Only twice in 30 attempts did I get this corner right, reining in the horses to the first apex, running to the edge of the circuit and constantly applying the gas through the second left-hander, hitting the rumble strip at 95 mph. It was worth the price of admission on its own and was arguably as satisfying in the surprisingly spritely Jag as it would have been in a McLaren. Well, almost....
Pouhon and the fast back end of the circuit, carved into the Ardennes forest, is what gives this track so much of its character. Having seen F1 races here, I expected a serious challenge through the undulating kinks and twists leading to the Bus Stop, but only the left-handed Blanchimont required real nerve. Feeling the tires working at well over 115 mph was an adrenaline rush, but the rest of the back end requires a seriously quick car to get excited about. The two complexes, Fagnes and Les Combes, take real technique-especially in a heavy car that could easily slip wide, but they're hardly fun and merely serve to link the good bits and provide a place to play with left-foot braking to balance the throttle and trim the car's line for a better entry into the second curve of each complex.
The two hairpins, La Source and Beau Rivage, were no match for the Jag, which transfers power via viscous couplings to the wheels that need it most. The four-wheel drive simply pulled the car around when thrown in, no matter what the speed, and closed on the skittish Porsches. I even had time to take in the stunning cottage on the outside of La Source: Scenery is a big part of the Spa experience. The slower stuff tore my Pirelli P-Zeros apart, though, and I also picked up marbles, the pieces torn from other cars' boots, which eventually coated the contact patches with slippery debris mixed with oil. On my final outlap, this came home to roost with a huge moment at relatively low speed on cold tires. Another experience for the Spa memory bank.
Strangely, even though braking boards were out, the famous Bus-Stop chicane proved one of the toughest on-track challenges, and the four-channel ABS came into effect every time. In fact, this was the only place the heavy Jag felt totally unwieldy, as the all-wheel drive was defeated by the sheer weight of this 3,428-lb car, and it slipped sideways into this 30-mph chicane. This is the place where races are won and lost, as braking down from flat-out to a virtual stop challenges car and driver and the line determines the tire damage. From here it's back on the power, through the left kink and up past the start-finish line towards La Source. Then it was back down that ski jump towards Eau Rouge, winding up the power for fun and the air-conditioning for wind-in-the-face atmosphere.