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Spa-Francorchamps sees licence suspended until 2026

The legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit – traditional home to the Belgian Grand Prix – may be set to slip off the Formula 1 calendar again after it emerged that the Ardennes track has had its licence suspended by the local Council of State...until 2026.

The bombshell was dropped upon circuit director Pierre-Alain Thibaut following an investigation into noise levels in the wake of a renewed permit issued back in April, 2007. One of the conditions of the new licence was that an environmental impact study must be carried out following on from complaints made by local residents, but according to Pitpass the Council of State has adjudged the work conducted by Spa organisers to be 'seriously inadequate and incomplete' – leading to the draconian decision that has been subsequently taken.

“Since the filing of the complaint, the situation has changed,” Thibaut told Belgian news agency Lesoir. “The circuit has worked hard to reduce noise, and relations with local residents have improved.

“It is a difficult situation, but we've made commitments vis-à-vis a range of people, and we must comply on pain of having to pay damages. We will challenge the government, and organise a dialogue with the board of residents.”

Should the Belgian Grand Prix disappear from the F1 schedule in 2010, it would be to the dismay of drivers, teams and fans alike, the majority of whom hold it to be one of – if not the – best circuits in the world, one of the few remaining real tests of competitors' skill in an era dominated by anodyne Tilke-dromes.

The race was not held in 2003 or 2006 due to issues regarding respectively tobacco advertising laws and major repair work, but Spa has in total staged Belgium's round on the annual world championship calendar on 42 occasions since the first official season all the way back in 1950. The event has also taken place at Zolder (ten times) and Nivelles (twice).

There has been talk of a race-share deal between Spa and the Nürburgring in the future [see separate story – click here], with the two venues appearing on the calendar in alternate years off the back of reputed £3 million losses for the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix alone. The 2010 Belgian Grand Prix has a provisional date of 29 August.

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