Bucket List: 10 Best Motor Races You Need to See In Person
Every car guy has their bucket list of things they want to do that are car-related before they die. For some of us at Supercars.net, we want to hit up all of the best motorsports event in the world. There are many.
But there are only 10 we consider to be the pinnacle motorsport events, the top races that every car fanatic should see in their lifetime. With another epic 24 Hours of Le Mans just finished, the timing is right to get these down on paper (or online I guess) and let people know what we consider to be the Top 10 most prestigious motor races in the world.
Almost as soon as automobiles had been invented, races of various sorts were organised, with the first recorded as early as 1867. These races soon became an important way from competing makers to demonstrate their machines.
The Monte Carlo Rally or Rallye Monte Carlo (officially Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo) is a rallying event organised each year by the Automobile Club de Monaco. The rally now takes place along the French Riviera in the Principality of Monaco and southeast France.
From a racing perspective, it has everything. With often unpredictable conditions at each starting point (typically comprising dry tarmac, wet tarmac, snow, and ice, sometimes all in a single stage of the rally). It also features one of the most famous special stages in the world. The stage is run from La Bollène-Vésubie to Sospel, or the other way around, over a steep and tight mountain road with many hairpin turns. On this 31km route it passes over the Col de Turini, a mountain pass road which normally has ice and/or snow on sections of it at that time of the year.
There is something special about the annual season-opener.
‘The Race to the Clouds’ is the king of all hill climbs. This is the second oldest motorsports race in the United States and a long-standing tradition. First competed in 1916 it is a 12.42 mile course with 156 turns that begins at 9,390 feet and finishes at the 14,115 foot summit of America’s Mountain; Pikes Peak!
As the drivers climb toward the summit, the thin air slows reflexes and saps muscle strength. The thin air also robs engines of 30% of their power at the summit. The current record is 08:13.878 and was set by Sebastien Loeb in 2013.
There is no other race course in the world like The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. That is why it attracts race crews that are willing to spend several hundred thousand dollars and months of preparation to compete for the right to be the King of the Mountain.
It takes an incredible amount of focus, tenacity, and sheer guts to conquer this event where just one mishap could send you tumbling off a cliff. There’s a reason why they call it ‘The Devil’s playground.’
Isle of Man TT
First Race: 1907
More than 100 years on and thrill seekers still venture to the Isle of Man every summer for the same reason the gentlemen of 1907 did, the Tourist Trophy more commonly known as the Isle of Man TT.
If you want to reach the pinnacle of motorcycle racing and aren’t afraid to stare death in the eyes around every bend, then this is the race for you.
At the tender age of 48 Joey Dunlop recorded his 26th and final TT win at the start of the new millennium. For only the third time the TT races was cancelled in 2001, due to concerns over Foot and Mouth epidemic that was destroying the UK’s mainland. 2004 was marked by the a hat trick of wins for a John McGuinness, who last year reached average speeds of 129.4mph on the way to his 11th TT victory and new lap record and race records.
24 Hours of Nurburgring
First Race: 1970
The 24 Hours Nürburgring is a 24-hour annual touring car and GT endurance racing event on the Nordschleife (north loop) of the Nürburgring in central Germany. Held since 1970, over 25 km (15.5 mi) lap length allows more than 200 cars and over 700 drivers to participate.
‘”The Green Hell” is considered a very tough track. In fact, many believe this event is the world’s most grueling and epic endurance race. The scenery is beautiful and the action is non-stop. It is a stunning race nonetheless; the ultimate test of man and machine.
First Race: 1979
The Dakar Rally, formerly known as the Paris-Dakar Rally, is a rally-raid style of off-road endurance race, where competitors in multiple classes of cars, motorcycles and trucks race along very difficult terrain in stages over a two-week-plus timeframe. They key to Dakar is actually finishing.
Almost every year, there is someone who doesn’t make it out alive and lots of people who don’t finish the event. It is grueling. When it comes to rally racing, no race is as brutal and vicious.
The stages themselves can be relatively short to hundreds of miles per day. Traditional rally cars are modified road cars that attack winding off-road courses selected to handle high-speeds but not particularly rugged terrain.
First Race: 1960
Trust those Aussies to have an epic race with V8 Supercars. V8 Supercars is Australia’s homegrown racing series, somewhere between NASCAR and Le Mans-style racing.
The Bathurst 1000 is a 1,000-kilometre touring car race held annually on the Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia. It is currently run as a championship event for the V8 Supercars series.
V8 Supercar racing is wild, violent and very close. The cars are basically on top of each other the entire race. Every Australian driver dreams of winning Bathurst.
“The Great Race” is worth the trip to Australia for every petrol head in the world. You owe it to yourself to spend the weekend in Bathurst for this event.
Monaco Grand Prix
First Race: 1929
The Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, run since 1929 in the tight streets of Monte Carlo, is undoubtedly the most glamorous of all races. This is the race all the celebs want to be seen at.
The race tests a driver more than any other on the calendar today. It’s an incredibly tight, narrow circuit, with run-off areas far and few between. A mistake almost certainly spells the end of your day here. This street course has a plethora of twists and severe elevation changes. There is virtually no run-off, concrete barriers lining both sides of nearly the entire track.
With the rich and famous rubbing shoulders in attendance, it is for many “the” event of the year, racing or otherwise.
To get a sense for how tight this course is, watch the late Ayrton Senna (below) back in 1990 trying to manhandle his car around the track.
First Race: 1959
Unlike most other race series that hold their most prestigious race either in the middle or at the end of the racing calendar, NASCAR’s “The Great American Race” is the very first race of the season. The Daytona 500 is the pinnacle of stock car racing and in North America, only the Indy 500 rivals it in popularity.
The Daytona 500 is regarded as the most important and prestigious race on the NASCAR calendar, carrying by far the largest purse.Championship points awarded are equal to that of any other Sprint Cup race. It is also the series’ first race of the year; this phenomenon is virtually unique in sports, which tend to have championships or other major events at the end of the season rather than the start.
First Race: 1911
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway officially opened with balloon races June 5, 1909, followed by motorcycle races Aug. 14 and automobile races Aug. 19.
The Indianapolis 500 is an automobile race held annually at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana, an enclave suburb of Indianapolis, Indiana. The event is held over Memorial Day (originally Decoration Day) weekend, which is typically the last weekend in May. It is contested as part of the Verizon IndyCar Series, the top level of American Championship Car racing, an open-wheel formula colloquially known as “Indy Car Racing”. The name of the race is often shortened to Indy 500.
A crash at Indy is almost always big, and if you haven’t hit the wall yet, there’s a good chance that you will. It is the race that preceded all others and to this day, is the one everyone wants to win. “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” the Indy 500 is known around the world for its incredibly high average speeds — qualifying laps in excess of 220 mph average are the norm. With traditions such as a bottle of milk being presented to the winner and the kissing of the brick finish line (the venue was once paved entirely in bricks and is still known as the “Brickyard”), the Indy 500 and its legion of famous winners continues to be America’s open-wheeled race to win.
24 Hours of Le Mans
First Race: 1923
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is one of the world’s oldest active sports car race in endurance racing, held annually since 1923 near the town of Le Mans, France.
It is one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world and is often called the “Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency”. Teams must balance outright speed with the endurance required to complete a full 24-hour race — come rain or shine, day or night, dusk or dawn. Perhaps like no other race, Le Mans captures every aspect of motorsports in one weekend in the French countryside. “Le Mans” style “sports car” racing is conducted with multiple classes of race cars, each with differing levels of performance, and therefore provides some of the most exciting — and harrowing — overtaking of any racing format. Teams use multiple drivers who take turns in multiple stints throughout the race. The 8.469 mile Circuit de la Sarthe consists of both permanent racetrack and public road sections, closed off for the race.
The prototypes are a way for manufacturers to display the most advanced racing technology in the world and Le Mans is the proving ground. This is, in my honest opinion, the most prestigious race in the world. And because the race is 24 hours long, there often is as much action off the track as there is on.
Honorable Mention: Belgium Grand Prix, Spa Francorchamps (F1)
Probably my favorite F1 race.
Spa is one of the best tracks in the world, with one of the best corners in the world. It is worth the time to watch one race. Perch yourself new Eau Rouge and watch F1 cars take it flat out. Sounds easy till you realize that it is a slight downhill turn that creates incredible chassis compression, followed by an uphill section with extremely high speeds. Watch the video below to get a sense of it over the years.