The Belgian circuit of Zolder was inaugurated in the 1960s. When the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit was deemed too dangerous, Zolder, in the first decade of its existence, alternated as the setting for Grand Prix races with Nivelles. The last F1 Grand Prix to be held at Zolder was in 1982, the year in which Gilles Villeneuve was tragically killed in an accident. Over the successive years, Spa was reinstated as Belgium’s main circuit following its modernisation and improved safety standards.
Quite fast and technically demanding, though lacking Spa’s rises and falls, Zolder has had safety levels improved over the years. In 1972 a chicane was installed in the section behind the pit lane while, in 1975, came a redesign aimed at reducing overall speed. Some ten years later, a chicane was added to the stretch leading into Terlamenbocht, the site of Villeneuve’s crash.
Despite these and other changes, Zolder’s main characteristics remain intact. The track currently measures 3.977 kilometres. It has long straights and tricky spots that pose the driver a variety of problems. These include three chicanes, sweeping curves and tight bends, including one 90° turn that spills out onto the main straight. Getting the racing line right through the final esse is crucial for setting a good lap time.
Even though its Formula 1 days are a distant memory, Zolder continues to host top-level events, including world championship cycling races.