Circuit Charade Clermont-Ferrand
Probably the least well-known of our top ten, but perhaps the most charismatic, since it’s also the only circuit on our list that circumnavigates an active volcano. Plus, as the birthplace of motor racing, and thus the pursuit of performance, where better for manufacturers to one-up each other on-track than France?
Built in 1958, France, this former French Grand Prix venue weaves for just over 8km around Auvergne Mountains and – natch – fans and onlookers standing about three inches from the side of the road. In its heyday, the fast weaving layout was considered by some to be faster than the Nürburgring, and circuit plaudits rarely come bigger than that. Nowadays the compact 3.86km layout is a hot spot for Formula 3 single seater racing, but if manufacturers are really looking for the ultimate Nürburgring -esque test of precision and speed, then unleashing the 8km original for a days out of the year would be a good place to start.
Autodromo Nazionale Monza
If ever a circuit represented the passion and enthusiasm for all things motor racing, it’s Monza. As well as the barely contained enthusiasm of the Tifosi, racing has been a part of the Autodromo Nazionale since 1922 (give or take the occasional war and some fascist dictatorships), and for years took in the infamous – and lunatically steep – Pista di Alta Velocità banking, that still stand today as a timely reminder of the lives lost on-track post-war. But even today, the 5.8km layout is a legend to the sport in its elegant simplicity. Don’t let the fact that there are only 11 corners diminish Monza’s place on this list: get just one line wrong and your lap is toast. Unless your name in Alex Buncombe…
And let’s be honest, how long would Ferrari allow a non-Italian manufacturer hold a lap record on home turf? Mouth-watering proposition, isn’t it?
Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, San Marino
…which brings us to Italy’s second instalment on this list. The site of the Italian Grand Prix for only one year in 1980, the Autodromo Dino Ferrari (or Imola, to most) remained on the Formula 1 calendar until 2006, evoking memories of 1985 when the top three ran out of fuel in sight of the flag, Schumacher domination in the early 2000s, and Didier Pironi’s double cross on teammate Gille Villeneuve in 1982. And, of course, one dark weekend in 1994.
Chances of a return to the F1 calendar seem unlikely although a revised, thanks to a bevvy of safety changes, mean competition continues at a GT level, the 6 Hours of Imola one of its headline events. Small wonder, given those three massively fast (and sweeping) straights.
Set in the heart of the Elkhart Lake, Road America has been an IndyCar, American Le Mans, NASCAR and United SportsCar favourite since opening in 1955. Partly for the tree line a lot closer to the track than those pesky TV monitors would suggest. And partly because of its distinctive elevation changes. But mostly, it’s down to that heavy braking infield and the high speed straights, intercut with barely visible off-camber curves and hidden dips, perfect to send unsighted drivers straight into the barriers. Exhibit one…
Another good reason for manufacturers to eyeball Road America? The current lap record was sealed in 2000 at 1m 39s in a Team Cool Green CART by now four-time IndyCar champion and three-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti. The press release practically writes itself
Okay, we admit this is a bit of a long shot. Defunct since 1998, all that remains of the previous site of the German Grand Prix is the old wooden grandstand and the race control tower, now a restaurant. Today the main straights parallel through the Grunewald forest and form part of the Bundesautobahn, and the only turns are the 180-degree(ish) banking at the end of each near 8km straight. Still, if regulations permit, and the German government enjoys a sense of humour for just one day, we doubt we’re alone in wanting to see the newest and fastest models from Koenigsegg, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, McLaren, Pagani, et al, attempting to beat Tony Brooks’ lap record. From 1959.
We know, unlikely. Still, we can but dream…