So you’ve been to Le Mans more times than you can count and you could navigate the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife with your eyes closed (not that you would actually try). It’s time for some real bucket list stuff, so here are five petrolhead adventures that will truly take you off the beaten track.
The Arctic Circle Raceway, Norway
Car racing with a great backdrop in Norway
Norway has a reputation for endless miles of rugged landscape, coniferous forests, icy lakes and snow-capped peaks. As far as roads go, the Atlantic Ocean Road is pretty legendary, but speed limits are particularly low at 80km per hour on motorways, so this is where the Arctic Circle Raceway comes in.
As the northernmost racetrack in the world, just 30km south of the Arctic Circle, the Arctic Circle Raceway was built in 1995 on a former quarry, between dark green forest and mountains that disappear into the clouds. With 13 corners and elevation changes of up to 31 metres, the track is mostly used for motor-bike racing, but there are track days for four-wheel enthusiasts too. The location may be remote but you can still get a comfortable night’s sleep at the highly rated Clarion Collection Hotel Helma, just a 35-minute drive away.
Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, USA
After 1,440 metres of gruelling ascent, you can touch the sign plate on top of the mountain
No wonder it’s known as The Race to the Clouds; the Pikes Peak Hill Climb is 1,440 metres of gruelling ascent, with 156 turns over 19.99km. It has been taking place for over a century – starting in 1916 – and has the particularity of being open to just about every type of vehicle. This means that you will see vintage motorbikes, cutting-edge electric vehicles, open wheel race cars and everything in between. Pikes Peak is located in Colorado, towards the lower section of the Rocky Mountains. The race starts in dense forest but as drivers climb, the vegetation becomes increasingly sparse until the finish line, at a height of just over 4,300 metres. The twists and turns are not the only challenge, and participants have to be extra careful while they battle the high altitude since there are none of the classic racetrack barriers and pit stops. After the adrenalin rush of the race, relax at the elegant, 1800’s-style Cliff House at Pikes Peak.
The Mongol Rally, Western Europe to Siberia
Camp amid remote rural scenery along the Mongol Rally route
The Mongol Rally has only three rules;
1) Your vehicle must be small and have an engine of 1l or less, or 125cc for 2-wheelers.
2) There is absolutely no assistance – you’re on your own.
3) You must raise at least £1000 for charity to take part.
Each year, about 250-300 teams set out from Western Europe and drive to Siberia, via Mongolia. That’s about 15,000km on a relatively direct route, though participants have travelled as far south as Iran or Pakistan, and as far north as the Arctic Circle. After 2-3 weeks of intense adventure, you will be glad to sleep in a clean, comfortable bed at Hotel Shumak in Ulan-Ude, where the finish line awaits.
The Carrera Panamericana is one of the world's most exciting, high-speed rallies
Serpenting across Mexico over 3,200km, the Carrera Panamericana puts an adrenaline-inducing twist on vintage rally racing. Under the classic car body shells lie modern technology and power, propelling 1950’s Studebakers and Porsche 356s along the perilous mountain routes. Although the Carrera Panamericana stopped in its original form in 1954 after only five years, its revival in 1988 catapulted it back into spotlight as one of the world’s most exciting, high-speed rallies. Although safety measures have been increased, thanks to the efforts and support of the Mexican authorities, you will still see drivers racing at top speeds on specially closed public roads. Spectators and participants sing the praises of local hospitality and the passion that comes through during the event. Prolong the pleasure after the race at Chaya B&B Boutique in Mexico City.
Bonneville Speedway, USA
On the way to speed week aka Bonneville Speedway
The surreal salt flats in Bonneville, Utah, are the place where land speed records are set. Once a year, it’s also home to Bonneville Speed Week. The mellow, friendly vibe contrasts with the gathering’s theme, and spectators are even encouraged to hang out in the pits and get chatting with participants. The categories are too many to count, meaning you’ll see anything from vintage motorbikes and hotrods to speed machines that hit over 640km per hour. The scenery is just as impressive as the speeds. A blindingly white surface stretches for miles, and dark mountains rise up in the distance. Many who go compare it to the surface of the moon. At the end of the day, rinse off the salt and relax at the Best Western Plus – Wendover Inn.