F1, GT and WRC head to Belgium this month

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Tiny nation plays host to top-tier GTs, WRC and Formula 1 this month.

It may not be a tourist destination up there with the Maldives, but if you’re into motorsport, Belgium is a great place to head in August (or rather, it would be if its borders weren’t closed to us…).

The tiny nation has just held the marquee 24-hour race of the GT season, coming up is the Ypres Rally and then at the end of the month comes the Belgian Grand Prix. These three diverse events all have one thing in common: Spa-Francorchamps.

Yes, Spa is around 165 miles from Ypres and doesn’t exactly have a rallying heritage; but the track and its surroundings will host four special stages of the Ypres Rally on the final day, including the points-paying seven-mile Power Stage.

Sunday’s stages are an intriguing mix of classic Belgian asphalt roads and the actual Spa circuit, with the podium ceremony taking place at the track.

Mixing rallying with circuits isn’t a new idea – most notably showcased by the Monza Rally, which made its WRC debut last year. Even before then, Britain’s round of the WRC used to regularly visit Castle Combe and Silverstone.

But anybody who’s worried that the Ypres Rally might lose its unique ambience needn’t be concerned. It still hosts the best service park of the year, right in the town’s central square, conveniently flanked by bars and restaurants.

Ypres and its environs are mired in World War One history, and it’s incredible how vivid and moving the many memorials and museums are.

It’s a home event, too, for Thierry Neuville: a man who desperately needs some good luck to avoid his first winless WRC season since 2016.

The Hyundai i20 driver is immersing himself in Belgium’s month of motorsport: he was avidly watching the Spa 24 Hours livestream, he will be the man of the moment in Ypres and he’s a regular guest at the Belgian Grand Prix.

While Belgium is making its WRC debut this year, a Belgian team has actually already won the championship. Sébastien Loeb’s 2006 title was clinchedwith Kronos Racing, running his blue Xsara privately while Citroën took a sabbatical to develop the C4 WRC.

Kronos was also the team that ran Neuville in the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, in which he was one of five drivers challenging for the title at the final round. It’s easy to overlook Belgium and its frites-munching heroes, but for this month at least, the nation of insanely strong beer is also the most important country in world motorsport.

How it works: Post-race fuel checks in Formula 1

Sebastian Vettel lost his hard-earned second place for Aston Martin in the recent Hungarian Grand Prix over a small but crucial technicality. After a race, FIA officials must be able to retrieve a minimum of one litre of fuel from each car that finishes, to provide a sample for legality checks.

Vettel’s AMR21, which stopped after the chequered flag with a suspected fuel pump issue, gave up only 0.3 litres of fuel once it was returned to parc fermé, leaving the race stewards with little option but to disqualify him.

Aston Martin has stated an intention to appeal, on the grounds that the car was still carrying 1.74 litres of fuel at the end of the race. The trouble is, if the FIA officials were unable to retrieve it from the tank, the rules contravention – even if it’s related to the fuel pump problem – is a hard one to argue.

Anthony Peacock

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