Top 10 racing circuits you can drive on everyday
Who says racing circuits are restricted to the wealthy and privileged? These 10 circuits can be driven on as everyday roads with your daily driver
The Automobil-Verkehrs- und Übungsstraße ('Automobile traffic and training road'), known as AVUS, is one of the best automotive tourism spots in Berlin, and is also a public road. It may be less famous than the Nürburgring Nordschleife, but can be seen on satellite maps where 1cm represents 50km, and has a dark history.
It is the oldest highway in Europe, opening 97 years ago. It held motorsport events until 1998, including Formula 1, DTM and Formula 3, and its two long straights are still in use taking traffic in and out of western Berlin.
What made the circuit so famous though was its banked turn, which at 43% is almost four times as severy banked as the fabled Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It unsurprisingly gained the name ‘the wall of death’, with nothing to stop cars being flung over the top of the banking. The track was already considered too dangerous by the late 1930s, and races that did take place used a flat turn at the northern point of the circuit from the '60s onwards.
It made the circuit no less deadly, with fatalities as late as 1995, and no racing looks set to ever take place there again. You can still admire the banked north turn though, the Mercedes-Benz cafe and the wooden grandstand as you drive past though.
To many, F1 in Australia means Adelaide, and this tree-lined, high-speed street circuit still holds Australian Supercars races to huge crowds. It’s located in the East Parklands area of the city, with the west perimeter of the track essentially preventing escape from central Adelaide when races take place.
When races aren’t on though, you can drive straight through the circuit and into central Adelaide, and admire one of Adelaide City Council’s greatest achievements. Iconic moments from the circuit’s history include Nigel Mansell’s tyre blowout in the 1986 F1 season finale, Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill’s title-deciding collision in the ‘94 Australian Grand Prix, and Mika Hakkinen’s scary crash a year later.
Head to Australia at the beginning of March to catch the Supercars action, where the Adelaide 500 acts as the curtain raiser for the 2019 season.
With motorsport having been banned in Switzerland for decades, it’s difficult to find any circuits in the country, whether they be permanent sites or city streets. This all changed when Formula E visited Zürich this year, and will relocate to Bern for its 2019 date in Switzerland.
Bern has previously hosted racing though, just a few kilometres west of the proposed FE circuit, and it hosted five world championship grand prix.
The circuit starts on the northern border of the west end of Switzerland’s capital city, and winds itself into the surrounding countryside over several miles, returning to civilisation by the train station, where the trains are always on time. Not all the roads have remained intact since the last race in 1954, but that’s unlikely to stop FE attempting a demo run there next year (or by yourself if you have a car).
Circuit de la Sarthe, France
When drivers and fans pick their favourite circuits, it is the corners they pick out as the defining features. Although the Circuit de la Sarthe can boast some of the best corners on the planet, it is more famous for the Mulsanne Straight, which sends drivers in the Le Mans 24 Hours at speeds of over 200mph towards the direction of the Mulsanne village, before making a sharp right turn.
This six kilometre straight is now punctured by two chicanes to prevent Le Mans prototypes reaching dangerously high speeds, and has a far lower speed limit than 200mph in its everyday use as the D338. There is very little of the circuit that isn’t public roads, and after turning right at Mulsanne you can follow it up to the beginning of the famous Porsche Curves.
Long Beach, USA
It’s also no stranger to sportscars and FE, and famous names to have won there include Nelson Piquet, Niki Lauda, Mario Andretti, Al Unser Jr and Alex Zanardi.
The roads are easily accessible and offer a great view of the Californian coast. What’s more, you can ride the curb at the Dolphin statue roundabout just like the racing drivers do.
Based on top of a mountain overlooking Barcelona, this scary twisting circuit held the Spanish Grand Prix on four occasions between 1968 and ‘75. Its final grand prix marked the first time a female driver scored points in a world championship F1 race, but was also marred by several spectator fatalities when a car speared off.
Motorcycle racing continued at Montjuïc and, eventually, car racing returned for special events. What marks out the location now though is its status as the sports hub of Barcelona, with an athletics stadium, professional tennis club, indoor sporting facilities and large park space for exercise. All you have to do is drive up the mountain, have a crack at some of the old circuit, find somewhere to park and then get your running gear on.
At a massive 25.8km (16.03 miles), the Pescara circuit is the longest to have ever held an F1 race. It was narrow, bumpy, unclear where it was headed at times, and above all absolutely in ignorance of health and safety. It travelled through several hillside villages, who were probably terrified of the high-speed machinery headed their way, and had two super long straights.
The elevation change was also ridiculous, with it peaking at 185m above sea level. Most of its races were non-world championship events, although in 1957 it did have the status of being a points scoring event. Even Enzo Ferrari was scared of sending his cars to race there, and the organisers shared some of those fears, as they installed an artificial chicane. If you ever head there, be careful.
Marina Bay, Singapore
A modern classic at just a decade old, Singapore’s F1 night race is one of the highlights of the motorsport calendar, and takes place on a challenging but thoroughly enjoyable circuit, which is mostly free to use by all other drivers on 51 weekends of the year.
There’s been a huge amount of drama there in its small number of grand prixs, including the start line crash between the two Ferraris and Max Verstappen’s Red Bull last year and Renault’s ‘crashgate’ scandal in 2008. The circuit layout also provides great racing, with the infamous Singapore Sling chicane, which was the starting point of a stunning out of control overtake by Felipe Massa on Ayrton Senna’s nephew Bruno in 2012.
Circuit de Monaco, Monaco
The grand prix they all want to win. For such a small country, Monaco has a huge international reputation, helped mostly by its long-living street circuit, which has hosted F1 since 1950.
Nearly every corner can be driven as is in a road car, including the tricky tunnel section, and with it being the slowest circuit on the F1 calendar, it is the closest one can get to replicating grand prix speeds in their daily runaround.
Although there’s unlikely to be pile-ups, getting in a long line of traffic at certain corners is a given, with the tiny principality being host to a huge number of people and cars.
Potrero de los Funes, Argentina
One of the most beautiful, and easily forgotten circuits in the world is Portrero de los Funes, which wraps itself around a volcanic lake in the mountains of Argentina and is the most southernly circuit on the planet. It hosted FIA GT races in the late 2000s and early 2010s, with universal praise from drivers and fans thanks to its undulation and high-speed turns.
Racing sadly stopped there after just a few years, but the lake-side road and its incredible number of corners still exists, and has an average speed of over 100mph. It’s definitely one to put on the bucket list.
Next: The greatest race transporters from F1 and sports car racing
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