It took two men of vision (William “Bill” France along with Bill Ward) to look beyond the bare dirt expanse and abandoned buildings that stood before them, to see the potential for what would ultimately become the biggest, fastest and most competitive super-speedway in the world – Talladega Speedway.
There were several possible sites in the Southeastern United States for the proposed speedway. Talladega, Alabama emerged as the top choice thanks to it’s accessibility to the interstate, and being in the middle of a population base of at least 20 million people within 300 miles. Over 20,000 acres of available land to construct on didn’t hurt either!
Back in 1969, the Super Speedway was called the Alabama International Motor Speedway, and in 1989 the name changed. But long before then, the track had surpassed every initial expectation in terms of sheer size, speed and competition.
With Bill France as the guiding force, construction began on the site on May 23, 1968, with the first race being the ‘Bama 400 Grand Touring race several months later on Saturday, September 13, 1969. Ken Rush drove his Camaro to Victory Lane in that event. The next day, Richard Brickhouse won the first Grand National race – the Talladega 500 (now known as the UAW-Ford 500), edging Jim Vandiver and Ramo Stott.
Putting that first race weekend on the record books wasn’t as easy as it may sound. The practice and qualifying speeds were so high (Charlie Glotzbach won the pole at 199.466 mph) that the tire companies – try as they might – could not in the time available come up with a compound that held together for many laps. The Professional Drivers Association (PDA), led by Richard Petty, declared the situation unsafe, and left the track Saturday afternoon.
It was not long before the Talladega Speedway came into its own with unprecedented speeds and unparalleled competition. The combination of the two also played a major role in the development of many drivers’ careers as they built reputations for setting records and taking wins at what quickly became known as “the largest, fastest and most competitive track on the circuit.”
The track at the Talladega is 2.66-miles long, four lanes wide and is banked 33 degrees on each end, with 18-degree banking in the tri-oval. This layout has produced some of the fastest and most competitive racing in history. The backstretch is nearly 4,000 feet long, and stock cars have reached speeds in excess of 220 miles per hour in competition.
The grandstands seating capacity at the Speedway is 143,231 including the most recent expansion of the O.V. Hill South Tower. The 212-acre all-reserved infield holds many thousands more.
Many stars have raced around the track’s challenging curves, but the track’s true dominator was Dale Earnhardt, who posted 10 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup wins at Talladega over the years. Earnhardt’s first victory was in the 1983 UAW-Ford 500, driving for Bud Moore. He won again the next year in his first season with Richard Childress. When he captured the 1990 UAW-Ford 500, he became the first three-time winner of that event, then added UAW-Ford 500 wins in 1991, 1993 and 2000.
Earnhardt also had victories in the 1990, 1995 and 1999 IROC races, as well as the 1993 Aaron’s 312 Busch Series race, to give him a total of 14 career victories at Talladega. That put him ahead of Davey Allison, who had four ARCA triumphs and an IROC win to go with his three Aaron’s 499 victories.
Fans know that flag-to-flag competition is the name of the game at Talladega Super Speedway, and the record book backs this up.
The Hockenheimring, or Hockenheimring Baden-Wurttemberg, is located near the town of Hockenheim, situated in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. This circuit is the host to the Formula One German Grand Prix, and many other racing events.
The Hockenheimring was constructed in the Rhine Valley in 1932, and was built due to the closing of the Wildpark-Circuit that was located in Karlsruhe, by German Officials. In its early years, the Hockenheimring Circuit was used for motorcycle races, but in 1936 it became a test track for Auto Union and for Mercedes-Benz. The circuit was renamed to Kurpfalzring in 1938, but the name only lasted until the year 1947 before reverting to its original name. Grand Prix motorcycle racing was held here after the war, alternating between Hockenheim and other racing circuits.
Originally, Hockenheimring consisted of an eight kilometer track, that had two long straights, with a U-turn and an outstretched eastern corner running through the forest and joining the two straights together. The Autobahn A6 separated the main part of the track from the village in 1965, and it brought about the construction of the “Motodrom” stadium and a new Hockenheimring Circuit version. Crash barriers and two chicanes were added after Jim Clark had a fatal accident in a Formula 2 race in the year 1968. An additional chicane was added in 1980, to the Ostkurve, after another driver, Patrick Depailler, lost his life.
Formula One Officials requested that the Hockenheimring circuit be shortened in 2000, as the track was 6.8 kilometers, and gave the state government of Baden-Wurttemberg an ultimatum that either the circuit must be shortened, or they would move the event to another circuit. The state government received financing and commissioned Hermann Tilke to redesign the circuit before the 2002 German Grand Prix. The redesign had most of the stadium section remain the same, except for a much tighter corner in Turn 1 and new surfacing. The circuit was shortened to the extreme, which cut off the entire forest section and replaced it with more tight corners. The tight hairpin corner that was added to follow a long straight, has presented drivers with another opportunity for overtaking. A large stand that is sponsored by Mercedes-Benz, gives the Hockenheimring Circuit a spectator capacity of 120,000. It also has a quarter-mile track that hosts drag racing, with the Nitro Olympics being the biggest event in Europe.
The German Grand Prix was hosted by the Hockenheimring Circuit for the first time in 1970, and from 1971 to 1976 the German Grand Prix was hosted by Nurburgring. During the years 1977 to 2006, the German Grand Prix moved back to the Hockenheimring Circuit, with the exception of 1985. It was decided that from 2007, starting with Nurburgring, the German Grand Prix will alternate between Nurburgring and the Hockenheimring Circuit.
Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps of Belgium has been described by many as the world’s top motor racing circuit. Host of the renowned Formula One Belgian Grand Prix as well as the Spa 24 hours race, Spa-Francorchamps winds its way along the magnificent Ardennes mountains. A wonderfully challenging course with the famed Eau Rouge complex, the Spa-Francorchamps Formula One circuit is thoroughly enjoyed by F1 drivers and spectators alike.
It was in 1920 Jule de Thier and Henri Langlois Van Ophem came up with the idea of forming a race track in the quiet village of Francorchamps. A triangular circuit was designed along the roads that joined Francorchamps, Malmedy and Stavelot and the new racing circuit of Spa-Francorchamps was set-up for racing in August 1921. Only one competitor registered so the circuit had to be inaugurated by motorcyclists. But 1922 presented a different scenario as motorists began racing on the new track. The exciting 24 Hours of Francorchamps race was established in 1924, and it was also in that year that the Belgian Grand Prix was held at the circuit. The European Grand Prix took place at the circuit of Spa-Francorchamps in 1925. Antonio Ascari in his Alfa Romeo gained the victory that year.
World War II brought a stop to racing at Spa-Francorchamps which became the scene of the famed Battle of Bulge. Fortunately though, racing came back to the F1 circuit in 1947. As time progressed the Spa race track was considered too fast. In 1960 Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey were killed on the track. Jackie Stewart began a campaign to improve safety at Spa-Francorchamps and for a time the Grand Prix was rather held at Nivelles circuit. 1973 was also marred by the death of 3 drivers during the Spa 24 Hours. It was then decided that the track would be redesigned. Finally in 1983 the Spa-Francorchamps was permitted to host F1 again. Today it plays a major part in the world championships.
Spa-Francorchamps F1 circuit has had several modifications over time. Presently it covers a distance of 6.968 km or 4.333 miles with 21 turns. Guiding drivers through the beautiful Ardennes, it is possible to reach speeds greater than 330 km/h. The most impressive section of the Spa-Francochamps circuit is the renowned Eau Rouge/Raidillon combination. Following the La Source hairpin the skilled F1 drivers head down a straight where they hit a steep uphill with left-right-left corners and a blind summit.
The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps was not included on the 2006 Formula One calendar as certain improvements were not yet made due to financial problems. However the circuit was back on the 2007 calendar, and continues to host the annual Formula One Championship event.
Watkins Glen International is situated near Watkins Glen, New York. Over the years Watkins Glen has been host to a variety of different races, including a lot of the IMSA series, SCCA series, Formula One, NASCAR and Indycar.
Watkins Glen Schedule is made up of a couple of SCCA National races, quite a number of SCCA regionals take part on the track throughout the year as well as many Club Dates put on by BMW Car Club of America and Porsche Club of America. Pro races only make up a small percentage of the Watkins schedule.
In 1948 road racing was introduced to Watkins Glen through Cameron Argetsinger, an Ohio resident but who often stayed at his father’s summerhouse on the Seneca Lake. Argersinger was one of the early members of the SCCA, he proposed to the Watkins Glen Chamber of Commerce an amateur Road Race to be called “Watkins Glen Grand Prix.” The proposal was happily accepted, and soon Argetsinger had arranged a 6.6 mile course, which used dirt, gravel and paved roads. He also had to arrange for permission to close one New York City track and any roads needed.
The first race to ever take place there was held mid-day on the second of October 1948. All competitors had to complete a 4 lap-qualifying race with a standing start. That day 15 cars took part and completed the 8 laps or 52.8 mile Grand Prix with ten finishing the entire race. Frank Griswold from Wayne, Pennsylvania won the race. The following year Miles Collier won the Grand Prix, just beating Briggs Cunningham. The 1950 Grand Prix saw its first fatal tragedy when Sam Collier was killed, from that day on his brother Miles never took part in a race again. That was not the only incident; another car left the track, injuring two spectators and a fireman.
The Watkins Glen International speedway was changed a couple of times over the years. Due to tragic events occurring again in 1952 a law was put in place preventing any racing on state highways and that led to the circuit being moved to the town of Dix. The fourth course that was completed is the one we still have today and is similar in outline to the third course.
The Formula One race-track, Hungaroring, is situated close to Budapest and is home to the Hungarian Grand Prix. In 1986 it was the scene of the first Formula 1 Grand Prix to take place behind the Iron Curtain. It was Bernie Ecclestone who envisioned a city track based on the same concept as the Circuit de Monaco, and was advised by a friend to turn his attention to Budapest. Instead of having a race-track within the city limits, the communist government moved to outside the city and built and entirely new track. After 20 years it is still the track that was constructed in the shortest space of time, being completed in eight months.
The Hungaroring track is very hot and extremely dusty, with races being held according to the Grand Prix calendar, placing the event in the middle of the central European summer. The dust that is found on the track is attributed to the fact that the track is not in use throughout the racing season. However, its location, in a valley in close proximity to Budapest is a contributing factor, as it acts as a magnet for the dust and litter that originates from the city. In addition, the track is built on extremely sandy soil, and therefore if a car’s wheel moves off the track, it causes a massive and blinding dust cloud. Usually as a track rubbers in it will gradually become faster. This is not so in Hungaroring’s case, as the track remains scattered with dust, so running late during qualifying can sometimes work to a drivers’ advantage.
Despite what so may view as obstacles, Hungaroring has been the scene of some spectacular moments, such as in 1987 when Nigel Mansell lost his wheel, or the famous duels between Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet. Not forgetting the year of 1997, an Arrows car and a talented driver named Damon Hill. And there are many more of these moments to look back on.
In its 20 year history, the Hungaroring race track has managed to crown two very talented drivers, namely Nigel Mansell and Michael Schumacher, who during their individual careers both managed to clinch the title of the World Championship very early in the racing season. Two drivers who made their debut into F1 on this track were Zsolt Baumgartner of Hungary and Robert Kubica of Poland. The Constructors Championship was won by the Williams F1 Team in 1996 at the Hungaroring Race Track. Many drivers are divided in opinion when asked about the track, and a few minor changes have been made to the track over the years, but due to some of the most exciting moments in F1 having taken place here, their contract has been extended to 2011.