Spa features a casino, classic...
Spa features a casino, classic architecture, and is one of the few cities that allow race cars to drive on public streets. The annual 24 Hours of Spa gives competitors the chance to park in town and mingle with fans the afternoon before the race. Here, a GT1 Corvette and Maserati head back to the racetrack after spending a day in the city.
Our next adventure took us to the city of Bastogne, located 82 km (51 miles) from downtown Spa. Plan on spending the morning exploring this historic city. Bastogne, which was featured in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, was surrounded by the German army in the winter of 1944. When asked to surrender, U.S. General Anthony McAuliffe reportedly told the Germans, "Nuts!" and continued fighting. The city was nearly destroyed, but General George Patton broke through enemy lines and saved it. Bastogne has been completely rebuilt and has an impressive museum located right outside the city limits. Downtown is a great place to have lunch in one of the many sidewalk cafés.
After lunch we drove 134 km (84 miles) to the famous Nürburgring, in Germany. We stayed at the Agnesen-Hof Hotel (www.agnesen-hof.de) in nearby Barweiler/Nürburgring, located around 10 km (6 miles) from the track entrance. After checking in, we explored the area. The 'Ring is a short drive on B258, which leads to the circuit entrance. We passed the main entrance for the time being, continued on B258 a few kilometers to highway K20, and turned right into the Nürburgring Industrial park. This is where the auto manufacturers maintain garages for testing prototype production cars. It's always worth cruising around to see if anything interesting is parked outside.
The sidewalk cafés that line...
The sidewalk cafés that line Spa's city streets are a popular place to eat and have something cool to drink.
Next, we stopped at the nearby gas station on B258, located between K20 and K93. Besides offering the chance for a fill-up, this station has a large selection of car models and T-shirts that might be of interest. This is where the manufacturers fill up their cars before performing track testing on the Nordschleife. After getting the lay of the land, we headed back to our hotel for a nice dinner and a good night's sleep.
Time to explore the legendary Nürburgring. The original track opened in 1927 and presently has two components: The 5.148-km (3.2-mile) F1 circuit, which opened in 1984, and the 20.81-km (12.93-mile) "Nord-schleife" (North Loop) course. Access to the F1 circuit is strictly limited, but the Nordschleife is open to the public at certain times during the week. Keep in mind, however, that rental-car insurance does not cover you if you use your vehicle to lap the 'Ring. If you want to experience the track at speed, we recommend using the BMW Ring Taxi (advanced reservations are required) or another "track taxi" rental agency. We used RSR Nürburg for a story we did, and found it to be very professional (www.rsrnurburg.com).
The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps...
The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is one of the most demanding circuits in Europe. Here, the old pit straight heads downhill to the famous Eau Rouge corner, which climbs up the hill to the back straightaway. The many skidmarks attest to how difficult it is to navigate this corner.
The entrance to the track is located outside the small town of Nürburg. Each lap costs 22 Euros, which you pay at the entrance. Mondays are scheduled for the manufacturers to test prototype vehicles. This is where photographers get many of those preproduction spy photos you see in various car magazines. Near the main grandstand is the new Ring Werk leisure park. Plan on spending approximately four hours here to experience all of the exhibits. Admission is €19.50 for adults and €11.00 for children. For more information go to www.nuerburgring.de/en/ringwerk.html. After a full day at the legendary Ring, we returned to the Agnesen-Hof for the night.
We left the hotel early and headed 278 km (174 miles) to the Belgian city of Antwerp. After an easy three-hour drive, we used our GPS to sightsee and find a nice restaurant for lunch. In the late afternoon, we drove 160 km (100 miles) to our hotel in Amsterdam. Speed limits are strictly enforced on this route, and traffic is heavy in the afternoon. Once we arrived, we returned our rental car, confirmed our flight, and packed for our flight home the next morning.
This is just a small sampling of the many things you can see and do in Europe, whether by Corvette or other means of transportation. Remember, don't be afraid to be adventurous. If you're armed with an international cell phone, a GPS device, and a little preparation, you, too, can enjoy the auto enthusiast's trip of a lifetime. Happy traveling.