TAMMY: I expect that Steve and I will have different perspectives on this, him being a real racer and all. I watch on TV, attend some races in person, and study onboard video. So I'm talking top 5 as in "fun to watch be driven." Because there's only one racetrack I've ever driven on myself ... OK, that's on my list. But Steve and I live on opposite ends of the country, maybe we'll be coastally biased? This could be interesting....
- Le Mans, France. Country roads, village streets, a road course with a front straight. Day, night with no streetlights. France, for Pete's sake! And a parade of drivers that takes place through the town of Le Mans, in vintage automobiles, with a backdrop of of a gothic cathedral. Le Mans has the ambiance without the crazy-might-drive-into-the-
ocean of Monaco. Full disclosure: I haven't been to either one, but Le Mans is still #1.
- Laguna Seca, California. The corkscrew. Epic. That's really all that need be said.
- Lime Rock Park, Connecticut. Tight, technical road course in a verdant, wooded setting. A racetrack in a park. Lovely people, as noted previously.
- Long Beach, California. Temporary street course, with the best backdrop of any race in the United States: the Pacific Ocean, the harbor, and the Queen Mary (photo at right). I'm not saying it's fun to drive, but it's a great place to be!
- Road Atlanta, Georgia. It's got blind uphills, slow, tricky turns, a downhill that takes guts, and esses with a rhythm that feels like you should be dancing. It makes my list because I learned to drive there, and because it hosts epic finishes at the Petit Le Mans each year. (Look, that's me at Road Atlanta!)
STEVE: Fun topic. Tammy, I don’t see your list as West Coast-centric; it looks nicely balanced to me. I couldn’t agree more that Laguna Seca, Lime Rock, and Road Atlanta belong on the list. In fact, thanks for including them – you’ve freed up my selections! Here they are. Unlike you, though, I’m going to be difficult and name mine in no particular order:
- Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium. I’m not a big Formula One guy now, but Jackie Stewart was one of my favorite drivers when I was a kid (Richard Petty and Don Garlits were the other two – how’s that for diversity?), and I recall the blend of respect, adoration and terror with which Stewart discussed Spa. It was a track that put hair on your chest. And while it, like all F1 circuits, has seen many safety improvements that subtract from the fear factor, it still features some pucker-up-and-see-if-you-can-
drive-it-flat sections that are, I believe, a racer’s biggest challenge.
- Road America, Wisconsin. Road America is this continent’s answer to Spa: elevation changes, gorgeous countryside, unpredictable weather, and fast sections that separate the men from the boys.
- Watkins Glen, New York. This is the only track on my list that I’ve driven, and boy do I love it. Smooth but not too smooth, wild elevation changes, a dozen turns per lap, nothing ridiculously slow. Driving up through the Esses in fourth gear, dead-nuts flat out through an Armco corridor that’s disturbingly close, makes me feel like a real race car driver every lap.
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Yeah, it’s an oval (well, a squared-off oval). But history, pomp and courage count for something, and nobody beats Indy on those counts. The track’s barely banked, 90-degree corners have led some to say that driving it is like going 230 mph – then turning into your driveway. To be fast at Indianapolis, you must run flat out through these corners, which requires guts few of us can even imagine.
- Monaco. What, another F1 circuit? You bet. What I love here is the sheer preposterousness of the endeavor. It was one thing to race through the streets of a tiny, elderly city when tires were four inches wide and drivers paid more attention to their ascots than to their helmets. But in today’s terrifyingly fast F1 cars, such a race is silly, unimaginable … stupid! And I say that admiringly.
TAMMY: Well, Steve, you helped me out with adding Monaco and Road America (the Kink is classic). Clearly we needed a top 10! That's our take. What do the rest of you have to say?