Why is it that formula cars and Sports 2000 racers appeal less to the imagination than other track weapons?
This theory works for me. Comparing the typically pointy, sex-less expressions of many formula cars around with the older, open-mouthed 'cigars' in the paddock convinces. The presence of just that mouth in the anonymous face already makes a big difference. Having said that, upon closer inspection there is actually lots to see on these lean machines' bodies; this is even the case with the skinny 'Formula Kent' series. Flo and I take our time and soak up the wealth of details; from purposeful tight packaging bulges to massive NACAs – and the odd leather strap. Even duct tape can be beautiful on these bare, functional fuselages. Yet the difference, made by well-executed graphics, is phenomenal. Most owners are either running traditional race colours (good!), a non-discript pale livery which was probably developed for their truck fleet (bad!) or a detonating combination of the favourite colours they had as kids (ugly!). Most cover their monoposto in random clouds of stickers and decals.
A manga-style track fighter stands out, however – graphics with almost military intent, properly designed. Good job, studio 54!
While the last strips of duct tape are applied to squeeze those last drops of aerodynamic drag out of the fiberglass shells, we slowly move on – to check out the action in pit lane. A semi-pro blue crew is manning the wall as one after the other racer rolls out of its box – proudly carrying the latest technical approval stickers, while the engine barks deafening, raw and brutal soundbites. Back to the action!
Not much later we find ourselves further down, on the opposite paddock side, where we choose to stroll down the other, older pit lane with its many small boxes. This is where the touring cars live these days. Many of them are jacked up, wheels removed. Must be the weather – unreliable as always down here. You never know which type of tires you need until it's too late. Pushing back the decision. Many pit boxes are deserted, in some cases a bored wife is sipping coffee while hubby (Austin Powers?) is making final adjustments to the car – or trying to relax, if he still can. The atmosphere is friendly, sometimes candid. Open door policy – no questions asked when we walk in to admire the machinery.
When the formula cars have finished their laps, our interest is back to the races again. Must be the face thing – can't help it. It's also brilliant to see that the cars that we've only just looked straight in the eye have now all come to life – to fight it out on the track. Sleeping Beauty has transformed into Speed Beast. Pedal to the metal.
One of the best fights we witnessed that day had to be towards the end. After having ventured into new territory, by walking up the hill from Pouhon towards Rivage. We cross a big welcome sign, at the back of the track, that seems to represent the main entrance for a more important audience – the F1 circus? We make our way back to the best part of the circuit – along the long straight towards Kemmel, Raidillon and …Eau Rouge.
The decision to first stop halfway down the straight appears to be a good one. This is where some big m*****f*****s are going to be screaming their rebel yells only a matter of minutes later. The best howl must be from the viper-green-and-black Dodge Challenger; independently Floris and I get visions of a World War Two fighter blasting past us, as it chases a bright blue 911 RS up the hill towards Les Combes.
Shivers down the backbone!! (Shakin' all over!)