and 11.9k, but I’m not completely sure about the lower boundary.
The lap of Spa actually begins from La Source on the previous lap, because the exit out of that corner is crucial for achieving good speed down the hill and your line through the pit lane entry is also of importance.
It’s just a single flying lap in Qualifying if you want to get the maximum out of the car and so I’ve only put JUST enough fuel for 2 laps. In fact, I suggest saving just a bit of fuel on your out lap, otherwise you may start losing power near the end of your flying lap, especially if you slipstream.
Anyway, make sure to get a good acceleration out of La Source even if you have to sacrifice the entry to it on your out lap. Go right towards the pit area just when the track begins to widen up and cut through just enough to go next to that grassy apex there, in the undulation where your pitboard guy is on the right.
Keep on the right side of the yellow line, running parallel to it, and start going slightly left once you go past the tower behind the pits.
T1 L’Eau Rouge – nothing too exciting in this corner with these ancient cars, but it’s still a tricky one because the suspension takes a beating on the entry and it’s hard to hold the line you want. Turn left before the corner just after you go past by end of the pit garages, where some billboards begin.
Ideally you want to position the car parallel to the bridge wall at the bottom fo the corner, but don’t try too hard because the car may suddenly grip a bit more and turn left unexpectedly. There are some bumps there to add to your problems, so be smooth and beware.
I enter the corner flat out and turn sharply into the right when my car is at the lowest point of the track. This allows you to take advantage of all the grip that the uphill slope provides you and carry a lot of speed through the right-hander. You may lift-up slightly inside the corner just to balance the car, but try to keep it full throttle as much as possible. Any excessive loss of speed here is going to lose you a lot of time as the road goes uphill all the way until Les Combes.
Begin to turn left just when the right-hand part of the corner is over, and try to drift as close as possible to the banking at the apex. Open up the corner using the full width of the track and go over the slight right-hand kink that leads onto the straight.
T2 Les Combes – The nameless sweeping right-hander before Les Combes is very important, but fortunately it’s much easier in 65 cars than anything more powerful. Keep as much to the left-side of the track as possible on the straight and turn right just where the thin white line of curbing begins. Aim to arrive out of the corner parallel with the track on the right – this requires smooth and gradually closing line through the sweeping bend, but keep it completely flat out through here.
Start braking and change down to 3rd just after the 100 meters mark on the right, and trail-brake heavily into the corner, turning left early on. Because the road goes over a crest, the frontend loses grip and you need to slow down more than it feels right, and delay your acceleration until you’ve properly hugged the apex at the middle of the corner.
Don’t slam on the throttle here, but gradually open it to 100% and keep the steering firmly to the left as the car is sent wide on the exit. Don’t be afraid to use some of the grassy edge outside the tarmac, it just looks like grass but it’s not.
Don’t rush to change into 4th gear as I did on the video. Sometimes the revs go up as the car moves around or gets lighter over crests, so just wait until it settles and the revs get back to normal.
T3 Burnenville – this is an easy one in the 65s – just keep a wider line through the first part and go close around the inside as it tightens up. Don’t follow the grooved line at all here. Just keep as much to the right as possible through the 2nd part of the corner and exit it parallel to the short straight that follows. This will give you a lot of track width to operate with as you enter the first left-hander of Malmedy.
T4 Malmedy – this corner requires a lot of guts to get it right consistently on each lap and it’s very easy to mess it up, damage the car, have a spin or completely total the car.
The first left should be entered flat out and you should aim for a very very late apex – almost on the exit of the bend itself. The purpose of this is to position yourself properly for the right-hander where the road suddenly drops out of sight and to carry a lot of speed through there.
Braking for that right turn is what’s the most tricky thing about this part of the Malmedy complex. That and timing your turn-in just right, because you do it blindly over the crest. Fortunately for you there is a good reference object here – that tall tree on the left. Start braking just before it goes out of sight and change down 2 gears into 4th.
If you’ve taken the previous bend properly, you’ll do most of the braking in a rather straight line and you’ll be positioned on the left-side of the track. Turn right while you’re still braking, just before that marshall house (or whatever it is) on the right disappears out of view as you go by.
Ideally you want the car to be pointing towards those flags inside the corner, but carry enough speed so the car drifts through the apex without hitting the hedges behind the curb.
Step hard onto the throttle just before the car stops drifting and grips. From there on just set the direction with the steering wheel and never lift up again. As I mentioned earlier, don’t be fooled to shift-up by the higher revs that you’ll get around this section. Just wait a bit until the car settles and shift into 5th as you go through the next left-hander. Make sure to turn-in early into that one so the car can drift nicely around the hedge, otherwise you’ll go too wide.
The final part of Malmedy is a righthander which is simple, but I see many people turning into it too early and cutting across the curb and grass on the inside. This will lose you some acceleration, so delay your moment of turning right until the car reaches the bottom of the previous crest. Follow along the road to the left and brush past by the concrete wall there.
T5 Masta – nothing special again in these cars – flat out all the way. Just keep a smooth line and turn in a bit earlier to account for the rear stepping out a bit. Clip the grassy apex of the first left-hander slightly, and straighten the right-hander with a late apex to get a good exit speed. My speed drops to about 256 km/h through Masta.
T6 Stavelot – another not so difficult corner in these cars, as long as you maintain a smooth line and use the whole track width. Keep the middle of the road in the first part while going flat out, then position the car to the left towards the edge of the curb that begins with the second part of the corner.
Apply just a bit of braking while lifting up, and turn right at the same time, but let the car roll and carry as much speed as possible on entry. Opt to set the car pointing towards the inside of the corner while it drifts around, then step smoothly onto the throttle just before you reach that stone wall on the inside. Don’t follow the default grooved line here – open up the line earlier and exit right next to the hedges on the outside, but be careful not to clip them.
T7 La Carriere – just a word about the left-right bends before this corner – opt for a late apex of the first one so you can position the car on the left before turning early into the right-hander. You can safely go over the grass at the apex there, but avoid doing it as much as I did it on the video, it’s not the best way to do it. I just turned a bit too early though.
Anyway, going through La Carriere requires taking some risks because it’s all about how much speed you dare to carry through the corner. There is not really any braking zone here, just a tap on the brakes to make the car turn-in and change down to 5th at the same time. The braking point is a difficult one to call, it’s about half-way before the start of the darker groove and the corner.
Turn-in early and never lift-up too much or the car will start sliding from the rear and go wide. Keep a decent amount of throttle just so the car maintains some speed and try to go over the grass at the apex with your FR wheel. Step fully back on the throttle just as you’re in the middle of the corner and use the whole track width on the exit, plus a bit more. Too much can suddenly pull you in though, because the banking is rather sticky, so be mindful of that.
T8 Blanchimont – one of my favorite corners and one that you can really gain some time if you’re brave. Braking is done very late for this corner, but there’s no room for mistake here – if you brake even a bit too late you’ll most definitely go off and up the banking, which usually ends with a flip-over and retirement, or a spin in the best case.
Ignore the initial darker groove – it soon disappears and there’s a small gap in the groove before it becomes darker again. This is the moment you need to brake and shift down into 5th while turning in at the same time. Don’t keep on the brakes for long, just a short application is enough to slow down these cars by enough.
Take an early apex and keep some throttle dialed in, but not too much, so the car can keep decelerating. Get back onto the throttle smoothly but quickly, to 100%, just as you go past the apex. The car drifts heavily to the right here, so keep the steering wheel turned to the left even when you’ve already exited the corner.
Straighten it up for a moment when the car becomes stable, then turn left again for the following fast bend. This one is not difficult, but you need to be smooth here and try not to scrub off too much speed. Clip the inside curb here to help the car turn left on its own so you don’t have to apply too much steering input.
Don’t rush to change up to 6th here until the revs are fully maximized. The left-hand kink before La Source is flat out, but again – make sure to take a smooth line and use the whole track width, avoiding excessive steering input or unnecessary direction changes.
T9 La Source – it’s always difficult to time your braking for this one properly after nearly a whole lap spent on full throttle and high speeds. My braking point for La Source is a darker patch on the groove, about 20-30 meters before the 100 meters sign on the right.
Brake very hard and keep the car straight as much as possible. The change of camber in the road tries to unsettle the car here, so you need to steer the car a bit as you keep braking and changing gears, down to 1st. Don’t change too quickly but wait until the revs drop a bit, especially for the 3rd 2nd and 1st gear. Of course, no such issues for people with a H-shifter!
Turn into the corner only after you’ve reached it and avoid drifting too much on entry. Try to aim for a late apex around here, with the car rotated well in advance and taking a slightly wider line on entry. This will allow you to accelerate in a straighter line towards the armco on the left without having to apply too much steering or do excessive throttle control. In fact, with my 1st gear ratio, you can almost floor it as soon as the car is pointing in the right direction.
Change up to 2nd only once the car has settled on the left side of the track, parallel with the armco.
Well that’s it, hope it helps you figure out where you can find some time and how to approach parts of the track which are problematic for you. As always, here are the replay of the lap and my current setup for the Honda RA272: