Motorsport’s seven most challenging corners

19th August 2021
Ben Miles

It’s tricky to define “challenging” in terms of motorsport. We’ll do a list of the “best” corners in motorsport, ones that combine challenge, fun and image, later, but to find the most challenging corner is a tough one.


We think to be truly challenging you have to create conditions for danger, but also combine speed and adversity. For example that big long left hander at Sochi, turn three I think, is probably quite hard on your body, but unless someone is going up your inside, it isn’t “challenging”.

With that in mind we’ve picked a few, some that you might think are obvious, some that are perhaps a bit trickier than you first imagine. We’ve left out the whole of the Nordschleife, because we’d have to add about a hundred corners to this list, and we thought about adding our own Madgwick – a deceptively tricky double right hander, but decided to be fair to the other circuits. So these are the most challenging corners we can think of.


Pouhon – Spa-Francorchamps

You thought this was going to be Eau Rouge or Raidillon didn’t you? The Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the middle of the Ardennes forest is just littered with iconic corners and stunning visages, but the long creep of track limits and tarmac run off has made its famous left-right-left up a steep hill a bit less of a challenge than before. It’s also resulted in cars hammering up the hill too fast under the false idea that its much safer now, resulting in some serious accidents, so for now we think the Eau Rouge/Raidillion chat should be given a rest.

Instead we’re looking a mile or so up the road (and then down it) to Pouhon, a reasonably innocuous double left that is far trickier than it looks. Firstly you plunge down the hill hard into it, making judging your braking distances harder. Secondly, it emerges from a tight straight bordered by trees on one side and cliffs on the other, into bright open light, slightly dazzling you. Then it sits in a sort of middle speed that can put drivers off. It’s not super-fast, but it’s also not slow. In an F1 car it’s a downshift or two and turn, but in a 1960s Porsche 911 it’s hard on the brakes and try to get back on the power to balance the back end around. Running wide is almost as common as getting it right, no matter what you’re in. And it’s not even like it flattens out – the world seems to continue to fall away from you as you try to spot the second apex.

Turn 17 – Sebring

This is where conditions really come into play. Turn 17, or Sunset Bend as it’s often called (because the sun sets behind it), is a tightening right hander, coming at the back of the Ullman Straight, the longest blast at Sebring. You turn in on the brakes, because the first part of the corner is super open, with a lot of run off on the outside, but rather than progressively tightening, 17 shuts down quickly. You need to brave out the first bit as fast as you can and hit the brakes while managing rotation as you try to wrestle the nose into the second apex.

But, that’s not even the trickiest part, because you need to negotiate Sebring’s biggest bump. Sebring is legendary for its bumps (they’re in all the marketing messaging), but Sunset’s is the Daddy. It’s basically a yawning chasm just near the apex which will launch your car should you get your line just slightly wrong. Cars, whether they be modern or classic, will bottom out as they leave the bump, and if you hit it wrong you are going to have a bad time. Many a potential race win has disappeared on that bump.


Paddock Hill Bend – Brands Hatch

Brands Hatch is actually a lot smaller in person than it is on TV. You might think that makes it less of a challenge, but don’t be fooled. Actually it means all the compressions and changes in elevation are much, much more exaggerated than they look on screen. Paddock Hill Bend is perhaps the best example of that.

Approached after a long drag from the last corner, it is a near 90-degree right that looks like a pretty quick blast on a flat map. But Brands is everything except flat. The run to Paddock is tough enough, the start/finish “straight” is anything but and dips and climbs with a hard camber. Just as you reach the final brow it’s braking time, as the circuit begins to fall you have to try to keep the car in line, at which point you need to turn in. As you do that the world just drops away, and if you haven’t go absolutely everything gathered up in time, you better hold on tight, as it’s going to be a wild old ride.

Turn 12 – Road Atlanta

The final turn at Road Atlanta is a simple one – it’s a fast right hander leading onto the short front straight past the pits. You finish off your lap quickly and shoot off to start another one in double quick fashion. Or at least that’s how it would be if you look at the map. While Turn 12 is actually on the flat it is the approach that is anything but...

As they leave the chicane that ends the longest straight at Road Atlanta, cars climb sharply under the bridge, before cresting a rise just underneath it. There the world, a bit like Brands, just drops into a chasm. But you’ve got to keep accelerating, there’s still a run down the hill before Turn 12 attacks. When it does you’ll need to turn hard right through a compression and absolutely don’t look at the fact that there’s barely any runn-off just to the left or you’ll end up meeting it. In a modern prototype its taken flat, pretty much moving your liver into your feet, but in a historic it’s a brake-turn-slide-hope situation. Marvelous if you get it right, perilous if you don’t.

Forrest’s Elbow – Mount Panorama

The Mount Panorama Circuit at Bathurst is the home of motorsport in Australia. It’s called Mount Panorama for a reason, as the circuit starts on the outskirts of the small New South Wales city of Bathurst before racing away toward the standalone hill of Mount Panorama (or Wahluu in its original tongue). When it hits the hill the circuit climbs hard, skirting the top of the outcrop before plunging back down to the plain to rush back to the paddock. As the cars descend the Mountain, the circuit plunges through a difficult series of ever increasing s-bends and drops (the Dipper for example drops so much Aussie Supercars often raise a wheel as they turn).

The final bend of this series is call Forrest’s Elbow, approached through the narrowest imaginable track (the walls run so tight two cars could barely run side-to-side), down a steep incline. It’s the tightest of them, requiring the cars to scrub off speed while gravity attempts to prevent them from doing so. The corner itself is tight and as you approach you can see neither apex or exit, making judging that braking zone even more tricky. It may not be the toughest corner on the track, but the challenge comes in getting it absolutely right, because how you exit Forrest’s Elbow will determine how good a run you get down the long Conrod Straight, and that can easily be the decided between winning and losing. Oh and get it wrong and there is no run off at all.

Rainey Curve – Laguna Seca

Another slightly leftfield choice on a circuit with a much more famous bend. The Corkscrew may get all the plaudits and fame, but it is the corner that comes after it that is arguably the trickier. So overshadowed is Rainey Curve that it’s often referred to as just “the corner after The Corkscrew” but we would argue that it offers the greater challenge. While there’s nothing “easy” about the left/right before it, it’s still a chicane and if you get your braking right for part one the rest pretty much follows, just enjoy the ride.

Rainey however is an altogether more difficult approach, as you’re accelerating hard from exiting the Corkscrew, only to be presented by a fast, sweeping left hander on a gradual descent. It’s just about on camber, but as you approach the drop makes it hard to judge, with trees overhanging to the inside bringing shade to just disrupt your eye as you judge the apex, which is further round the corner than you can actually see. The fact that you’re still trying to get your organs back in order after the Corkscrew’s roller-coaster ride makes it all the more difficult.

Porsche 1 – Le Mans

The Porsche Curves have become an iconic part of the Circuit de la Sarthe, even though they’ve not been there for as long as you might think. In fact the old Maison Blanche flick was probably one of the most fearsome sections in the world of motorsport, but was eventually deemed too dangerous. In one of the very few times it has happened the rerouting for safety reasons actually made an equally as brilliant set of corners.

It is the first of the Porsche Curves that provides the bigger challenge. A longish sweeping right hander, the apex is on a brow and tricky to see as you approach. It also hits the transition between bumpy, debris-strewn public road and billiard table smooth racing tarmac, throwing the cars off as they approach. Arrival comes after a fast blast from Arnage, and the cars are just sweeping to the left as they have to pitch right, adding more to the mix. The road itself also appears to carry straight on – where the public highway continues – and can easily distract the mind as a driver tries to judge the braking point. Get it all right, approach, rise, camber change and surface change, and your reward is to be immediately be handed a sweeping left hander.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

  • List

  • Spa

  • Sebring

  • Laguna Seca

  • Road Atlanta

  • Brands Hatch

  • Mount Panorama

  • Le Mans

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