In the world of racing, drivers are aware of the many dangers in which life is risked every time they strap in and gear up. The danger is very real in this world of racing, but it’s also a big part of the allure of the sport as well. I want to give you the run-down of the 5 deadliest racing circuits in history.
5. Circuit des 24 Heures – France
You would think that a circuit in which upwards of 85% is spent in full throttle would not kick off this list, but alas…here we are. Host of the 24 Hours of Le Man’s race, this 8.5 mile Tarmac course is dangerous simply because of the short amount of space given to decrease from speeds of upwards of 190 mph, to 60 mph. This can be a recipe for disaster, as vehicles are prone to excessive wear and tear more easily than circuits in which cars have a chance to “rest” in the turns. The course has claimed the lives of 22 drivers in its history, many of which on the aforementioned section of track.
4. Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps – Belgium
One of my all-time favorite tracks, Spa will test the true abilities of the driver. Legendary turns and slightly relaxed safety concerns claimed its first life in the 1925 Grand Prix, during a motorcycle race where Bill Hollowell crashed into an iron fence post. Its most recent casualty was in 2013, during a Classic F3 event. Safety regulations have been routinely increased over the years in order to prevent such accidents from happening, but such is the nature of the beast.
3. Autodromo Nazionale Monza – Italy
This five mile track packs a punch, especially during the tight run off area in the Variante della Roggia turn. Many drivers have complained of the lack of run off areas in other places in the track, prompting several changes over the course’s history. To date, there have been 52 drivers and 32 spectators killed since opening in 1922. Track officials have steadily made modifications to the circuit to improve the safety for spectators and drivers alike in recent years. Thankfully the improvements have proven successful, as the most recent fatality was in 1999.
2. Indianapolis Motor Speedway – United States
Just west of Downtown Indianapolis, lies the home of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; an oval, brick and asphalt track notorious for the race which bears the same name. The facility broke ground 105 years ago, but it didn’t take long for the track to have its first recorded fatality. In 1909 Canadian driver William Bourque looked behind him, after being notified by his riding mechanic that another car was approaching. Upon glancing back, the car flipped after it hit a rut in the track, sending Boruque and his mechanic flying. Bourque suffered from a punctured lung, and severe skull fractures before succumbing to his injuries at the hospital. To date, 56 drivers have lost their lives racing for glory in Indianapolis.
1. Nürburgring – Germany
Primarily an FIA Formula One circuit, Nürburgring surpasses the others on this list in terms of craftsmanship and design. At 13 miles, the course is filled with twists and turns so intricate, new car developers use it for a testing site. While many (68 to be exact) have perished at the ‘Berg, no year was worse than 1970, when five drivers all lost their lives in the same year on the notorious track in three separate events. These fatalities were cause for new initiatives in order to change the safety of the course like the pervious entries on this list. While those 68 have perished during racing events, it’s estimated over 200 lives have been lost on the road, as the course is open to public access when races are not in session.