Braving The Elements On The Spa Rally

Rain, snow and mud – European rallying can have it all. But this is a motorsport unshaken by seasons or weather. As the months get colder, tarmac racetracks go into hibernation. Not so for rallies. The sound and vision of rally cars flying through woods remains alive and well.

Late last month, I got a real taste of it when I travelled over to Belgium for the 2023 Spa Rally.


When it comes to motorsport, Spa is best known for its grand prix circuit – Spa-Francorchamps. But there’s more to it than that, with Spa and the surrounding area regularly hosting hill climb and rally events. Most of these are low-key affairs aimed at amateur racers and aren’t widely promoted, hence why I often only learn of them after they’ve happened when photographers start publishing their work.

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Prior to this event, I had never been to a rally, so it was a bit of a learning curve. The biggest challenge I faced was figuring out how to navigate the route. My day started by following two rally cars – a Mk1 Ford Escort and an Opel Kadett – as I assumed they’d lead me straight to the first closed-road stage of the event.


Thankfully, that’s exactly what happened. After parking up, I quickly set off to find a spot nearby to start shooting from.


The Opel Kadett I had followed got really sideways while exiting a corner, throwing wet mud in my direction. I can’t complain though; you have to love rear-wheel drive rally cars when they’re driven like this.

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A great variety of cars passed by, from old MGs and Fiats to a BMW E46 M3 and even the latest Hyundai i20 N Rally2. Some took very tidy, fast lines while others put on a show with massive slides, but all of them sounded superb.


The reason there’s such of a mix of new and old in this event, is that the Spa Rally also incorporates the Spa Rally Classic. The historic cars were definitely a highlight for me, as the competing field was so diverse.

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A Porsche 911 GT3 might sound like an odd choice for a rally car, but the 911’s history is filled with rallying. The sound of the de-restricted naturally aspirated flat-six, combined with the way the car’s driver handled tight corners, was spectacular. It was one of the cars that I heard from miles away as it approached, and long after it had flown past.


Competing directly with with the GT3 was this Alpine A110. The pair battled it out in the Group R-GT class for rear-wheel drive sports cars.


A Group B MG Metro 6R4 was also seen on stage, though not as a participant. Before every stage kicked off, a legendary rally machine did a demo run alongside the safety cars.


However, some notable historic cars were seen among the participants. The most famous of them all was a Group A ST165 Toyota Celica GT-Four, which looked stunning with its Toyota Team Europe livery.


It’s worth mentioning this Opel – a Group B-homologated Manta 200, which was a more subtle version of the Opel Manta 400.


Of course, participating rally cars were regularly seen driving on local Spa roads during their touring stages. I saw many cars being worked on and checked over on the side of the road as I made my way to the next special stage.


The 2023 Spa Rally was just a glimpse of the lesser-known motorsport action that goes on around this beautiful region of Belgium, which handily for me is not far from the German border. There’s still plenty that the Spa village has to offer, and I plan to return next year to uncover more.

Steve Edward
Instagram: stevedwrd

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Thank you for sharing, looks like a fun event. Looking forward to seeing more of the village


Yes, thank you for this.


Love to see rally days being relived in this moment


if you like historic rally events and live in the Spa area, maybe a cool event to go to is Boucles de Bastogne first week of Feb and the Eifel rallye Festival mid August. those are really good historic events in my opinion. I visit these yearly for the last 5 years and every year looking forward for these events.


The Eifel Rallye Festival is on my list for next year. I heard about the event a bit too late this year and couldn't make it. There's also a lot of events around that time that I want to attend next year, but Eifel Rallye Festival is high on my priority