JAN 28th 2016

The Six Greatest Spectacles In Motorsport

This weekend’s Monte Carlo Rally once again treated us to one of the great spectacles in motorsport – the night running of the legendary Col de Turini stage. With or without snow, the glare of headlights, bright flashes of flame, and riotous crowd, make the Turini an unforgettable sight. If you missed it, here are some other stand-out moments to look forward to this year.

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Colin’s Crest, Rally Sweden (above)

Other drivers have won more rallies and amassed more championships, but has anyone, in the history of rallying, had more natural speed than Colin McRae? For that matter, has anyone, in any form of motorsport, driven with more flair than Britain’s first World Rally Champion? McRae Jr knew only one speed: on tarmac, gravel, snow or ice, through sinuous Alpine hairpins or flowing Finnish sweeps, he was flat-out everywhere, on every stage of every rally he contested. What better tribute, then, than for a jump on the Vargåsen stage of Rally Sweden to be renamed ‘Colin’s Crest’, with an award for the longest leap, encouraging drivers to channel their inner McRae. Predictably, zealous rally fans flock to the area in their droves, creating a fevered (if somewhat chilly) atmosphere. The record? Thierry Neuville, with a distance of 44m…

Final Lap of the Daytona 500

Much like the Indy 500, the Daytona 500 is more than just a race – it’s like a mini-season in its own right, with a (to the casual observer) bewildering series of qualifying races spread out over more than a week before race day proper even dawns. The nature of racing on superspeedways (of which Daytona is one, along with Talladega) has changed since the introduction of restrictor plates in the late 1980s; sapped of power, it makes draft strategy crucial, and pack racing is now the norm. As well as the sheer energy of the field bump-drafting their way around the high banking, pounding along, inches apart, at 190mph+ greatly increases the chances of “The Big One” (as NASCAR fans refer to multi-car pile-ups) on the run to the flag. All of which gives the last few laps, when the race is invariably decided, an edge-of-seat appeal like no other.

First lap of Monaco Grand Prix

As a race, Monaco is a bit of a non-starter, but as a showcase for the glamour of Formula 1, it is without equal. You could argue that qualifying is the most dramatic part of the weekend, and also the most important, but for spectacle, the opening lap takes a lot of beating. Leaving the line in an explosion of horsepower, drivers first have to negotiate Ste Devote, before charging up Beau Rivage, threading their way through Casino Square, jinking in turn around the hump into Mirabeau, and then flooding down the hill to the Station/Loews/Grand Hotel (delete according to age) hairpin and on through Portier to the Tunnel. Anachronistic it may be, but it’s a sight like no other in motorsport.

Start of the Indy 500

This year marks the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. The practice and qualifying process may now be a condensed version of the old ‘Month of May’, but race day itself still has all the pomp and ceremony you would expect from the self-proclaimed “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”. Starting at 6am with the firing of a mortar round to signify gates opening, the race build-up is a strictly-adhered-to sequence involving marching bands, fly-pasts, driver introductions, singing (most notably ‘Back Home Again In Indiana’), a massive balloon release, and finally, the famous command: ‘(Ladies and) Gentlemen, start your engines’. After that, the race itself could seem like an anticlimax…

Finish of the Le Mans 24 Hours

Since its first running in 1923, Les Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans has changed almost beyond recognition. What started out as a hare-and-tortoise test of endurance has evolved into a no-holds-barred 24-hour sprint, with cars racing flat-out from start to finish. One thing remains constant, however: getting to the end of 24 hours is a remarkable achievement for cars and drivers alike. The end of the race is a fitting climax to a day and night of racing, with flag-waving marshals, choreographed formation finish, and a podium celebration which mixes unbridled joy with chronic exhaustion, in front of a delirious crowd who’ve reached the end of their own, somewhat different, marathon.

A Ferrari win at Monza

The current Monza podium, which extends across the pit lane and out over the track, creates an atmosphere like no other. Every year, the Tifosi break ranks from the grandstands and flood the entire pit straight as soon as the race is over. But one thing is guaranteed to raise the party from good-natured high spirits to borderline hysteria, and that’s a Ferrari win. All 18 of Ferrari’s World Championship era Italian Grand Prix victories have been greeted rapturously, but some stick out: Clay Regazzoni winning on a day of mixed emotions 24 hours after Jochen Rindt was killed in 1970, Jody Scheckter sealing the World Championship in 1979, or Michael Schumacher’s emotional win in 2006 after which he announced his (first) retirement. But surely nothing comes close to the scenes of unbridled joy when Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto came home first and second in 1988, less than a month after Enzo Ferrari had died. The Scuderia’s last win on home soil came courtesy of Fernando Alonso in 2010. What chance Vettel and Raikkonen challenging the Mercedes in 2016?

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