When street racing
turns mean

When street racing turns mean 01

Baku to the future
The Baku city circuit is unconventional for a number of reasons. For a start, when it first appeared on the calendar in 2016, it was known as the ‘European Grand Prix’ – despite not actually being in Europe. Leaving that aside, it’s incredibly long – second only to Spa-Francorchamps on the F1 calendar – incredibly fast, and incredibly narrow, with a section of cobbled road that even requires asphalting every year to make it vaguely suitable for racing cars. As a circuit, it makes absolutely no sense at all – but that’s why we love it. However, it’s far from being the only street circuit that was seemingly dreamed up by somebody partaking of mind-bending substances. Check out five of these classic examples from the past:

When street racing turns mean 02

- Caesars Palace
Proving that America is seriously big in everything it does, a Formula 1 Grand Prix was once held there in a car park. Not just any old car park though: it was the Caesar’s Palace car park, for the short-lived Las Vegas Grand Prix, from 1981 to 1982. As there was no permanent track in Las Vegas (in fact, not in the entirety of Nevada) a makeshift layout was laid out using concrete Armco: a bit like a supersized go-kart circuit. The drivers said that the track was somewhat confusing as there was a never a decent view of where the next corner went. Fair to say, it wasn’t a massive success.

- Vila Real
Sir Stirling Moss described Vila Real in Portugal as one of his favourite tracks – and who are we to argue? Vila Real was a crazy rollercoaster rush through the town of the same name in the Algarve, which included a narrow bridge over a vertiginous ravine in its original layout. A shorter version of this urban Nordschliefe is still used now for touring car racing, although unsurprisingly the bridge over the sheer drop has gone. 

- Dallas
Another American circuit that seemed like a good idea at the time. It was conceived to showcase Dallas as a world class city in 1984, but the only thing that it managed to produce was world class heat: up to 40 degrees centigrade. This had the effect of breaking up the asphalt into visible trenches, while making both cars and drivers expire at regular intervals. Nigel Mansell famously fainted, while only eight cars got to the finish. After the one-off race in 1984, it was never tried again. 

- Avus
Avus, in Germany, counted as a street circuit as it was actually part of Autobahn 11, near Berlin. It was also probably the most uninspired track in history, consisting just of two parallel straights, linked by a pair banked hairpin corners at each end. It only hosted one grand prix, in 1959, but was used subsequently by Formula 3 and DTM – by which point the banking had gone, the straights were drastically shortened, and a chicane had been added to introduce a third corner. By 1999, the venue had closed – although the infrastructure still exists today as a historic curiosity.

- Madonie
Technically speaking, the 72-kilometre Circuito delle Madonie, better known as the venue for the Targa Florio, is a street circuit. Yes, those streets take in mountains and villages in a terrifying loop around Sicily, but they are streets nonetheless. Quite possibly this was the most dangerous circuit ever dreamed of, requiring the sort of senseless courage you might need for naked bullfighting, so it’s no surprise that it was banned in 1977.

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