As motor racing goes, it doesn’t get much cooler than street circuits. Where else can you get so close to the action, embroiled in the atmosphere?
As Formula 1 heads to the Baku City Circuit this weekend, we take a look at the five coolest street tracks around the world, from the revered Circuit de Monaco to the little-known jewel in Birmingham’s crown that was the city’s SuperPrix circuit…
No list of road racing circuits would be complete without the grand-daddy of street racing, the Circuit de Monaco. With the inaugural race held in 1929, the circuit boasts almost a century of racing heritage and has hosted every big name, from Achille Varzi to Michael Schumacher.
Almost as impressive as its heritage is the track itself. Currently in its seventh iteration, the narrow circuit cuts through the Monte Carlo hillside, and as such features a number of elevation shifts and tight corners. At 2.074 miles long and with 19 turns, the track is constructed once a year in order to host the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix and either the Formula E Monaco ePrix or Historic Grand Prix of Monaco.
Isle of Man Snaefell Mountain Course
Road racing to motorcyclists is far more dangerous game, and no track is more so than the infamous Isle of Man Snaefell Mountain Course. Home to the TT and Classic TT races every year, the clockwise Snaefell Mountain Course is the longest on our list at 37.73 miles, with 219 turns.
Since the inaugural race in 1907, more than 258 riders have died in race and practice, with spectators, race officials and marshals occasionally caught up in the carnage. Despite this, the TT still proves an irresistible draw to many, and hundreds of riders turn up each year to take on the course. To give you an idea of the speed, in 2018 Peter Hickman set an average lap record of 135.452mph on a BMW S1000RR.
Part closed circuit, part public roads, the Circuit de la Sarthe is home to one of the most legendary racing events there is: the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Held on various versions of the track since 1923, it’s the oldest active sports car race in endurance racing. During today’s racing, the 50-odd cars spend up to 85% of the 8.467-mile long circuit at full throttle, reaching speeds of up to 240mph.
San Remo Circuito di Ospedaletti
Sitting on the Italian coastline in the shadow of Monaco, this little-known circuit was home to the car and motorcycle San Remo Grand Prix from 1937 to 1972.
In its three wildly different iterations, the Circuito di Ospedaletti varied from 1.157 to 2.1 miles long. What merits its place on our list is the historic motorcycle race meetings. Every other year, dozens of classics line up on the grid, with the likes of Phil Read, ‘Prince of Speed’, taking to 500cc two-stroke classics, and racing through the tiny hillside town. With little to no safety measures in place, the event is as immersive and thrilling for the spectators as it is the riders themselves…
Proof that where there’s a will, there’s a race – or five, in fact. Believe it or not, Birmingham was once home to its own namesake 2.47-mile SuperPrix. While it may not be the most obvious location for a street circuit, the city proved surprisingly popular. In fact, Stirling Moss obtained permission from Birmingham City Council to hold a race there as early as 1972, an event which never materialised.
Five races did eventually take place through the West Midlands municipality, every year from 1986 to 1990. The main event was the FIA Formula 3000 Championship (then second to F1), with support races including BTCC and Formula Ford 1600 rounds.