What are the Most tough Motor Races In The World? 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.
#1. East African Safari Rally
Few things on this Earth are as extreme as racing across the African safari. Yet that is exactly what people do who participate in the annual East African Safari Rally, a race that features more than 1,000 kilometers of timed stages, with each stage being more than 60 kilometers in length. Known to most drivers as simply the Safari Rally, this annual race involves long, arduous driving across rough African terrain and searing temperatures. This is off-road racing taken to the absolute extreme. Contestants have to run through dry desert conditions as well as jungles and flat open plains. The temperatures during the race have been known to climb north of 50 degrees Celsius, leading to many overheated engines and stranded drivers. Known to attract the toughest and roughest off-road racers in the world, this event is truly for people who are crazy.
The Safari Rally may have been dropped from the World Rally Championship calendar in 2003, but it holds a special place in the hearts of competitors and fans. As well as the long stages, high speeds and punishing terrain across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, there was the unique complication of the red dust that got into every component and crevice.
When it rained, the stages turned to sticky mud-strewn tracks with barely any traction. Long stages added to the challenge, yet many still want to the Safari back in top-flight rallying as one of the world’s great motorsport tests. Here we see Colin McRae storm to victory in his Ford Focus WRC, his 25th – and last – WRC win. Most tough Motor Races In The World
#2. The Dakar Rally
Arguably the most widely known of the extreme car races in the world, the Dakar Rally used to be known as the Paris-Dakar Rally since the race stretched from the French capital to the capital city of Senegal in Dakar. However, that event was deemed to be too dangerous and was transferred to South America, where it is held today. The ultimate off-road endurance race, drivers in the Dakar Rally have been known to succumb to heart attacks while racing over the extremely rough terrain. Competitors must cross dunes, mud, camel grass, rocks, and pass through caverns as they travel more than 500 miles each day during the course of the race. This event even caused an international incident back in 1982 when Mark Thatcher, son of then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, went missing for six days while competing in the Dakar Rally. Mark Thatcher and his co-driver were eventually found safe and sound, but not before Prime Minister Thatcher weighed in to disparage this race and those who participate in it. Most tough Motor Races In The World
#3. The Erzberg Rodeo
How difficult is the Ezberg Rodeo? Of the 500 people who entered the motorcycle race in 2011, only nine of them finished it. Held each June since 1995, the Ezberg Rodeo is a motorcycle race in the Austrian Alps that requires participants to race up the side of a working mine. Each year, about 1,500 riders qualify for the competition and about 500 people actually participate in the race. However, only about a dozen people ever actually finish. The issue is the slope that the motorcycle riders travel up in the race. It is extremely steep and difficult to get up at high speeds. Motorcycles in this race, which is sponsored by Red Bull, routinely flip over and land on the drivers. This leads to a lot of mishaps and ambulance rides down the mountainside. Still, the Ezberg Rodeo is more popular today than ever before, with competitors from 40 different countries taking part each year. Most tough Motor Races In The World
#4. The Baja 1000
Ominous, dangerous, unforgiving and cruel. These are just a few of the words that are used to describe the Baja 1000, an extreme endurance race that requires people to race more than 1,000 miles through the Mexican desert. An off-road race that takes place in Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, this annual event is distinguished by the fact that it allows various types of vehicles to compete on the same course, including motorcycles, stock cars, dune buggies, trucks and custom race cars. Oh, and spectators booby trap the course each year. Acts of blatant sabotage include digging holes and pits, blocking river flow and burying dangerous obstacles for vehicles to run into. Many spectators will also build jumps and ramps for cars to unexpectedly fly over—all for their personal amusement, of course. Racers are rightly warned to beware of large crowds of spectators in remote parts of the course since it could indicate that hidden traps have been laid down on the course. Organizers of the Baja 1000 claim that the traps add to the race’s charms. Yeah, right.
With so much space to play in, it was inevitable that Californians would find a way to make use of the Baja Peninsula. That turned out to be the Baja 1000 off-road race that quickly spawned an entire type of modified Volkswagen Beetle for competition, as well as Tamiya’s famous radio-controlled model. The race itself alternates between a loop or point-to-point course, with the former running over a shorter distance than the name suggests.
Even so, the punishing landscape makes for tough racing and purpose-built machines with huge suspension articulation dominate the podium steps. As well as these Trophy Trucks, the race is open to motorcycles, quads and ATVs. Most tough Motor Races In The World
#5. The 24 Hours Nürburgring Race
The 24 Hours Nürburgring Race is another endurance race held over 24 hours in central Germany each year. It involves touring cars and has been held since 1970 on a track that is more than 25 kilometers long. The length of each lap enables 210 qualifying cars to participate in this race each year. This race can be particularly grueling due to the winding track that becomes quite treacherous as drivers become fatigued and begin crashing into each other. Most cars also include more than one driver, adding to even more carnage when a crash inevitably happens. Billed as Germany’s premier motorsport event each year, this race attracts drivers from around the world despite the danger involved. Any 24-hour motor race is hard going, but when it’s at the daunting Nürburgring on the full 15.6-mile Nordschleife track, it takes on a whole new level of involvement. There’s also a huge grid of more than 200 cars taking part, with considerable differences in performance between the quickest and slowest. Add in the variable weather conditions that often affect each race throughout the weekend and competitors can face more challenges than in an entire season of normal circuit racing. Most tough Motor Races In The World
#6. 24 Hours of Le Mans
Races don’t come much more famous than the 24 Hours of Le Mans, held annually in France. A grueling endurance competition, Le Mans is often called the “Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency” by people in the racing world. Held each year since 1924, Le Mans is known as one leg of the Triple Crown of Motorsport—the others being the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix. The 24 Hours of Le Mans runs on the Circuit de la Sarthe in the town of Le Mans, France, and the course is comprised of a mix of closed public roads and specialist racing circuits. Teams that participate have to balance speed with their car’s ability to race for 24 hours without suffering a mechanical breakdown. With fatigue a factor, there have been many accidents and deaths at Le Mans over the years. The worst incident occurred in 1955 when more than 80 spectators and driver Pierre Levegh were killed in a single crash. Most tough Motor Races In The World
#7. The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy
The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy is a motorcycle race that has been held each June on the Isle of Man since 1907. To say that this race is dangerous would be an understatement. Over the years, this event has claimed the lives of 239 motorcycle riders, giving it claim to the most deadly race in the world. Yet despite the danger, motorcycle enthusiasts continue to run the race on ever faster bikes—some of which are equipped with sidecars. The race itself is in the format of a time trial, and is held on a street course with competitors starting the race individually 10 seconds apart from each other. Despite the dangers associated with this race, there is a ‘seniors’ category for the event. Totally crazy.
The Tourist Trophy races on the Isle of Man present a unique challenge for motorcycle competitors. The 37.73-mile course is made up entirely of public roads, so the only proper practice is during TT fortnight. This also means there’s no run-off and mistakes are often punished with serious injury or worse. However, the TT is more popular than ever thanks to its refusal to change, so it keeps its place as the ultimate test of rider and machine.
Joey Dunlop is the undisputed King of the Mountain, with 26 wins to his name between 1977 and 2000, though modern racers are now lapping at 134mph on the latest superbikes, which is 10mph faster than Dunlop’s best. Most tough Motor Races In The World
#8. Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
Speaking of challenging, how about a high speed race through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains to the highest peak? That’s what you get with the highly competitive, super dangerous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Also known as “The Race to the Clouds,” this is an annual automobile and motorcycle hill climb to the summit of Pikes Peak, which is the highest summit of the Rocky Mountains in North America. Held each year since 1916, this race is notorious for sending fire-engulfed cars tumbling down the side of the Rockies. The track for this race is only 12 miles long, but it includes 156 turns and involves climbing nearly 5,000 feet of elevation to reach the summit. Until 2011, the track was mostly made of gravel. However, now the entire thing is paved, which was supposed to make the treacherous race safer. Yet most people involved with this event claim it is more dangerous now that the track has been paved since drivers go at faster speeds than ever before. Most tough Motor Races In The World
#9. The Rainforest Challenge
When it comes to 4×4 racing, few races are as grueling as the Rainforest Challenge. This is a six day race through Malaysia’s jungles using 4×4 jeeps and off-road vehicles. Along the way, competitors have to contend with dense jungle vegetation, mud, monsoon rains, raging rivers, snakes and other jungle animals. Founded in 1997, this race’s motto is, appropriately, “Survival of the Fittest.” The race is purposely scheduled each year during Malaysia’s monsoon season, and drivers have to be as mentally tough as they are physically tough for this race. Did we mention that the race course runs over slippery hills, into deep gullies, across overflowing rivers and on the edges of muddy cliffs? Oh, and most years there is at least one landslide that takes out some of the contestants. It has taken some competitors as long as 10.
#10. The King of the Hammers Race
King of the Hammers is an off-road desert race held each February in Johnson Valley, California. And it is about as tough a race as there is in the United States. More than 400 teams and 30,000 spectators come out each year for this event, which sees Ultra 4 desert runner vehicles drive across harsh off-road terrain and also crawl across large rocks and boulders. Founded in 2007, this race has been known to leave more than a few cars on the side of the track with blown tires and busted axles. The cars used in this race travel at speeds of more than 100 miles an hour and use modified V8 engines that can produce 800 horsepower, as well as 40 inch tires with beadlock wheels. Competitors must complete the 165 mile course in less than 14 hours or be disqualified. Most tough Motor Races In The World
#11. Land Rover G4 Challenge
The Land Rover G4 Challenge took off where the Camel Trophy ended as a month-long trial of off-road driving, navigating and team spirit for national teams in tailor-made Land Rovers. Participants in the first 2004 G4 Challenge were selected from 16 countries and had to endure 18 months of assessment for fitness, aptitude and mental strength. The 2006 event took in stages in Thailand, Laos, Brazil and Bolivia, while the planned 2008 Challenge was abandoned due to the global economic crisis. Most tough Motor Races In The World
#12. Daytona 24 Hours
The USA knows how to kickstart its racing season in fine style with the Daytona 24 Hours taking place late in January in Florida as part of the annual Speedweek festival. As it’s winter, it means the nighttime driving is much longer than at Le Mans and drivers have to cope with sustained G force due to the steep banking on much of the course.
As with its French counterpart, Daytona has been won the most times by Porsche, while Hurley Haywood and Scott Pruett share the most wins with five apiece. Most tough Motor Races In The World
#13. Tour of Britain
The Tour of Britain was part celebrity event and part grudge match between professional drivers from racing and rallying. To win this 1000-mile dash around four of England’s best circuits required skill and planning for special stages on rough roads, as well as navigating at night. The rally drivers dominated, but that didn’t stop F1’s James Hunt winning the original 1973 event in a Chevrolet Camaro (pictured).
After that, the rally crowd took over, with wins for Roger Clark, Tony Pond and Ari Vatanen. Among the more unusual cars to enter was a Mercedes 450 SLC that was a company demonstrator commandeered from the showroom for the 1976 event. Most tough Motor Races In The World
#14. Tour de France
The Tour de France remains one of the longest-running motor races in history, with the first event taking place in 1899 and the last as recently as 1986. Like the bicycle race it shares its name with, the Tour took in all corners of the country. However, rather than racing on public roads, the event consisted of 16 hillclimbs and circuit races. Total distance over the nine days was 3600 miles including competitive sections.
Bernard Consten notched up four wins in the Touring Car category before the race moved to a single combined entry in 1969. Up until the end of the Tour de France, Bernard Darniche was the most successful driver with four wins in his Lancia Stratos.
This grueling, non-stop road race was often called the Marathon de la route to acknowledge how far it strained competitors and cars. The first event ran in 1931 and the course left Spa to head in a circuitous manner to Rome before promptly turning round and heading all the way back. Depending on the year, the total distance could be as much as 3200 miles in five days on rough tracks and over mountains.
From 1961 to 1964, the route went via Sofia rather than Rome and there have been attempts to revive the event as a classic rally, but concerns over safety have prevented this.
#16. International Six Day Trial
When the International Six Days Trial started in 1913, it was more a way to prove motorcycles could cope with the poor roads of the era. After World War One, it developed into a team event, with classes for three-, four- and six-rider groups from competing nations. The event changed its name in 1981 to the International Six Days Enduro, but many still refer to it as the ISDT.
In 1964, actor Steve McQueen rode in the USA’s first ever entry in the event and the Americans needed special permission to enter communist East Germany where that year’s race took place.
#17. Peking to Paris rally
It may have been a rally, but the original Peking to Paris event in 1907 was a straightforward sprint from start to finish. The only rule was first car to Paris scooped the prize, which was a bottle of champagne and all the glory. Each car in the inaugural event carried a journalist to relay the story to their newspaper. With cars in their infancy, it was an impressive effort by Prince Scipione Borghese to win and all the more so when this included a detour to make a dinner invitation in Moscow during the race.
There have been several re-runs of the Peking to Paris since 1990, but none have been as challenging as the first dash across two continents.
#18. London to Mexico World Cup Rally
As a way of getting to the 1970 Mexico World Cup, even the keenest football fan would have baulked at 16,000 miles across Europe and South America. Still, it didn’t stop more than 100 cars entering and many driven by the biggest names in rallying at the time. They included Timo Makinen, Paddy Hopkirk, Andrew Cowan and eventual winner Hannu Mikkola (pictured).
He drove a Ford Escort fitted with a big bore 1850cc engine to cope with the high altitudes of the Andes and poor fuel quality along many sections of the route. Many stages lasted more than 500 miles driven flat out, which resulted in only 23 cars making the finish in Mexico City.
#19. Le Mans
Think of endurance racing and one name instantly comes to mind and that’s Le Mans. The 24-hour classic has been running since 1923 when it was first won by a Chenard & Walcker at an average speed of 57.21mph. By comparison, 2017’s winning Porsche 919 Hybrid averaged 129.39mph. The German firm is also the most successful over this course, with 19 wins to their name so far. Up until 1969, drivers ran across the track to jump in their cars at the start.
That year, Jacky Ickx refused to run and sauntered over instead, doing his belts up fully before driving off as a protest against the poor safety of not belting in drivers properly. It didn’t stop him winning the race in his Ford GT40.
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