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|03-02-2016, 12:10 PM||#1|
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Top 10 MotoGP circuits of all time
The cathedrals of speed that define bike racing
MOTOR racing is rare among sports in that the fields of play vary enormously from one venue to another.
Sure, cricket fans might claim that there are differences between pitches and no doubt the same is true among avid follows of football or athletics. But let’s face it, those are events where the sports ground is built to a fairly rigid regimen.
Race tracks, on the other hand, evolve and meld into the land they’re hewn from. Whether they’re purpose-built facilities or started life as makeshift layouts on public roads or old airfields, each has its own character, style and foibles. They’re as much a part of bike racing as the motorcycles or the riders themselves; you only have to witness the outcry when a legendary corner is remodelled or a circuit is dropped from a championship to see that the tracks don’t just play host to race fans, they have fans of their very own.
Grand Prix bike racing as world championship sport has been around longer than any other top-level international series, pre-dating the F1 championship by a year, and as such the circuits used have been many and varied over the years.
Of them all, these are the ten that have hosted the most motorcycle Grand Prix since 1949, regardless of class.
10. Circuito de Jerez, Spain – 92 races
If you ever wanted an illustration of the influence and importance of Spain in GP racing today, it’s the fact that a Spanish track that was only opened in 1985 is already in the top 10 of all time in terms of races hosted. The first bike GP at Jerez wasn’t until 1987, so the fact it’s had 92 races since then – including 80cc, 125cc, 250cc, 500cc, Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP – reflects its constant use since then.
9. Le Mans, France – 93 races
Jerez might be a relative newcomer to the scene but Le Mans is a name associated with bike racing since the 1920s. While those pre-war races were on the massive La Sarthe road racing track, all the ones we’re counting are on the shorter, permanent Bugatti circuit, which started hosting world championship GPs in 1969. Races were originally shared with other tracks – Paul Ricard, Magny-Cours, Clermont-Ferrand and Nogaro have all hosted the French GP as well – but in recent years Le Mans has been the sole host for GPs in France.
8. Hockenheim, Germany – 95 races
If Le Mans gets its place because it’s been used a lot in recent years, Hockenheim is the opposite. It’s been more than two decades since GP bikes raced at Hockenheim, with the last round held there in 1994, but the ultra-fast circuit was in use back to the 1950s, often hosting five separate classes, hence its high position in the all-time ranking of GPs held.
7. Autodromo del Mugello, Italy – 99 races
Ferrari-owned Mugello has long been the home of the Italian GP, having held every round since 1994 and sporadically appearing on the calendar before that. Relatively narrow and with a layout that combines a wide variety of corners and speeds, it’s understandably popular with both riders and fans.
6. Sachsenring, Germany – 109 races
While in recent years Sachsenring has been the home of the German GP, its history started in GPs long before the Berlin Wall fell, when it held the East German race from 1962-1971. Originally a temporary track on public roads, it was turned into a permanent circuit in 1990.
5. Monza, Italy – 111 races
These days Monza is more closely associated with World Superbikes than GPs, but it hosted the Italian GP – or Nations Grand Prix as it was once called – all the way from 1949 to 1971, and reappeared several times after that, last hosting the race in 1987. Its 111 GP total comes partly thanks to the fact that four or even five classes used to race at each round, compared to three in recent years.
4. Isle of Man – 114 races
You’d need to be well into middle age now to recall the days when the Isle of Man TT was an FIM Championship round, but from 1949 to 1976 it was on the calendar and a vital part of the series. In those days, four classes were the norm – 125cc, 250cc, 350cc and 500cc – and for a few years there was also the 50cc (ultra lightweight) class in there as well, helping the TT to account for well over 100 GPs in total.
3. Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium – 129 races
From one legendary road race track to another, the next in our list is Spa in Belgium. It’s been 25 years now since it hosted a motorcycle GP, but Spa-Francorchamps was used for bike GPs right back to the 1920s and hosted a world championship GP every year since the inaugural season in 1949 until 1990. It’s not surprising that it racked up so many races. Can you imagine a modern MotoGP bike racing there though?
2. Automotodrom Brno, Czech Republic – 156 races
Spa might have stopped hosting bike GPs in the 90s but Brno has an almost unbroken history of GPs from 1950 to the present day. In fact it would have a much higher total than the 156 counted here, but for the fact that for large swathes of its history the Czech GP – despite the fact it took place regardless – wasn’t counted as part of the championship. It’s worth bearing in mind that today’s 3.35 mile track bears little relation to the road circuit that hosted events prior to 1987 and ranged from 6.7 miles to 11 miles in length (pre-war, the track was longer still at around 18 miles).
1. TT Circuit Assen, the Netherlands – 262 races
To get an idea how many GPs Brno might have hosted overall, including its non-championship rounds, you only need to look to Assen, the only place on the calendar to have had an uninterrupted history of championship GP racing from the inception of the series in 1949 to the present day. Assen itself dates back further still, to a 1925 TT on what was then a 17.75 mile track. The circuit dropped to 10 miles the following year, and again to 4.8 miles in 1955. In 2005 it shrunk again, to just 2.8 miles, but it remains a place of pilgrimage for both riders and fans alike.
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