Greatest Motorsport Events in the World
Here’s the list of the greatest motorsport events in the world. Twenty-two of them! Why 22? We had an idea of making the list of Top 10 greatest motorsport events in the world, as the list of the races and similar must-see events that every racing fan must have on his bucket list.
Well, we didn’t succeed. We didn’t succeed in limiting it to top 10 events, because when we started writing, we didn’t want to shrink the choice. As real petrolheads and race-loving maniacs that we are, we just kept on adding, more and more great, beautiful, must-see races, as we genuinely believe that they deserve to be on this list. Enjoy!
24 hours of Le Mans (since 1923)
24 hours of Le Mans, which was organized for the first time near the French town Le Mans in 1923, is the pinnacle of the car racing and probably the most recognizable motorsport event in the world. The two-times-around-a-clock race at Circuit de la Sarthe is currently a part of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Through the history, the race survived several changes in the world’s motorsport hierarchy and it was a part of the various racing series or the non-championship events. The race was canceled only once, due to workers strike in 1936, and of course, it wasn’t held between 1940 and 1948 because of the World War II.
Since the inaugural race, in which 33 cars raced on the 17.2-km long circuit on the public roads, this race became the playground for the most sophisticated and technologically most advanced racing cars and prototypes. After many layout changes, including the chicanes on the famous Mulsanne Straight, the length of the race track is now 13.629 km. In the 2016 race, which was the 84th edition, 60 cars participated, which is the first 60-car grid after the tragic 1955 race. The usual date for the race is mid-June.
Indianapolis 500 (since 1911)
The greatest American race is one of the world’s oldest races that still exist. The first 500-mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was organized in 1911. In 2016, the 100th edition of the Indianapolis 500 was held. Between those two milestone dates, there are thousands of heartbreaking stories, celebrations and tragedies.
Throughout the history, the Indianapolis 500 was held under the various sanctioning bodies and as a part of different championship series, even in the Formula One championship calendar between 1950 and 1960. Besides drivers who regularly competed in the American open-wheel series, the Indy 500 race always attracted drivers from all over the world as the real 200-lap long test of the bravery, with the speeds of almost 230 mph around the 2.5-mile oval. The race is held on the Memorial Day weekend (last weekend in May).
Monaco Grand Prix (since 1929)
The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the original races of the inaugural 1950 Formula One World Championship, but its history is much longer. The first Grand Prix race on the streets of Monte-Carlo was held on April 14, 1929. Since then, the narrow race track around the streets of the prestigious town, different from any other Grand Prix track, had a special place in the motorsport history and it became the part of the Triple Crown of Motorsport (together with 24h Le Mans and Indy 500).
The unique character is what made the Monaco Grand Prix and Monaco street circuit so special. The race in Monte-Carlo is a slow-speed race but it is still one of the most demanding Grand Prix races and it is the reason why most of F1 drivers want to add this race to the winning list more than any other races. The driver who won the most times (six) was Ayrton Senna.
Rallye Monte-Carlo (since 1911)
Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM) is the organizer of one more race that is among the world’s greatest races. The Rallye Monte-Carlo was organized for the first time in 1911, and it is the oldest of all rally events and is considered the most popular one of all rallies. In the early years, the concept of a rally was different, with competitors starting from different locations and traveling to Monte-Carlo.
The rally later became more compact, as other rallies in the World Rally Championship, featuring special stages in the hills near Principality of Monaco. Through the years, January-scheduled Rallye Monte-Carlo became widely known as the rally with varying weather and road conditions, unlike any other WRC event, so drivers could face dry and wet tarmac, snow, ice and mud on the same day and in the same stage. The Col de Turini mountain pass is one of the most famous rally stages in the world.
Dakar Rally (since 1979)
The intercontinental cross-country rally race, previously known as Paris – Dakar, is now just Dakar Rally, is definitely one of the top 5 most popular motorsport events in the world. It all started in 1977 when Thierry Sabine got lost in Tenere desert while competing in the Abidjan – Nice rally, so he decided to organize the regular rally in the African desert. The inaugural race started on December 26, 1978, in Paris, and finished on January 14, 1979, in Dakar, Senegal. The 182 vehicles participated in the first race.
Year by year, the number of competitors was growing, reaching its peak in 1988, with 603 vehicles in the entry list. All of those contestants wanted to pass the ultimate endurance test, sometimes more than 10,000 km long, to gain the glory. Unfortunately, through the years more than 70 people (competitors, officials, spectators) lost their lives at Dakar Rally. The 2008 event was canceled due to security threats in Mauritania and since 2009 the race took place in South America.
Isle of Man TT (since 1907)
The Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) is not only the oldest race on this list but also the craziest of all races we’ve ever seen. It’s crazy because of its mortality rate, with 266 lost lives since the inaugural race in 1907. Crazy because such a big number of fatalities didn’t stop either organizers or motorcycle racers to return every May (or June) at the 37.7-mile long Snaefell Mountain Course, that is constantly taking new victims every year. The record year was 2005, with eleven deaths on the public roads converted to the race track.
Between 1949 and 1976, the Isle of Man TT was a part of the FIM Motorcycle Grand Prix World Championship. Some of the multiple winners in that period were John Surtees, Mike Hailwood and Giacomo Agostini. Every driver who survived that crazy race deserves great respect, but the most respect goes to the current lap record holder Michael Dunlop and his uncle Joey Dunlop, who won 26 times.
Pikes Peak International Hillclimb (since 1916)
The Pikes Peak International Hillclimb (PPHIC), also known as the Race to the Clouds, is the most popular hill climb race in the world and the only race of such kind on this list. The hill climb racing is one of motorsport disciplines, but the Pikes Peak Hillclimb is out of all categories because it hosted all types of vehicles (motorcycles, cars, trucks).
The venue of this race is the 12.42-mile (20 km) long track from the bottom of the mountain to the summit of the Pikes Peak, at 4,300m altitude. Between start and finish lines, the competitors have 156 turns. The inaugural race in 1916 was the self-sanctioned event on the dirt track. Between 1946 and 1970, the race was a part of the various racing competitions (AAA, USAC), with Unsers dominating. In 2012, the whole track got a paved surface for the first time. A year later, Sebastien Loeb set the fastest ever track time with Pikes Peak special Peugeot 208 T16.
Daytona 500 (since 1959)
Daytona 500 is considered as the most important and the most prestigious stock car racing event in the NASCAR Sprint Cup calendar, so it was also called the Great American Race.
The first 500-mile race at the 2.5-mile oval track at the Daytona International Speedway was held in 1959, in the year when the speedway was opened. Since the first race, Daytona 500 had its date in February. Since 1982, the race is the season-opening event of the Cup Series. The record holder with seven wins is Richard Petty. The most remembered victory was in 1979 when Petty won after Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison crashed out and then had a fist fight in front of live TV audience.
Bathurst 1000 (since 1963)
The Bathurst 1000, the most popular Australian race surpassed the borders of Australia and became the race that attracts the drivers from all over the world, not only touring car drivers but from all other disciplines. The race originated from the Armstrong 500 race at Phillip Island in 1960, but in 1963 it was relocated to the Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst.
Until 1972, it was the 500-mile long race, since 1973 the distance was changed to 1000 kilometers. The race on the 6.2-km long track, which was traditionally run in October, was a part of different Australian saloon/touring car competitions. Since 1999, it was reserved for the V8 Supercars vehicles. The record holder with nine wins is Peter Brock. After his death in 2006, the winner’s trophy is renamed to Peter Brock Trophy.
24 hours of Nürburgring (since 1970)
After the Le Mans 24-hour race, the second endurance race on the list is the 24 hours of Nürburgring, the race for touring cars and GT cars, that was introduced in 1970. The are couple reasons. First of all, the Nurburgring Nordschleife is one the most popular and most demanding race track in the world and every race on that circuit deserves to be seen.
But, not only the track is demanding and dangerous. As the ADAC 24h Rennen Nurburgring is hosting between 150 and 200 cars, driven both by professionals and amateur drivers, the day-and-night racing on the 20.8-km long track is sometimes extremely chaotic and unpredictable. Drivers maybe don’t like it, but spectators do.
24 hours of Spa (since 1924)
The 24 hours of Spa race was held for the first time in 1924, just a year after the similar race at Le Mans. Until 1953, sports cars were running in the 24-hour race at Spa, after that the touring cars were in charge until 2000 and finally, since 2001, the race is reserved for GT cars. 24 hours of Spa is currently a part of the Blancpain Endurance Series.
12 hours of Sebring (since 1952)
12 hours of Sebring is one of the endurance classics. It takes place on the Sebring International Raceway since 1952. The idea was to bring the Le Mans style racing to the America, so except the inaugural race, that was a part of the AAA championship, the cars at Sebring were always the same as the ones at Le Mans. Since 2014, the race is a part of the IMSA Sportscar Championship, so the leading cars are no more LMP1 but DP and LMP2 prototypes.
24 hours of Daytona (since 1962)
Daytona International Speedway has one more race that has to be on the must-see list. The 24 hours of Daytona, held for the first time in 1962, is using the 3.56-mile combined road course that features the infield road course and some parts of Daytona’s oval. Together with Le Mans and Sebring, Daytona 24h is a part of the Triple Crown of Endurance Racing, because for a long time the same cars were eligible for all three races. Since 2014, the race is a part of the IMSA Sportscar Championship.
The 24 hours of Spa race was held for the first time in 1924, just a year after the similar race at Le Mans. Until 1953, sports cars were running in the 24-hour race at Spa, after that the touring cars were in charge until 2000 and finally, since 2001, the race is reserved for GT cars. 24 hours of Spa is currently the part of the Blancpain Endurance Series.
Italian Grand Prix – Monza (since 1922)
The Italian Grand Prix is one of the original events in the inaugural 1950 Formula One World Championship. The Grand Prix races at Autodromo Nazionale Monza dated from 1922 when the Italian Grand Prix was moved to Monza from Brescia. Since then, it became one of the world’s classics, together with three more original 1950 F1 races on this list.
Belgian Grand Prix – Spa (since 1925)
We already have 24 hours of Spa on this list, but the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps is something completely different and it was a good reason to come to Spa two times in one year because watching Formula One cars flying through the Eau Rouge is a really fantastic experience. Spa circuit hosted the Belgian Grand Prix for the first time in 1925, then it became one of the original Formula 1 events in 1950 and since 1985, this track is the regular host of the F1 machines.
British Grand Prix – Silverstone (since 1948)
The British Grand Prix at Silverstone was the first race of the first Formula One season in 1950, that gave Silverstone a special place in the history of world’s motorsport. Two more race tracks (Aintree and Brands Hatch) hosted F1 British Grand Prix, but Silverstone is the exclusive host since 1987, so that’s one more reason to visit this 5.89-km long historic circuit.
Macau Grand Prix (since 1954)
The Macau Grand Prix race, inaugurated in 1954, wasn’t even close to Formula One calendar, but its tradition and the unique character of the Guia 6.2-km long street circuit made this race popular among motorsport fans. The Guia circuit is the Asian version of the Monaco Grand Prix, but faster straights and tighter corners are more dangerous than the streets of Monte-Carlo. In recent years, the main category at Macau Grand Prix is Formula 3, but motorcycle riders, GT and touring car drivers also compete there.
Rally Sweden (since 1950)
For every rally in the WRC calendar, we could say that is special for some reason and someone could argue with that, but the Rally Sweden is arguably the most special of them all because it is the only snow rally in the current WRC schedule. Watching rally cars driving on the snow and ice up to 200 km/h, on the places where normal drivers couldn’t even drive, is really unique experience, so if you are planning to visit some WRC events, Rally Sweden, that took place in February, then this place must be on the top of the list.
Rally Finland (since 1951)
After visiting Sweden in February, you could return to Scandinavia in July or August, to watch Rally Finland, formerly known as 1000 Lakes Rally and now commonly called The Grand Prix of Rallying. This name was given because it is the fastest rally of them all, with maximum and average speeds on the gravel road exceeding every other rally in the WRC calendar. Because of that, the rally fans adore Rally Finland.
Baja 1000 (since 1967)
Baja 1000 is the greatest North American off-road race, much older than (more popular) Dakar Rally. The race, inaugurated in 1967, takes place at Mexican Baja California Peninsula. In recent years, the race is a part of the SCORE International championship. The race is opened for various types of vehicles, for motorcycles, ATVs, buggies or trucks. In the past, the popularity of the race attracted many famous participants that weren’t usually off-road racers, for instance, famous actors Steve McQueen or Paul Newman or NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.
The best historic race cars at special events
The list of the great races could be much longer, but we will stop at twentieth place. Now, as we announced, we will add two more non-racing events that deserve to be on the must-see list of every racing lover. The one if Goodwood Festival of Speed, the other is Mille Miglia historic race.
Goodwood Festival of Speed (since 1993)
The Festival of Speed at Goodwood House Estate, owned by Lord March (Charles Gordon-Lennox), is the annual motoring event that features hundreds of racing cars from different decades and many non-official races. The Festival was founded by Lord March in 1993, and its purpose was to bring the motor racing back to the Goodwood Hillclimb and Goodwood Circuit, the British historic race track that was in use between 1948 and 1966. The Festival of Speed is held in late June or early July. It also has a similar sister event, the Goodwood Revival Meeting, that takes place in September.
Mille Miglia Storica (since 1977)
The Mille Miglia was the famous and dangerous sports car race on the public roads of central and northern Italy between 1927 and 1957. In 1977, the Mille Miglia name was reborn as the regularity rally for the classic and vintage cars. Participation is limited for cars produced after 1957, which was the time when the original Mille Miglia was driven. So, if you want to see the #722 Stirling Moss’ winning Mercedes on the roads where he was running back in 1955, or some other of famous race cars, you have an opportunity every May. Besides race cars, the must-see place is also the Mille Miglia Museum in Brescia.