It’s always easy to watch the likes of Formula 1, MotoGP, WRC, and WEC racing on TV and be an expert in analysis, driver ratings, and have a feeling for what it’s like.
But unless you’ve witnessed it track side, you have only half the picture.
The excitement arriving at the circuit, the buzz in the air, the chance at spotting one of your heroes. Then there’s the sound piercing the ears, the vibration against the chest, the fury at which the cars attack each corner and build speed. When it’s all over you walk away really appreciating the level of skill these drivers and riders have, even the dude/dudette in last place because you can tell by the attitude of the car or bike that they are giving it absolutely everything.
Let’s do this!
Any F1 race
Pick your favourite circuit, and go. It’s impossible to choose one circuit as it’s always a personal thing. For me it would be Spa Francorchamps sitting at Eau Rouge/Raidillon watching those overly complex, highly technical, speed monsters called Formula 1 cars pull crazy G-forces down the hill and up and over the hill. You might even get to see some overtakes! Amazing! I don’t think I’d get bored of watching racing cars scream their way through, especially obnoxiously loud classics.
Many say Monaco is the jewel in the crown, but perhaps for rich folks and drivers. Monza would be another crazy one to attend especially if Ferrari are performing well. What would be your pick?
Isle of Man TT
Controversial it may be, but the IOM TT is the last proper old school race you can witness. Equally old school are the viewing points, often inches from the riders blasting past dry stone walls, overgrown hedges, buildings, and whatever else you’re likely to see on a Sunday drive. These guys are skilful and nuts in equal amounts.
Don’t try to understand it, or rationalise it. Just be grateful that it exists and those who choose to do it, do it willingly knowing full well all the risks. Much like those who choose to climb Mt Everest every year.
Ok, there are probably a few MotoGP races which you could earmark to witness but Mugello probably has it all. Stunning old school circuit, it’s in Italy, in the hills, crazy Italian fans, Ducati, Italian riders, sunshine, and that straight leading to the first corner. Often you’ll get riders three or more abreast fighting for the same bit of tarmac at 360kph. Mega.
Throw in that loud and enthusiastic crowd, some of the closest racing you’ll ever see more often than not and you’ll come away realising that this is what racing is really all about.
Any WRC rally
What’s the closest thing you can get to the Isle of Man TT on four wheels? WRC rallying. I still rate WRC drivers over F1 drivers. Why? The speed is insane, jumps, changeable surfaces every metre, and drift control. Drivers need to master dirt, snow, and tarmac. And its end to end, not a circuit loop, so you can’t learn by coming around the same corner next lap and ‘giving a bit more’.
Plus, you can get as damn near close to the action as the TT and if you’re lucky (or unlucky for a driver and co-driver), you could end up helping them out of a ditch. Could you imagine helping to push Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes Benz F1 car out of the gravel?! Ha!
Pikes Peak (or any hill climb)
Hill climbs don’t come much bigger than Pikes Peak. What was once a dirt road up a treacherous mountain made famous by Ari Vatanen and the Climb Dance video, is now paved the entire way making for epic winged monsters to carve it to bits. Factory efforts have seen records tumble and it’s not only cars which race up to the chequered flag, it’s also bikes (although out and out sports bikes are not permitted).
Seeing the commitment through the corners with the drop off is awe inspiring. America is already great.
Le Mans is part of racing folk lore. Movies have been made, careers have started and ended, and it still has plenty of mystery. But endurance racing is a hard slog, and you’re going to have to sleep some way through it probably whether or not you intend to! It takes a dedicated follower to keep up with the strategies, classes, laps, drivers, and positions. The paddock (I’m told) is a raucous arena full of alcohol, empty cans, bottles, and rubbish with everything becoming a giant urinal. But hey, if you can get past that then kudos to you, you can always say, “I went to Le Mans”.
Another endurance event. Well actually, which one? The V8 ‘Supercars’ endurance or the GT 12 hour? Both would be equally entertaining with slightly different crowds attending. As far as engine sound goes, I don’t care who you are, hearing a bunched field of V8 Supercars roar across the mountain will set your heart racing although the GT is possibly more entertaining due to the difference in car size, behaviour, and sound.
Moving about the circuit is highly recommended and if you’re at the 12 hr, catching the early morning sunrise at golden hour while perched at the top of Skyline will almost guarantee photographic perfection.
Goodwood Members Meeting
Historic racing my friends. Loud, beautiful, fast, and scary all at the same time. Minis…. And then there’s the Minis. Watching 30-odd Minis go sideways together is hilarious viewing.
There’s real joy in seeing these old race cars battle, and battle hard. What a shame if these cars were locked away somewhere, but no, Goodwood Members Meetings entice them out, with some well known drivers taking part to achieve the honour of seeing the chequered flag first. But the honour really lies with us watching and hearing these old racers from 1930s Bentley’s to Porsche 917s roar around.
Nürburgring 24 hrs
Yet another endurance event where the party almost overshadows the race. Seeing representations of cars you can purchase in showrooms go head to head is sometimes more rewarding than watching prototypes wiz by at warp speed. The ‘Ring is unforgiving, just witness the plethora of Nürburgring ‘fail’ and crash videos on YouTube as a reminder.
Like Bathurst, it’s as much about the circuit and celebration of it as it is about the racing. The ‘Ring is unique, and despite its treachery, needs to be celebrated and protected.
Others to consider…
This may be down to a lack of interest in ovals and having never witnessed oval racing, so personal bias is probably playing a part here, but there’s no denying how important Indy 500 is to the world of motorsport. The history is incredible, the speeds generated every lap is impressive, the crowds even more impressive, the milk a little bit gross. If stadium-like viewing is for you then the Indy 500 should be on your list, and if you’re a big fan of oval racing I’d love to hear what makes oval racing awesome.
Got any others you’d like to suggest?