The seven best race tracks in Europe

11th December 2020
Ben Miles

Europe is full of race tracks, some excellent, some not so good. There is one though that stands out as more famous than any – the Nürburgring. So when we started writing a list of the best circuits that the continent has to offer, we decided to count the ‘Ring out. We’ve also jettisoned any tracks that are pure street circuits (Monaco, Norisring... Birmingham SuperPrix,) and Goodwood. So these are our seven favourite tracks in Europe.


Starting off with an obvious one. Spa-Francorchamps is probably the best circuit in the continent of Europe and also one of the most easily accessible. Nestled in the Ardennes forest Spa snakes its way through a layout much-changed from its original path. Once a fearsome 14km Spa is now a tad over 7km, but is one of the few circuits in the world that has not been completely neutered by a big change. The modern Spa keeps a lot of the old circuit’s character within a more manageable (and less deadly) layout. In fact that change made some legendary corners, with the open downhill hairpin at Bruxelles and the tricky, double-apex left after it at Pouhon providing some real challenges. The Eau Rouge/Raidillon complex still steals all the attention with a gradient that you just cannot believe until you see it.


The newest circuit on this list. The Algarve International Circuit was only completed in 2008, but somehow managed to escape the trap that all circuits built after about 1990 seem to have fallen straight into: it’s not boring. Portimao is actually full of character, despite conforming to all modern FIA Grade 1 criteria, signposted right at the start of the lap when the cars plummet down from the start line plateau into a fast right hander. The rest of the lap is a proper rollercoaster, making a reasonably straightforward layout a proper challenge. A first F1 race earlier this year was long overdue and well deserved and provided more of a spectacle than pretty much every other new track has provided for a decade.


They don’t call Monza the Cathedral of Speed for nothing. Probably the fastest non-oval circuit in the world Monza is more than just a collection of straights stitched together by chicanes. The challenge of corners like the endless Parabolica and the two Lesmo corners means that cars must actually be able to handle a corner rather than just be as fast as they can in a straight line. It even manages to have the best chicane in the world. Much maligned chicanes are (rightly) just known for slowing cars down in areas that are seen as too dangerous without. But the Ascari chicane, named after the last Italian to win the F1 crown, is a real challenge and great to both watch and drive. The majesty of Monza is also in its setting. In the middle of a public park in Milan, you can genuinely see people walking dogs just the other side of the fence when the racing is on. There’s also a small church just to the right of the run out of the second Lesmo. If you are in Italy and want a motorsport fix, Monza is a must.

Le Mans

The full track, not the Bugatti, and we’re breaking our own rules here a little bit, but we give the Circuit des 24 Heures a pass as it is in a large part off public roads. Like Monza, Le Mans is more than just a big straight and another bit to connect it. It manages to be several different circuits in one, with the area around the paddock feeling very much like a modern circuit, before the cars dive off out onto the public roads away toward the village of Mulsanne. Some of the best sections though are off the public road. The Porsche Curves, added to move the circuit away from the fast and dangerous Maison Blanche section, snake through close walls with prototypes on near full throttle through four very fast turns while GT cars haul their largely un-aero balanced mass around on their mechanical grip alone. Also now no longer public is the Indanapolis/Arnarge section, where the cars fly out of the forests and into a banked left before the slowest corner on the circuit, a 90-degree right. It used to be a bit more tricky, with the tyre barrier right on the exit, but now a runoff means cars sometimes overdo it, feeling they can push harder into the braking zone and finding trouble.

Oulton Park

We’ve written about Oulton Park before in our list of the best British circuits that aren’t Goodwood, but it’s just too good to miss out. A sweeping fast blast through Cheshire, Oulton Park is a must visit if you want a proper old-fashioned slice of racing. The paddock is simple and the circuit completely ruled by the land it takes. Each of its several different layouts could be on this list, with the full International Circuit a personal favourite. The rollercoaster here isn’t a massive valley like Spa or similar circuits, but rather an endless undulation through the central Fosters Circuit area. The dip and rise from the final corner at Lodge past the pits is enough to show you the character of this wonderful place.


There are a lot of race tracks in Spain these days, pretty much all of them built after 1980. But in among that mass of tarmac (all taking advantage of year-round good weather for testing and track days) there are some real gems, tracks which make you wonder why F1 continues to return to a slightly drab circuit in Catalunya. Jerez is one of those circuits, a mainstay on the MotoGP calendar but only visited once by Formula 1. Situated in Andalucia, near the charming town of Jerez (more famous for Sherry than racing), Jerez is a tricky challenge for anyone on either two or four wheels. It is a mix of hairpins, long straights and fast sweeping corners which will catch out anyone not paying full attention.


We had to fit a circuit here from Germany. It would have been Hockenheim had it not been completely neutered just under two decades ago, but sadly the modern Hockenheimring is a shadow of its former self. So we’ve picked the Shachsenring, another track far more famous for bike racing than cars. It is a real track of two halves. The first half is tight and full of long sweeping corners following immediately on from each other. After you get through turn eight it begins to open up, with four fast left handers in a row onto a main straight kinked in the middle. On four wheels the kink is fast, but manageable, on two it is a real test before a tricky left hander plunges the cars or bikes back down toward the paddock. The mix of two completely different sections make the Sachsenring a proper challenge.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

  • Sachsenring

  • Jerez

  • Oulton Park

  • Le Mans

  • Spa-Francorchamps

  • Monza

  • Portimao

  • List

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