The Francorchamps circuit was conceived by Jules de Thier, from Spa. A motor racing enthusiast, de Thier evolved a triangular 9.24-mile course using public roads set in a valley and lined by a dense pine forest, farm cottages and fields. From the start, shortly after a sharp hairpin bend at La Source near the village of Francorchamps (which itself is five miles from the town of Spa), the road plunged downhill, went left to the Old Frontier hairpin (before World War 1 this was the German/Belgian border) and then climbed up and over a wooded crest. Then the trees stopped, the road twisted left, right and then ventured towards Burnenville, a fast right-hander bordered by farm-buildings.
Malmedy in its early days was a right-angle bend which led to the Masta Straight, a 'straight' of almost two miles, past farms and through Masta village with its notorious, flat-out kink. Then came Stavelot, originally a hairpin bend, and the road began to rise again, twisting and turning through full-throttle curves towards the La Source hairpin and the start/finish line. Resurfacing before World War 2 made the track smoother, but in 1947 the Old Frontier hairpin was removed, being replaced by an uphill sweep at Eau Rouge which reduced circuit length to 9 miles.
More modifications followed: the circuit was widened in places, corners eased slightly. Lap speeds rose. The right-angle turn at Malmedy was replaced by a long sweep, which increased cars' entry speed on to the long Masta Straight, at the end of which a slightly banked sweep replaced the Stavelot hairpin. The inside of La Source was also banked. This reduced the lap distance to 8.77 miles and speeds rose even further. In 1957 more resurfacing and corner-easing, bringing the length down to 8.76 miles, resulted in yet higher speeds. First race, in 1924, was a 24-hour event for voitures cl chassis catalogues designed to rival the similar race at Le Mans. Henri Springuel and Becquet, driving a 2-litre Bignan, covered 1168.2 miles at an average speed of 48.98 mph.
Francorchamps' fame spread quickly, for in 1925 the Royal Automobile Club de Belgique was asked to organise the European Grand Prix
(also the first Belgian Grand Prix). With the withdrawal of the Sunbeams and Guyots, there were but seven starters, four Delages and three Alfa Romeos. Antonio Ascari
led the 502-mile race from start to finish in his Alfa Romeo P2, averaging 74.44 mph. Team-mate Giuseppe Campari was second-22 minutes behind. The 24-hour race was held each year until 1933 and then again in 1938 before war intervened. The Grand Prix
was held from 1930 - 1935 and then in 1937 and 1939. An incredibly fast race was held in 1937, when the powerful German Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union teams ruled Grand Prix
For further information on the SPA circuirt, see: SPA-Francorchamps (USA Edition)