Safety at Spa is set for a major improvement under a MotoGP-inspired track update.
Getting the bikes back to the daunting Belgian circuit is a $130 million project that will see a new look on the main straight, improved run-off areas and more gravel traps.
It is a significant reconstruction program that will take around 10 years, as Spa aims to improve its earning potential and its safety features.
The circuit itself will not be changed but the re-vamp means there will be new gravel traps in five corners: La Source, Raidillon, Blanchimont, Les Combes and Stavelot.
Run-off areas will also be expanded in various places, including on the main downhill section to Eau Rouge and at the top of Raidillon. This will require substantial earthworks as there is a steep drop alongside the track as both Raidillon and Blanchimont.
The widening of the run-off down towards Eau Rouge will also require substantial work which will mean that the current grandstand will need to be demolished and a new one built its place. This will provide the opportunity for the circuit to double the permanent seating capacity to 26,000 seats and to add more modern VIP facilities.
A similar project is expected on the hillside at Raidillon, where the current facility is rudimentary at best. A new grandstand with a roof will mean that not only will there be more seats, but also new hospitality units.
The big spending program is to make Spa suitable for major international motorcycle races, with the ambition to attract MotoGP around 2024.
Since 2011 the circuit has hosted a six-hour motorcycle endurance race but wants to increase its two-wheeled activities.
The circuit is already busy with car races, notably the Belgian Grand Prix, the Spa 24 Hours, the Spa Six Hours, the Spa World Rallycross of Benelux event, in addition to DTM and GTs.
There are also classic events, bicycle races and this year the track will host the Power Stage of the WRC Ypres Rally Belgium. It also has extensive public driving days, racing schools, karts and a variety of different conference facilities in various buildings on the circuit land.
The facility is run by a company called Circuit of Spa Francorchamps SA, under its CEO Nathalie Maillet Dubois, which has been involved in planning work since early 2019 with the local development agency, the Societe Wallonne de Gestion et de Participations (SOGEPA), a firm owned by the regional government of Wallonia.
The initial plan is for a FIM World Endurance Championship race in 2022, followed by MotoGP.
Grand Prix motorcycles have not been raced at Spa since 1990 but prior to that there were motorcycle GPs at Spa every year from 1949, apart from one or two years when the race switched to Zolder. The last FIM-sanctioned event, the Liege 24 hours was in 2003.
The track still holds the record for the fastest race in Grand Prix motorcycling, set by Barry Sheene on the old Spa in 1977, when he recorded an average speed of 217.369km/h (135.067mph) and a fastest lap at 220.721km/h (137.149mph).