Nick DeGroot counts down what he feels are the ten most prestigious races in the world, while also trying to choose just one race per discipline.
Choosing the ten most prestigious races in the world was no easy task. There are so many fantastic events and some are bound to be left out. To celebrate the upcoming weekend of legendary races, I've put together a list of what I believe are the ten biggest races in the world today.
NOTE: I limited this list to one race per discipline. The ten forms of racing represented are Formula One, NASCAR, IndyCar, WEC (sports car racing), V8 Supercars, GT racing, hill climb, sprint car racing, rally, and motorcycle racing.
10.) Knoxville Nationals (First Held - 1961)
For sprint car racing, this is the event they all aspire to win. Drivers dream of a chance to participate and battle for that $1,000,000. Famous dirt track racers such as Kinser, Schatz, Blaney, Saldana and Swindell have all visited victory lane here. The four day event could make or break the career of a sprint car racer as they pursue sprint car racing's premiere crown. Some will argue that the World 100 or Chili Bowl are bigger, but not in my eyes.
9.) Isle of Man TT (First Held - 1907)
If you want to reach the pinnacle of motorcycle racing and aren't afraid to stare death in the eyes around every bend, then this is the race for you. The Snafell Mountain Course is made up of hundreds of twists and turns, forcing riders to maintain an average speed well over 100mph on this 38 mile suicidal crusade to secure the checkered flag. It is widely known as the deadliest race on the planet, claiming well over 200 lives since its inception.
8.) 24 Hours of Nurburgring (First Held - 1970)
The Nurburgring is a massive, 15.5 mile circuit, nestled in the hills of Germany. You have to be somewhat mad to race here, and even crazier to partake in 24 hour event with over 200 cars. Not to mention, '"The Green Hell," as some like to call it, has claimed dozens of lives and is considered by many the most lethal race track in the world. It is a stunning race nonetheless; the ultimate test of man and machine. When it comes to GT-only events, nothing comes close to 24 hours at the track many sanctioning bodies proclaim is too dangerous to race at.
7.) Pikes Peak Hill Climb (First Held - 1916)
'The Race to the Clouds' is the king of all hill climbs. Pikes Peak ranks as one of the most challenging motorsport events in the world with its 12 mile course that runs up the side of a mountain. Each driver must master over 150 corners as they wheel their machines up towards the summit as fast as humanly possible. It takes an incredible amount of focus, tenacity, and sheer guts to conquer this event where just one mishap could send you tumbling off a cliff. There's a reason why they call it 'The Devil's playground.'
6.) Dakar Rally (First Held - 1979)
The Dakar Rally is a race that puts a whole new spin on the phrase, 'to finish first, you must first finish.' We aren't just talking about vehicles not surviving this rally; we're talking about people. Almost every year, there is someone who doesn't make it out alive. When it comes to rally racing, no race is as brutal and vicious. Baja is close, but not quite at the level that Dakar is. Drivers will find themselves stranded for days after mechanical failures with some resorting to burning their cars in a desperate attempt to signal for help.
5.) Bathurst 1000 (First Held - 1960)
The Bathurst 1000 is a V8 Supercar race held annually on a Mount Panorama. Yes, a mountain. You know it has to be a savage circuit when the first turn is nicknamed 'Hell Corner.' V8 Supercar racing is wild to begin with and when they hit the track for the Bathurst 100, it's always a captivating show. It's a highly competitive event that has come down to a last lap duel for three consecutive years now. Every Australian racer dreams of winning Bathurst and the daunting event attracts international attention with stars from all disciplines flocking to Australia for a chance to compete.
4.) Daytona 500 (First Held -1959)
The Daytona 500 is the pinnacle of stock car racing and in North America, only the Indy 500 rivals it in popularity. It is the opening round of NASCAR's grueling season and has produced some of the most spectacular moments in the sport's 65 year history. Few tracks came close in size when it was originally built, and it's located in the birthplace of NASCAR...Daytona Beach, Florida. In 1979, 'NASCAR's Superbowl' became the first race ever broadcasted live from green flag to checkered flag.The finish was nothing short of incredible, and the event drew ratings that were though the roof. That 1979 edition of this race rocketed NASCAR into the national spotlight and helped make it the multi-million dollar sport it is today. This is also the race where Dale Earnhardt, arguably the greatest stock car racer who ever lived, lost his life in a last lap crash in 2001.
3.) Monaco Grand Prix (First Held -1929)
Formula One is hands down, the most popular form of auto racing in the world. The Monaco GP has been held since 1929 though, two decades before F1 even existed. The race tests a driver more than any other on the calendar today. It's an incredibly tight, narrow circuit, with run-off areas far and few between. A mistake almost certainly spells the end of your day here. This street course has a plethora of twists and severe elevation changes. There is even a point on the track where the drivers must race through a tunnel. If it wasn't already on the F1 schedule, it wouldn't be allowed due to safety reasons. It is the ultimate test of an F1 driver and their ability. It's the one race where you don't necessarily need the best car when you have the best driver. Drivers can go their entire careers without attaining a World Championship but can still hold their head high knowing that they won Monaco.
2.) Indianapolis 500 (First Held - 1911)
The granddaddy of them all...it was an incontrovertible fact for half a century that no race in the world could hold a candle to the sacred grounds of the Brickyard. Although American open wheel racing popularity has been on the decline for a couple decades now, this race still holds great prominence in the motorsports world. It's history is fascinating, the races are breathtaking, and the drivers come from every corner of the globe for a chance to put their face on the trophy. At Indy, 33 cars bolt around a 2.5 mile circuit at speeds approaching 230 mph for 500 miles straight. It takes a lot nerve to compete here and there are some drivers, such as Mike Conway, who refuse to take part. A crash at Indy is almost always big, and if you haven't hit the wall yet, there's a good chance that you will. It is the race that preceded all others and to this day, is the one everyone wants to win.
1.) 24 Hours of Le Mans (First Held - 1923)
The lore surrounding Le Mans can't simply be explained in a handful of sentences. In fact, there probably aren't any words that can do it justice. Nearly every major race in the world has been modernized. It's been turned into a controlled, relatively safe environment. Le Mans has escaped that though. It can not be tamed. Control is not a word you associate with this event. What other race do you see drivers working tirelessly on their cars on the side of the track after a wreck? What other race can a car crash in the dead of the night and vanish for hours before being found? When you take the green flag at Le Mans, you are racing away from civilization and into the unknown, with a race car being your only salvation as you battle around a circuit 8.5 miles in length. The prototypes are a way for manufacturers to display the most advanced racing technology in the world and Le Mans is the proving ground. This is, in my honest opinion, the most prestigious race in the world.