Wednesday, June 30, 2010

10 Great Racetracks as Seen From Space

Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas
It seems somehow fitting that a city so much larger than life would have a track to match. Las Vegas Motor Speedway is actually four tracks in one — the one-third mile Bullring paved oval, a half-mile Dirt Track clay oval, The Strip drag strip and the 1.5-mile Superspeedway tri-oval. You’ll find just about everything from NASCAR stock cars and NHRA drag racers to karts running somewhere at the speedway. And Vegas being Vegas, anyone with the dough can get behind the wheel of something insanely powerful and peel off a few laps.


Circuit de la Sarthe

Le Mans, France
How far can you go in 24 hours? There’s only one place to truly answer that question: Circuit de la Sarthe in small rural town of Le Mans. The 24 Heures du Mans is the oldest endurance race in motorsports, and the place automakers go to prove their mettle
The race, first run in 1923, is run on public roads. The purpose of the race was to concentrate on sporty production cars, though these days many of the cars bear only a passing resemblance to their production counterparts. All of the major manufacturers have raced at Le Mans at some point, and the track has seen some of the great rivalries in motorsports, perhaps most famously the Ferrari-Ford rivalry.

Nurburgring
Nurburg, Germany
At more than 17 miles long with 170 corners, this track didn’t cause Sir Jackie Stewart to dub it “The Green Hell” for nothing. It was long considered the single toughest purpose-built racetrack in the world. The greatest drivers in history, including Juan Manuel Fangio, Tazio Nuvolari and Bernd Rosemeyer, fought and won here. A victory at The Nurburgring puts you in the pantheon of greats, and a lap time here remains the benchmark by which performance cars are measured.

The ‘Ring was built in 1927 as a local government project. It featured four configurations and was home to arguably the two greatest races in history: Fangio’s victory in the 1955 German Grand Prix and Tazio Nuvolari’s GP win in 1935. The track has been modified and reconfigured over the years, but it remains one of the most storied places in motorsports.


Circuit de Monaco

Monaco
In 1929, racing cars through the streets of the principality only seemed ludicrous. Today it actually is ludicrous. One-time Formula 1 champion Nelson Piquet once said racing in Monaco is like flying a helicopter in your living room. He wasn’t exaggerating. The principality’s first Grand Prix was organized in 1929 by local businessman Anthony Nogh├Ęs, and former winners read like a who’s who of racing: Schumacher, Senna, Prost, Hill, Moss … the list goes on for days.
Setting up the track takes six weeks; tearing it down requires another three. It includes the slowest turn in all of F1, the hairpin at Grand Hotel, where cars slow to 40 mph, and one of the fastest, a flat-out sweeper through a tunnel taken at 160 mph. It’s a difficult circuit that rewards skill over horsepower, and to win at Monaco is a highlight of any driver’s career.

Eldora Speedway

Rossburg, Ohio
Eldora harks back to a time when dirt-track racing was the way a young race car driver in North America made his or her name. If they survived. Tracks like this half-mile clay oval were nicknamed bullrings, not because of their shape but because they were responsible for more shattered bodies than the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas. Built in 1954, the Big E hosts the King’s Royal, the Dirt Late Model Dream and the World 100, among other events.

Circuit de Spa Francorchamps

Francorchamps, Belgium
Spa is wide open, hilly and bedeviled by treacherous weather conditions. That alone would make this track, built in 1920, among the most challenging on the planet.
Ah, but then there is Eau Rouge, a set of corners that almost literally tries to tie cars in knots. Drivers go into the turn downhill and to the left before, moments later, turning it around to go uphill and to the right, often at insane velocities. Get it wrong, and it will be more than just your car in a knot. Get it right and revel in your glory.

Philip Island Grand Prix Circuit

Philip Island, Victoria, Australia
The Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit may get Formula 1, but Philip Island gets MotoGP, which is just as badass. The first track was built in 1926, but the current track was built about mile-and-a-half away from the original. It’s had an on-again, off-again racing history, as maintenance and financing waxed and waned, but it remains Australia’s premier purpose-built track. A long high-speed straight, ridiculously fast turns and hair-raising elevation changes provide lots of excitement for riders and spectators like.

Bonneville Speedway

Great Salt Lake Desert, Utah
How fast can you go? Bonneville Speedway is the only place to answer this question. The salt flats are white as snow, hard as concrete and so vast you can see the curvature of the earth.
First used as a race track in 1912, racing on the salt flats didn’t become truly popular until the 1930s when Ab Jenkins and Sir Malcolm Campbell competed to set land speed records. The probable high point of racing on the slat flats was in the 1960s, when Art Arfons and Craig Breedlove spent months one-upping each other for the record.
Even now, the fastest of the fast prove their stuff at Bonneville.



Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida
Daytona is more than a track. It is a temple to NASCAR, where 168,000 of the faithful congregate for the biggest race of the season. Yes, NASCAR does at times seem like little more than pro wrestling with fenders. But watching 43 “stock” cars — each weighing 3,500 pounds and putting out around 700 horsepower — trading paint on this tri-oval superspeedway is a sight to behold.
The 2.5-mile banked track, opened in 1959, is one of two on the NASCAR calendar that use restrictor plates to limit the cars’ top speeds. Some of the biggest names in stock car racing have won at Daytona, including Richard Petty, Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip, to name a few. Dale Earnhardt won here, and died here, too.
The track can be configured for sports car and motorcycle racing, but the Daytona 500 remains the marquee event.Source:wired