The first national race of Belgium was held in 1925 at the Spa region's race course, an area of the country that had been associated with motor sport since the very early years of racing before the turn of the century. To accommodate Grand Prix motor racing, the Spa-Francorchamps race course was built in 1921 but it was only used for motorcycle racing until 1924. After the 1923 success of the new 24 hours of Le Mans in France, a similar 24 hour endurance race was run at the Spa track.
Designed by Jules de Their and Henri Langlois Van Ophem, the 9.3 mile course wound through public roads between the Belgian towns of Francorchamps, Malmedy and Stavelot. Over the years, the Spa course was modified several times and today it has been shortened to 4.3 miles and is a fast and hilly route through the Ardennes where speeds in excess of 330km/h can be reached. Since inception, the place has been famous for its unpredictable weather. Frequently drivers confront a part of the course that is clear and bright while another stretch is rainy and slippery. Most drivers today say that the Spa course is the most challenging race track in the world.
The first Belgian Grand Prix was won by Antonio Ascari whose son Alberto would win the race in 1952 and 1953. Unfortunately, after winning the Belgian race, Antonio Ascari would be killed in his next outing at the French Grand Prix. In 1939, the race claimed the life of British driver Richard "Dick" Seaman while leading the race. During the 1960 race Chris Bristow and Alan Stacy lost their lives in separate incidents, the latter in a freak occurrence when hit in the face by a bird. In 1982, on the final qualifying lap at Zolder, Canadian driver Gilles Villeneuve was killed.
Grand Prix motor racing winners:
Formula One winners: