There are two kinds of people in the world; those with a need for speed, and everyone else. Some of us watch the Fast & Furious franchise with anxiety, stomping your foot into an imaginary brake pedal. Others can’t wait for the next shot of someone driving a car around hairpin cliffside turns or, in the later movies, through whirring helicopter blades. The very first car race took place back in 1895, with the participating cars running at an average speed of 10 mph. But a brand new sport was born, and over the past 125 years, the vehicles have just gotten faster and the courses more insane. Here are five of the craziest race tracks in the world.
Built back in 1922, it’s the fastest Formula One track. There are three courses, of which the Grand Prix is the longest at just over three and a half miles long. Racers can reach a top speed of 217 mph on the first straightaway before taking the unbelievable hairpin turns at speeds up to 150 mph. Improving the course’s safety is an ongoing project. Over the last 150 years, 52 drivers and 35 spectators have died.
In 1984 a Grand Prix track joined the existing course, which circled the town and a medieval castle in the Eifel woods. Sir John Young Stewart, three-time World Driver Champion, called the Nürburgring, “the green hell.” There’s no official count on how many drivers have died at the track; notably, deaths during sanctioned races are rare here. However, during public access, the course shuts down several times a day for wrecks requiring mechanical and medical intervention. Some estimates place the yearly fatalities between 3 and 12.
The Isle of Man
This motorcycle race is both the oldest and the deadliest. Every May and June, the public roads on the Isle of man shut down for two weeks. One week for racers to practice the route and a second week of time trial races. Many motorcycle racers consider it the best racecourse on the planet. Hundreds have died on the course, which runs for 38 miles around the island; the full race comprises six laps. There are over 300 turns in those 38 miles, and riders average 130 mph.
At just over four miles, it’s the longest course on the Formula One calendar. The average speed around the 19 turns is almost 150 mph, with substantial elevation changes. It was once the site of the deadliest curve in Formula One Racing; the Masta Kink. In the 1970s, during a 24-hour race, three drivers and one marshal died. Racers spotted the dismembered marshal as they rounded the Masta Kink. The course undergoes regular renovation to make it safer for drivers.
This 8.5-mile course is incredibly hard on cars, requiring drivers to be at full throttle for most of the race. It also requires extreme braking, taking competitors from over 200 mph down to 60 mph as they navigate a turn in the village of Mulsanne. It’s the site of one of the worst racing tragedies in history. The Le Mans disaster of 1955 involved three racers, killed the driver Pierre Levegh, 85 spectators and injured 130 other spectators. Levegh’s car launched over a protective barrier, bouncing once in the crowd before exploding, casting debris into the crows and Levegh’s body back onto the track.