THE WORLD’S BEST RALLY COURSES
Perhaps the greatest thing about rally racing is the familiarity of both the cars and the courses. Unlike the supped up monsters of Formula 1 or the track bound thrills of NASCAR, rally cars are road legal (if modified) and rally courses are set in natural, identifiable environments. It’s all about skill and speed in these trying conditions and that’s why we love to rally. But what are the best rally stages on the globe? Here are our picks…
TARGA FLORIO, SICILY
Considered the oldest sports car racing event, and previously part of the World Sportscar Championship, this open-road endurance race started in 1906. It was considered one of the toughest automobile events in the world, due to the length of the course, the dangerous hairpin turns and changes in altitude. The race in its old form was finally banned for safety reasons in 1977 and became a rallying event, part of the Italian Rally Championship. Today, the traditions of the old Targa Florio are still upheld, as vintage motoring enthusiasts display their classic vehicles in the centre of Palermo before the race heads off into the imposing Madonie Mountains.
RALLY GUANAJUATO, MEXICO
A rock-strewn course, hairpin turns and high altitudes all make the Central American stage of the World Rally Championship particularly challenging. Though most of the action takes place in the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains, the start of the race in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Guanajuato city itself, is what makes this rally really special. The drivers actually head under the city, through thin winding tunnels of former silver mines and passages, in cramped, hair-raising conditions, with spectators watching the action unfold on CCTV.
The traditional curtain raiser of the rallying year and the only true winter rally, not only do drivers have to contend with winding trails through dense forest, but there’s also snow and ice to combat. With temperatures as low as minus 25 degrees centigrade, special metal-studded tyres are required to keep the cars on the track and snow banks are utilised as a buffer to take sharp turns. With stages passing through neighbouring Norway and a thrilling night stage now incorporated, the Swedish rally is a chilling, thrilling adventure.
With manufacturers such as Subaru, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Toyota, Mazda and Nissan all enjoying rally racing success, it is no wonder that the Japanese have taken rallying to their hearts. Based on the northern Hokkaido island, originally drivers had to deal with the twisting gravel trails near the city of Obihiro. But recently a new course was devised in the city of Sapporo and included a spectacular stage through the space-age looking Sapporo Dome sports stadium. As well as the delights of the Dome, competitors have to tackle the nearby gravel trails and forests of the region.
ACROPOLIS RALLY, GREECE
Dubbed ‘The Rally of the Gods’ the Greek rally event is a particularly gruelling spectacle. With searing temperatures, dusty roads and mountainous terrain, the race is a true test for even the most accomplished driver. Starting out at the iconic Acropolis site in the Greek capital of Athens, most of the action takes place in the city of Loutraki, on the Gulf on Corinth. To cope with the rugged terrain and blistering conditions, with the temperature inside the cockpit reaching 50 degrees, cars have to be specially modified to deal with this exacting course.
About the Author: Dale Shaw writes for Wish.co.uk. If you’ve always fancied yourself as a racing driver, why not check out their fantastic range of driving experience days. Visit the website to find out more.