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SEE | 5 of the most sacred racetracks in the world, steeped in history

2019-11-06 14:00

Robin Classen

Nurburgring track at night

Image: iStock / Getty Images Plus

Cars and motorsport go together like bread and butter with the world's best drivers tackling some of the most intense and challenging global circuits around the world.

There are thousands of tracks all over the globe but there are a select few held in high regard by drivers and aficionados alike.

Racing heaven

One of the most famous racetracks known across the world has to be the Nurburgring Nordschleife in Germany.

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The Circuit de la Sarthe in France is another iconic venue where high-performance machines pit it out at breakneck speeds. 

While some are tougher than others, there are also a few with unique attributes. Fuji Speedway, placed in the foothills of Mount Fuji in Japan and the 'Corkscrew' corner at the WeatherTech Raceway are a couple that comes to mind.

If you could drive on any track in the world, which one would it be and why? Or, if you know of any other track that should be included on this list, email us and let us know.

1. Nurburgring Nordschleife (Germany)

Based in Nurburg near the Belgian border, it is the longest track in the world with an overall length of 22.8km with 173 turns in total. It has become a measurement tool for performance cars but has also seen its fair share of crashes and heart-stopping moments since its official opening in June 1927.

Formula 1 pilot Sir John Young Jackie Stewart first coined the now-famous nickname 'Green Hell' (or Grüne Hölle in German) mainly because of its location that takes drivers through the Eifel forests.

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The track has undergone a host of changes over the years, making it accessible for a greater influx of motorsport events including Formula 1 and the 24 Hour Endurance race.

2. Circuit de la Sarthe (France)

This track is perhaps well-known for hosting the annual 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. Although not as challenging as the Nurburgring, it has a length of 13km where more than 80% of a driver's lap time is spent on the throttle.

The Mulsanne straight is the highlight with a 6km span where drivers can push their cars in excess of 260km/h. As of 1990, it has seen the inclusion of two chicanes in the middle of the free-flowing straight.

The track has seen plenty of moments over the years - from the scene of the 'flying' CLK GTR in 1999 to Mazda becoming the first Japanese manufacturer to win the title back in 1991.

3. Laguna Seca (USA)

It might be called the WeatherTech Raceway at present, but many race fans still refer to it simply as Laguna Seca. First opened in 1957, it pales in comparison to some of the other tracks around the world in terms of length, measuring only 3.6km.

The track is positioned where a lake bed once was and with a bit of reconstruction, turned into one of the most popular race venues in the world. Much has been made of the famous 'Corkscrew' chicane where many a driver has wiped out on the blinding left-right decline.

4. Twin Ring Motegi (Japan)

Originally known as the Motegi, but the inclusion of a 2.4km oval course gave rise to the name it is now. Built by Honda in 1997, the track is relatively new and has been featured in many a video game, getting its name from the area it is situated in and because it comprises of an oval and road course with lengths of 2.4 and 4.8km respectively.

A year after it was opened, it hosted a NASCAR Cup Series exhibition race and claimed the accolade of being the first oval track race in the country. Indycar also became a prominent racing fixture on the circuit until it was axed in 2011.

5. Spa-Francorchamps

This Belgian track is a favourite on the Formula 1 calendar. The Eau Rouge/Raidillon corner is a tricky part of the track where drivers often tackle it flat out - some more fortunate than others.

Special mention: SA's Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit

The circuit has a rich racing history with greats like Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher tackling the famous track in the 1993 South African Grand Prix. The first grand prix was held at Kyalami in 1967. In 1975 local boy Jody Scheckter took victory of the South African Grand Prix, while in 1977 the event saw one of the most gruesome crashes in history when Tom Pryce was killed when he hit and killed track marshal Jansen Van Vuuren at full speed. Niki Lauda won the race that year. Apartheid was the cause of the sport coming to a halt in SA, before it resumed in 1991.

Later in November, the popular grand prix circuit will play host to the Kyalami 9 Hour endurance race after a 37 year absence - an historic moment for the country. Porsche and Kyalami CEO Toby Venter has since bought and invested plenty of money into the track, transforming it into a venue excelling international standards.

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