While MotoGP visited the Sachsenring and Donington Park hosted World Superbikes last weekend (6-7 July), those preferring to watch their racing through rose-tinted spectacles flocked to Spa Francorchamps for the annual Bikers Classic event, and we were among them.
Spa Francorchamps. Often dubbed God’s own racetrack. The glorious 4.3m ribbon of asphalt weaves and winds its way through lush green forest and is home to two of the most famous corners in racing – Eau Rouge and Blanchimont. For just one weekend a year it hosts the Bikers Classic; a weekend of classic racing and parades, famous racing names, live music, trials sections, packed spectator banks, display stands and lifestyle village, and Belgian beer (other refreshments are also available).
It means there’s not a hope of getting bored, and in all reality, you’ll have to come back again to catch the bits you missed. But after spending a weekend at one of the world’s most iconic race tracks with a bunch of like-minded people and some of the rarest Grand Prix exotica from a bygone era, we compiled a list of reasons you should get it in the diary for 2020…
FIM European Endurance Classic Cup four-hour
The jewel in the crown of the Bikers Classic weekend. After practice and qualifying on Friday, Saturday night hosts a four-hour endurance race. With a Le Mans-style start kicking things off at 6pm, teams race into the night on all manner of classic racing machines; big four-cylinder offerings from the Japanese go toe-to-toe with Ducati twins, while others circulate on Laverdas and Moto Guzzis. There was even a Yamaha TZR250 taking it to the big guns this year – and it finished!
If you’re expecting a glorified parade of steady riders on wobbly classics, you’re wrong. The bikes are built to race and the riders are out to win. The action is close and the pace blistering, with teams such as Team Lincs Classic Suzuki fielding Danny Webb this year, while Neate Racing features brothers Steven and Sam Neate, both of whom have raced at British Championship level. It’s an FIM championship after all…
Like your racing shorter? There’s more racing on the schedule too. This year four sprints took place on Saturday and another four on Sunday, so whether old 250, 350, and 500 race bikes up to 1972 take your fancy, or a grid of buzzing, angry TZ and RS 125s and 250s, there’s something for you.
Ride the old road circuit
Spa Francorchamps has seen a number of layout changes in its time. The original circuit ran for over nine miles, utilising the public roads linking Francorchamps, Malmedy, and Stavelot. In 1939 it was modified slightly, but ran unchanged from then until 1978, before the new, short circuit came into being – although that’s changed subtly a number of times since!
Prior to the endurance race on Saturday afternoon you can join a huge parade of the old circuit on closed roads, in which thousands of bikes take part. What you’re on doesn’t matter: it could be a ZX-7R, TZR250, or GS Adventure. Either way, experience the famous road circuit on which Barry Sheene holds the lap record on an RG500 Suzuki, at an astonishing 137.1mph!
Wander the paddock and we guarantee you’ll spot a number of famous faces floating about, while race bikes sit on paddock stands ready for a series of parade rides throughout the event. This year Christian Sarron, Mick Grant, Ian Simpson, and Massimo Broccoli were among the names, while ex-factory RG and RGV Suzukis, RS Hondas, TZ Yamahas, Gileras, MV Agustas, Pattons, and even an Egli-Rotax put on a show.
Want to shift focus away from racing? Head to the Lifestyle Village and indulge in classic and custom road machines, with displays of café racers, scramblers, bobbers, and other works of art. There’s no shortage of round headlights, cut seat units, and dropped bars here, while manufacturers also display their latest model ranges.
If you find yourself fed up of the asphalt and fancy some of the muddy stuff, watch twin-shock trials bikes tackle stages in the woodland around the circuit at a steadier pace. But much like the classic racing, these bikes are no show ponies: expect serious skills.
Mostly geared around – but not limited to – beers and bands. When the flag falls on the on-track action, the party moves to the bar, with bands playing in the paddock and vendors providing food and drink in seemingly limitless supply. And while Belgium might not be ever so famous for its cuisine (waffles and chocolate, mostly), it can do beer.
Keep an eye out for the 2020 event dates to be announced, and then get it in your diary…