In 1971 the "Compexe Européen de Nivelles-Baulers" near the Belgium capital Brussels opened his gates. This brand new circuit would host two Formula One races, both won by Emerson Fittipaldi. Sad enough, this circuit had to close the doors after only ten years...
The Compexe Européen de Nivelles-Baulers, or short Circuit de Nivelles ( Circuit of Nivelles), was designed by the Dutchman Hans Hugenholtz and was also called the revolver circuit because of his typical shape.
At the time it was an ultra modern and safe track with big run of areas. As a consequence of that it was not much popular by the drivers in a time they raced at circuits like the old Nürburgring! Nivelles had also the bad luck to be a replacement for old Spa-Francorchamps.
In several sources Nivelles-Baulers is called a flat and boring circuit. Although the circuit was not a mountain track like Spa-Francorchamps, you can’t call Nivelles flat!
Over the full length where elevations, comparable to the circuit of Zandvoort. The circuit contained a long straight which was over one kilometre long, a shorter back straight and nine bends.
Originally a longer circuit was planned, but because they couldn’t buy enough ground they decided to build a 3.7 km (2.3 Miles) short circuit first. This short length combined with the quick character of the circuit made that the lap times were very short. This was good for the spectators but not for the drivers. This was one of the main reasons they experienced the track as boring.
Downhill where the Big Loop is waiting!
The most exciting part of the circuit was the so called “Big Loop”, a nickname for the combination of turn 2 and 3. After turn 1 you accelerate downhill on a short straight towards the Big Loop. These were two very long and fast right hand turns. The first one was rising slightly while the next one was descending.
After the Big Loop you had to brake hard for a medium-fast left hand turn leading to the less challenging part of the circuit. All in all it wasn’t a bad circuit. Compare to the circuits from today, Nivelles would be one of the better circuits with his fast corners. Unfortunately Nivelles-Baulers is going into history as a boring circuit...
The first one of the Big Loop.
At the circuit complex was also a cart track. In 1973 and 1980 the World Karting Championship was held here. One of the spectators in 1980 was a young boy from Germany, called Michael Schumacher. He was impressed by a Brazilian driver who drove there for the first time with a yellow helmet which became very famous later. His name was Ayrton Senna.
The cart track in 2003 short before it was demolished.
After old Spa-Francorchamps was found too dangerous to host a Formula One race, the Belgium Grand Prix was moved to Zolder in 1971. The Flemish and the Walloon governments agreed that the race would be alternated between the Flemish Zolder and the Walloon Nivelles.
But in 1974 the first operator of the Nivelles circuit was bankrupt. With much effort new sponsors where found to host the 1974 Belgian Grand Prix. But in 1975 everything went wrong when there was no more money to pay the bills. A temporary operator rented the complex from the curator.
In 1976 the track was found no longer suitable to host a Formula 1 race because of the condition of the surface. No investors could be found so Formula 1 was history for Nivelles. The circuit degenerated slowly but certain.
In 1980 the circuit was found unsuitable for every type of car racing but was used for motorcycles till the end of 1981. In this period the Royal Dutch Motorcycle Association (KNMV) was using the circuit because races on street circuits where banned in the Netherlands at that time. For this occasion, they also drove the circuit anti-clockwise sometimes as an alternation. When on the 30th of June 1981 the circuit license expired, the circuit closed forever.
A year later it was destructed!
After it was closed the circuit of Nivelles was sleeping for about twenty years and was fall into ruin. In this years I was one of the visitors of the circuit and drove there some illegal laps. Today the site is an industrial estate, and only the last three corner are still there. They are waiting for the bulldozers who will change the last piece of the former racetrack into an industrial estate soon. Than nobody will see that at this site once Formula One cars came down with 200 mp/h!
© Text & photos: Herman Liesemeijer Photo motocycle race: Cees Cornwall
Aerial photo: Vincent Mahieu Source: www.pixelsbw.com