Audi A4 To Spa
With Some History Along The Way
dsc trips to European races usually involve a last minute dash to
the event, and a headlong rush back immediately afterwards –
so that you’ve got a website that’s being updated the
We were determined
to take a little longer than usual returning from Spa, and left
ourselves a couple of hours on Monday morning for some Belgian history,
although that meant arrival at Calais for a lunchtime Sea Cat which
was cancelled, everyone being despatched to the Sea France Terminal
for a conventional ferry, and a later return to base than planned.
The whole journey
was made extremely comfortable by the loan of an Audi A4 FSI (automatic),
so the trip out on Thursday evening was a very relaxing one. The
Belgian autoroute to Liege is a spectacularly dull one visually,
so we missed nothing at all travelling during the late evening,
arriving at our modest Campanile base at 23.30.
was held at 11.15 on Friday morning, so that just about left a little
time to marvel at one feature of the old Spa-Francorchamps circuit:
the Masta Kink. David Lord snapped the A4 at this famous spot, leaving
us to marvel at the bravery of drivers who took on such challenges
– and averaged over 160 mph over the whole lap. Whether it
was Rodriguez and Amon in that classic 1970 Belgian GP, or Rodriguez
and Siffert in the 917s, or Redman and Ickx in the 312Ps, or the
Matras wailing around the Ardennes, life was different then, wasn’t
But Spa still
has the high speeds and challenging sections, and David Addison
insisted that the Ed. and Deputy Ed. walked the bulk of the circuit
on Friday afternoon. “We’ll just go out to Pouhon,”
became a much longer trek out to the Pif Paf and Stavelot, then
under the tunnel and a stroll through the trees beside the dramatic
Blanchimont. It’s easy to see why Spa has such a magnetic
pull for drivers.
The bulk of
the meeting was spent around the paddock and media centre, trying
our best to keep up with everything that was happening. With over
40 cars involved, and the typical Spa dramas unravelling, it was
impossible to keep up with every entry. One example: the Ed. was
in the Lister pit as Pierre Kaffer’s inferno literally flashed
past, so that was the cue to beetle off to the Audi Sport UK / Team
Veloqx garages, where systems went into overdrive to assess the
damage, the team initially looking as though they were going to
try and get the R8 out again.
wreck was wheeled into its pit, plastic floor tiles being flung
out the back, while mechanics appeared with the lifting gear to
remove the rear end. But even a change of rear end (as per last
year’s rules) wouldn’t have produced a raceable car
this time: the fire damage was far too great, and retirement was
inevitable. Meanwhile, typically Spa, the rain was coming down,
and intermediates were made ready for Johnny Herbert – which
was the key moment in deciding the outcome of the race.
There was something
going on throughout the 1000 kilometres, and it never ceases to
amaze us how a five or six hour event can hurry on by in such a
blur. Apart from the Freisinger Porsche dominating the class, there
was always something happening in GT, and the points position in
the vital teams title chase seemed to change every fifteen minutes.
The fiftieth win for the Audi R8 made the Spa 1000 Km a particularly
after the chequered flag, we collapsed back into the Audi A4, for
a gentle run back to a fourth night at Liege – just grateful
for the comfort of those leather seats, and the ease of an automatic
that made cruising as easy as it comes.
to Lille the next morning (there was surprisingly little traffic
for a Monday), we missed the torque of a turbo diesel, a manual
gearbox probably being better suited to the FSI petrol engine. The
A4 looks sportier than it is, but for motorway cruising it was perfect.
Details such as body coloured front and rear bumpers, an extended
front valance with enlarged air intakes and integrated fog lights,
side sill extensions, a restyled rear bumper with mesh diffuser
and a subtle rear spoiler all add up to a remarkably solid looking
motor car. The electric lumbar adjustment was a clever touch, much
appreciated by those of us in the front.
The two photographers
in the back (David Lord and Darren Maybury) appreciated their comfortable
seats too, and the huge boot had swallowed all their gear with ease.
We didn’t concern ourselves with the Electronic Stability
Program, which apparently maintains the chosen direction by tightening
the line where necessary. We were content to arrive in Northern
Belgium after a rest, not a thrash – and anyway, our destinations
would leave us in sombre mood for the balance of the journey.
Ieper (Ypres), we stumbled across Bedford House Cemetery, a last
resting place for victims of both World Wars.
and such scenes are remarkably common in Northern France and Belgium.
This was one of the larger cemeteries, but smaller ones are dotted
about the landscape: it’s a humbling experience, discovering
so many graveyards.
ultimate destination was the Menin Gate Memorial, in Ieper. This
extraordinary monument was inaugurated on July 27 1927.
by Sir Reginald Blomfield, it honours the 54,896 officers and men
of Great Britain and the Commonwealth who fell in the Ieper Salient
between 1914 and August 17 1917, and whose bodies could not be found
The names are
engraved on almost every surface of the arch: so many names, so
many lives cut short. David Lord’s images certainly capture
the significance of this remarkable tribute to so many.
had a ferry to catch (or not), and therefore couldn’t wait
for the daily ceremony, at 20.00: every evening since 1928, the
Last Post - the traditional salute to the fallen warrior - has been
played under the Menin Gate Memorial. Performed by a team of local
buglers, this ceremony honours the lives of all the soldiers who
fell in the Ypres Salient.
Last Post Association aims to maintain this ceremony in perpetuity.
is well worth a visit. There we find that Chief Bugler Antoine Verschoot
has served as a bugler at the Menin Gate since 1954.
The Queen will shortly recognise such faithful service, with Antoine
Verschoot about to become an Honorary Member of the British Empire.
You can hear the Last
Post being sounded by clicking the link to the website: one day,
we’ll return and find the time to visit the Menin Gate Memorial
at the appointed hour. Perhaps that will be next May, if the Spa
1000 Kms does become the first event of the 2005 LMES season.
posted in the Last Post website’s “Book of Honour”
are a reminder of the importance placed upon this memorial by visitors
from around the world (to the website and the memorial) –
as are the wreaths that are placed within the Menin Gate at regular