The Friday Vault

Looking Down Towards Pouhon – Belgian Grand Prix, 1991

This week in my second article of ‘The Friday Vault’, I pluck this photograph from my wall. It shows the run down to Pouhon, Spa-Francorchamps during the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix.

When some racing fans talk of Spa and its iconic layout, the two places they mention first are Eau Rouge and Blanchimont. There is another blindingly quick part of the circuit that has not been tamed by the recent regulations and remains as fearsome as it was many years ago.

Pouhon.

It is a place on the circuit where a driver hits it flat out, a steep run to the corner and then is required to lift off slightly at the correct place to keep the car stable. Get this right and the exit is sublime. It is a much longer corner than Eau Rouge and contrary to what most people believe, is much more exciting.

Pouhon starts with a long run downhill. The middle of the corner is hidden. Most racing drivers let the car run wide in the middle of the whole sequence, rolling the car into the raised piece of curbing on the left side of the circuit. The painted curb on the exit is flat and easy to ride.

In 2002, Kimi Raikkonen had the back end of his McLaren kick out at Pouhon, he managed to get the car under control, but was unable to stop Montoya taking third. That is what makes this section of Spa so special. Get it right and you just blend through the sequence. Get it wrong and it will bite you. The speed of this corner is breathtaking.

There has only ever been one recorded fatality at Pouhon and this occurred during the 2004 Historic F3 Championship when Italian driver Ferruccio Leone made contact with a Class B car which caused his Arno AR1-Alfa Romeo to flip and barrel-roll at Pouhon. It is reported that Leone’s helmet came off during the incident and he was tragically declared dead at the scene.

This photograph I have on my wall was taken during the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix. It was a weekend dominated by Senna being fastest the entire weekend and with news that Jordan had replaced their driver, Bertrand Gachot, with a young Michael Schumacher. Gachot had found himself in jail after an altercation with a London taxi driver.

Senna took pole with Prost in the Ferrari second and the Williams of Nigel Mansell third. In his first Grand Prix, Schumacher found himself seventh on the grid.

Both Senna and Prost got off the start well with the Brazilian leading into the tricky first corner. Schumacher would find himself out of the race shortly after Eau Rouge when his clutch failed. Senna forced his way ahead, by lap three Prost was also finding himself out of the race when his Ferrari caught fire. Mansell moved up into second and he gritted his teeth in search of Senna.

Senna stopped on lap 15 for new tyres, but it did not go as planned and so when Mansell came in two laps later he was able to jump the Brazilian with Berger leading the race. The Williams closed in on the McLaren of Berger and swept by the Austrian into Les Fagnes.

On lap 22 Mansell was in trouble, his car suffering electronic problems causing him to stop on track. Alesi leapt into the lead, but Senna was closing. There was a small problem for Senna and he dropped back in time which gave Piquet the opportunity to battle with his compatriot. The pair of them were joined by Patrese in the Benetton and de Cesaris. Patrese had tried a passing move on Piquet but this did not end well as he went off the circuit but was able to rejoin. Lap 30 saw the retirement of Alesi when his engine blew. It was on lap 31 where de Cesaris was able to out brake Piquet into Les Combes and the Brazilian’s day wasn’t over yet as Patrese came hurtling by.

Patrese suffered gearbox problems and succumbed to Berger. De Cesaris was looking good for Jordan’s first podium but three laps from the end his engine blew which put Berger into second. and Piquet into third. Senna was suffering gearbox problems in the lead but managed to get his car home. Mark Blundell scored Brabham’s first points of the year and the Fondmetal team scored their first finish of 1991 with driver Olivier Grouillard.

That was the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix and the story behind the photograph on my wall of the scene looking down to Pouhon.

As I said before, every piece of memorabilia in my writing studio tells a story.

See You At The Chequered Flag.

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

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