Spa’s Most Dangerous Corner Is Finally Being Made Safer
After multiple serious crashes—some of them deadly—Eau Rouge-Raidillon is getting a much-needed overhaul.
Eau Rouge-Raidillon is one of the most famous hills in all of motorsport, being the subject of hundreds of posters, photos, and legendary racing moments. It's also incredibly dangerous—and the location of many crashes (some of them deadly)—due to barrier placement and the nature of the ever-narrowing corner that leads back into the racing line. It was the site of 22-year-old Anthoine Hubert's death in 2019. Now, the iconic corner is getting a much-needed, safety-related overhaul.
Everyone knows that motorsport is dangerous. Risk is mitigated as much as possible, from mandatory safety gear to circuit design and the way barriers have evolved over the decades. Back in the horrible days when racing deaths were pretty much inevitable, hay bales used to get treated as acceptable barriers to stop an F1 car. Now, the speeds are higher than ever and we have higher standards for what counts as entertainment or fair sporting competition.
Spa-Francorchamps announced in 2020 that it was undertaking an extensive program of renovations, including adding gravel traps to five corners. Gravel means that there is still a serious consequence to going off track, and an error is still likely to end your race but it won't throw cars back onto an active race track.
La Source, Blanchimont, Les Combes, and Stavelot will all also have their runoff areas extended, in the first wave of major changes to Spa since it announced last year that$ 92.8 million would be invested into the circuit from 2020-2030. Primarily to adapt it to safety standards suitable for motorcycle racing, but one of the significant upsides is making Raidillon safer for everyone.
One of the consequences of expanding the space on the left-hand side of Eau Raidillon is the strangely anachronous chalet that's been the VIP viewing point for the East Belgian Racing Team, next to the drinks hut. Which is, legitimately, the only place you can buy a beer at Spa with actual money, not the weird amusement park tokens the other bars accept. The demolition of this chalet is a sad loss for thirsty people, but in a statement, the East Belgian Racing Team did say it will be replaced for 2022.
Eau Rouge-Raidillon is not, crucially, getting changed. The runoff around it is getting adapted so that if you crash there, your car will not be flung into the path of oncoming cars. Although race cars are designed to withstand crashes, they are not meant to be plowed into, sent airborne, and flipped by each other.
Just this year there's been a pile-up in a GT race that sent two drivers to the hospital, a multiple-car crash in the W Series that sent two drivers to the hospital, and a big crash in F1 that could have been another pile-up if Sebastian Vettel hadn't anticipated it and slowed down. Even with all of F1's safety standards, that crash also sent Lando Norris to the hospital for checks. If a corner exists that continues to seriously hurt someone, then it's pretty obvious changes have to be made.
If you want to see racing, not people's bodies getting broken and red-flagged sessions, then this is a good move. If you want to look at a chalet, I recommend an Alpine holiday, not a Belgian race track.
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