Ever since man built the first automobile at the end of the 19th century, he has measured his driving skills against others. In the course of the decades in Europe and all over the world, great new racetracks have been constantly constructed, all of which have their own special charms. Yet, as incomparable as they are, they have one thing in common: the designers from Porsche to Ferrari to Dodge are always chasing after new records and trophies.
There are some world-renowned speedways across Europe from the UK to Portugal. Gizmowo.com presents the 15 most famous racetracks in Europe.
The Nürburgring is legendary. The entire circuit was built in 1925 and was originally 28 kilometers long, but the southern section quickly fell into disuse. The Nordschleife is the actual racing course. 73 curves characterize this extremely demanding race track with various climbs and descents. It is in the Eifel; the climate in the so-called Green Hell is treacherous. Rain and fog sometimes appear quickly and disappear again just as quickly.
The slope is not only difficult to drive but also dangerous. Niki Lauda almost died in a fatal accident in 1976, from which he still has burn scars to this day. Since 1976, Formula 1 racers have not driven on the Nordschleife; in 1984, a smoother circuit was opened. Today there are no more Formula 1 races on the Nürburgring, the last winner in 2013 was Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull Renault. Long-distance races and various series will continue to be held at the Nürburgring, and tourist drives are also possible. And with your own car. Rides in a racing taxi are also possible.
Located in Baden-Württemberg is this venerable Hockenheimring, where not only has Formula One been a guest many times but also many races of the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) are held. Each season starts at the Hockenheimring – and the finale also takes place here. Long straights were once a feature of this high-speed track, built in 1932, but following the 2002 renovation, the circuit was shortened and smoothed out. As a result, 120,000 fans can be seated at the Hockenheimring.
Tourist drives are also possible by arrangement: car lovers can put their foot down on the gas pedal and get a real racing feeling.
The automobile and traffic practice road (short: AVUS) in Berlin was completed in 1921 and was intended to make German cars competitive worldwide. Five years later, the first German Grand Prix was held here. The racetrack, designed as a test track, was particularly suitable for testing the performance of tires and engines. The track consisted of two straights connected by two corners.
In 1936, at the instigation of Adolf Hitler, the famous banked curve was built on the AVUS, which was pulled up at a 44-degree angle and demolished again in 1967. As a result, races have hardly been held on the Avus in recent years, and even the German touring cars, who measured their strength here for a short time, were unable to save the AVUS. The last official race took place here in 1999.
Since the year 2000, the Lausitzring, which bears the official name “Eurospeedway Lausitz,” has been used for Grand Prix and Speedway races, but also as a test track. Located in Klettwitz, Brandenburg, around 50 kilometers from Cottbus, the Tri-Oval is particularly suitable for high-speed races. Among other things, the German Touring Car Championship stops here and inspires up to 110,000 spectators.
Monte Carlo Rally, France
This rally is considered the mother of this racing sport. The best drivers in the world brought her legendary victories: Walter Röhrl, Tommi Mäkinen, Sebastian Loeb, and Sebastian Ogier set record times here.
Characteristic of this route are the mountain passes on which there is regular snow. In addition, the weather in the French Alps is difficult to predict. Known as the “Night of the Long Knives,” the stage over the Col de Turini, with its hairpin bends in the mountains, is one of the toughest tasks in rallying.
Monte Carlo Formula 1, Circuit de Monaco, France
The street circuit is probably the most famous Formula 1 track of all time. There are hardly any run-off zones and, therefore, hardly any overtaking maneuvers. Drivers have to concentrate enormously as they regularly drive at high speeds just inches from the walls to squeeze out those last tenths. The first race took place here in 1929.
Alongside the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Monaco Grand Prix is one of the three crowns of auto racing. The legendary Ayrton Senna took the most pole positions (five) and won (six) here.
Le Mans, France
The famous 24-hour race of Le Mans is held on the Circuit de 24 Heures. The circuit is a little over 13 kilometers long. The high percentage of full throttle is a particular challenge for people and cars. Around 85 percent of the route can be completed at top speed, including a six-kilometer straight. However, this was mitigated due to the increased risk of accidents caused by enormous speeds and tire wear. There have been two chicanes since the late 1980s, meaning that the speed record set by Roger Dorchy in a 1988 Peugeot-engined P87 has stood at 405 km/h for two decades.
The high-speed track in Monza – Formula 1 cars reach around 370 kilometers per hour here – is considered one of the most dangerous in the world. In the almost 100-year history of the racetrack in the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, slipstream duels on the long straight have resulted in various fatal accidents in which not only drivers but also spectators died. The most serious accident happened in 1928. Apart from the pilot Emilio Materassi, an accident also ended fatally for 22 spectators. In 1961, the title candidate and posthumous runner-up, Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips, had an accident. 15 spectators died with him. Jochen Rindt also died on the track in Monza. His points advantage at that point made the Lotus driver the only Formula 1 driver in history to become world champion after his death.
The most successful driver in Monza is Lewis Hamilton, who has won five times in a Mercedes in the past seven years (as of 2018). Michael Schumacher also achieved five victories on this route in a Ferrari.
Until 2006, Formula 1 races were held at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. Not far from the headquarters in Maranello, this Grand Prix has always been considered a home game for Ferrari. So it is not surprising that Michael Schumacher is the absolute record driver in Imola. “Schumi” won here seven times, six of them in the Ferrari.
The circuit gained notoriety in 1994. Roland Ratzenberger died while training on Saturday, and the following Sunday, multiple world champion Ayrton Senna died in a race. As a result, several places on the route were defused in order to reduce speed. In 2007, Imola was removed from the Formula 1 racing calendar and heavily rebuilt. Since then, various races have taken place here, including the Imola Classic and the Porsche Festival.
The first race in the history of Formula 1 took place in Great Britain, Giuseppe Farina won in the Alfa Romeo at Silverstone. A total of 52 Formula 1 races were held here, with Lewis Hamilton and Alain Prost each winning five times. Several motorcycle races and various series are also held here. The route is based on runways used by the Royal Air Force, which built a military airfield here in 1943. After World War II ended, the airfield was converted into a race track. The circuit, which originally consisted only of straights and connecting hairpin bends, has been repeatedly modified, most recently in 2010. Silverstone now has 18 bends over almost six kilometers in length.
Brands Hatch, UK
Located near London, Brands Hatch has hosted racing since 1926. Almost 100 years ago, however, the participants still started on a grass track. Today it is mainly touring car drivers who measure their strength. Formula 1 races have also been held here over the years, eleven in all, the last in 1986. Austrian Niki Lauda won three times – twice in a McLaren and once in a Ferrari. The route is considered challenging because it is not flat, and there are also changes in light and shadow as the course leads through a forest. Several fast right-hand bends challenge the drivers as well as the racing cars. The touring cars reach speeds of up to 250 km/h at the fastest point on the route, while the hairpin bend is the slowest at around 75 km/h.
The race track on the North Sea was built shortly after the end of World War II. From the early 1950s to the 1980s, it was an integral part of the Formula 1 circus. Several fatal accidents, including the death of Brit Roger Williamson in his car in 1973, ensured that Zandvoort was no longer on the Formula 1 calendar. Nevertheless, a German was victorious here: Wolfgang von Trips drove his Ferrari to first place in 1961. However, nobody dominated the Dutch Grand Prix as well as Jim Clark in the Lotus. From 1963 to 1967, he was on top of the podium four times, only interrupted by Jack Brabham in 1966.
In the meantime, mainly touring cars do their rounds here; both the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) and the World Touring Car Championship are held in the Netherlands. What makes the track in Zandvoort special is that the drivers have to struggle with dune sand. This is carried by the coastal wind onto the track and makes it slippery. The course is also hilly. The Circuit Zandvoort is considered the most demanding in the DTM.
Spa Francorchamps, Belgium
The Belgian Grand Prix has been part of Formula 1 since 1950 – with a few interruptions. Up to 84,000 spectators cheer on the drivers who have to show their skills on the seven-kilometer track with 21 corners. The centrifugal forces are high because the drivers have to overcome an altitude difference of around 100 meters per lap. This is why Spa is also known as the “Ardennes roller coaster.” Among other things, the “Eau Rouge” depression is notorious. The ambiance in the midst of fir forests is also unique.
In earlier years, the route led over roads that were otherwise used by the public. Therefore, among other things, manhole covers were also part of the circuit. The weather in the Ardennes can hardly be calculated. Some sections of the route are dry, while in other areas, it rains heavily. At the end of the 1970s, the length of the route was halved, the greatest dangers were banned, and run-off zones were created. Michael Schumacher has a special relationship with Spa: He drove his first race here in 1991 and clinched his first victory in 1992. Overall, the Kerpener won six times here – nobody did that more often.
The Circuito do Estoril represented Portugal’s racing: For years, this circuit was the country’s best-known track and was also famous beyond the borders. Formula 1 races took place here 13 times in the 1980s and 1990s, with Alain Prost winning a McLaren and Nigel Mansell winning a Williams and a Ferrari three times each. Today, various racing series do their rounds here. A very long straight, two switchbacks, and a difference in altitude characterize the route in Estoril.
Since 1986, Formula 1 has been a frequent guest in Hungary at the Hungaroring. During the Cold War, this station was the first in a communist country. The circuit near Budapest is also an integral part of the DTM calendar. Since the track was built in a valley, spectators can follow large parts of the race from the grandstands – an absolute rarity. In addition, the track is very narrow, so overtaking maneuvers are rare.