The Raidillon on the Eau-Rouge
This page tells about the arise of the most famous corner of Spa-Francorchamps, the Raidillon, and also paid attention to the fact that this corner is often incorrectly called Eau-Rouge...
The Raidillon is the steep fast right hand corner which is cutting off the l'Ancienne Douane section since 1939. In the thirties there was a competition between the circuit owners to have the fastest track. Francorchamps didn't want to stay back so they decided to construct this artificial corner.
The Raidillon became one of the most beloved and feared corners in the world. While accelerating from the La Source hairpin down the straight you see these massive mountain in front of you which looks very intimidating!
While touring cars enter the Raidillon about 200 km/h (125 Mph), Formula one cars do almost 300 km/h (185 Mph) at this point. With a well-trimmed car the bravest drivers will take this corner flat out! That's very important because after this corner comes the long Kemmel straight.
A mondegreen is the mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase in a way that gives it a new meaning. There is a big misunderstanding about the name of the Raidillon which is called Eau-Rouge by many people. You can call that a mondegreen too.
Just in front of the Raidillon flows the Brooke Eau-Rouge underneath the track. At this point was the original left hand corner leading into the l'Ancienne Douane section. This corner was called Eau-Rouge.
At some maps (undoubtedly made on more recent date) with the 'l Ancienne Douane, the left hand corner leading to the Kemmel straight is called Raidillon. But this is not right! Raidillon is French for steep slope, so there should be no doubt which corner is meanth with this name.
The one and only Raidillon was introduced in 1939 and is the steep shortcut between the Eau-Rouge corner and the left hander leading to the Kemmel section, since 1979 a straight, therefore a series of fast kinks.
This is the real Eau-Rouge!
From the original left hand corner the Eau-Rouge is just a part still in use. Because the Raidillon is attached to the Eau-Rouge in Belgium they speak also from the "Raidillon on the Eau-Rouge". The fact that you see these names close together on the map is also contributing to the misunderstanding. A misunderstanding that has adopted world wide proportions!
At this picture (click to enlarge), made in Musée du Circuit at Stavelot, you see the old l'Ancienne Douane section and a little story about the construction of the Raidillon. Because the texts are in French and Dutch here an English translation: Airpicture of the circuit from the corner "La Source" to the bank to Burnenville. The long hairpin of "l'Ancienne Douane" is clearly vissible. He was cut off in 1939 by the famous "Raidillon".
After the tragic accidents at Imola earlier that year, a temporary chicane was constructed at the Raidillon for the Belgium Grand Prix of 1994. A year later the run off area was enlarged so the chicane was fortunately disappeared. See also A lap at old Spa-Francorchamps.
© Text & photos: Herman Liesemeijer