For many car enthusiasts, there’s something irresistible about the idea of pushing your driving skills and your car to the limits, especially when the road is empty and the weather conditions seem perfect.
However, driving with that kind of intensity on public roads is both heavily illegal and extremely dangerous. Speeding will not only get you into trouble when you are caught, but it will pose serious safety hazards. And road safety should always come first.
There are racing venues though where you can test every aspect of your driving mettle. Let’s take a look at five of the world’s most taxing track tribulations.
The Nürburgring test track in Germany is a challenging mix of technical cornering and high speeds. It’s also extremely unpredictable and treacherous. But that’s not what makes this track stand out.
At 15.2 miles, the Nürburgring is a vast and circuitous track with no less than 170 individual corners to remember and commit to muscle memory.
That’s a full ten minutes of high-speed decision-making for just one lap. By comparison, a more conventional track might require a driver to remember a 90 second sequence of turns.
One failure in concentration is all it takes to put you out of the race - and possibly in traction.
Circuit de Monaco
The streets of Monte Carlo are a tangled, beautiful and deadly mess. Combine this with insanely high speeds and you have one of the most challenging street races in the world; the Circuit de Monaco.
While the track is only 2 miles long with a comparatively meager 19 turns, the challenge of the Circuit de Monaco is that it’s a race of fast and slow. A typical driver will spend as little as 42% of this race on full throttle.
Some hairpin corners are so tight and precise as to barely allow one car to take a line through it. Yet seconds later it’s an all out pedal to the floor acceleration match for the tiniest positioning advantage. The jostling is fast, brutal and unforgiving.
If Nürburgring is all about memory and precision, the Circuit de Monaco is a race of catlike reflexes and a capacity for complete, unrelenting fearlessness behind the wheel.
Pikes Peak Hill
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb are as unpredictable as Monte Carlo’s streets but with the added high stakes of mountainous terrain and cliff drops at every corner of its over 12-mile race track.
This is the second-oldest race track in the US. It has 156 technically challenging mountainous corners, many of which are unprotected by barriers or guard rails. Throughout the race, drivers will need to negotiate a challenging 4,720 feet of elevation changes in unpredictable road conditions.
If that wasn’t challenging enough, at an altitude of over 14,000 feet, the air is so depleted of oxygen that car engines can lose up to 30% of their power in some sections of the course.
This makes this race particularly interesting as a comparison for conventional fueled versus electric vehicles, which don’t suffer from the same oxygen constraints. It’s a race where careful engine management is as an important precondition for victory as a complete lack of fear of catastrophic scenarios happening.
At 4.8 miles in length, the Bend race track in Australia is second only to Nürburgring in length. As such, it’s already entitled to high honors as a race capable of pushing the outer limits of human driving capability.
This is a track designed for tempered and well-executed speed. Split-second precision is required to handle its technical corners and 279 feet of elevation change, but then there’s free-flowing sections which involve forceful and fearless acceleration.
The hardest psychological aspect of this race though is that many turns require a complete leap of faith. As summed up perfectly by a Kawasaki racer Matt Walters, “the corners are on the gas and blind.” There are a number of drivers underestimating the Bend and its myriad challenges.
Foxhall International Raceway
Many of the world’s most challenging race circuits have a certain gravitas to them—a dignity even. The Foxhall International World Championship Banger Race is an excellent advantage of a race which possesses neither.
This inauspicious carnival of vehicular destruction thinly veiled as a race happens on a 382 meter muddy track. Cars collide, jostle and breakdown in a desperate bid to reach the finish line.
In its most recent meet, it took three full days for judges to actually reach a final decision on who won - a fitting testament to this race’s capacity for chaos.
If these races show anything, it’s that humans are incredibly inventive at getting a speed and risk adrenaline fix. Whether they involve catlike reflexes, a surgeon’s precision behind the wheel or a complete disregard for personal well-being, each of these races offer a unique flavour of challenge.