We all know that motorcycle racing is an incredible sport and that some of the races we have witnessed will stay with us for a long time to come, but aside from the superhuman athletes their selves, it tends to be the venue that lends itself wonderfully. Let’s take a look at some of the most iconic circuits all around the world and see why they have become known to deal us fans some incredible racing.
10.) Sepang, Selangor, Malaysia
Sepang has been a track that has thrown up some of the most extraordinary races in the past, and in 2015, it also became host to one of the most controversial moments in GP history (I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what happened). Its long sweeping chicanes make it a favourite for riders to prepare a move in one corner and execute it in the next, similar to Mugello and Brno. In 2015, WSBK visited for the second year and we were given two of the best races ever. The first was Jonathan Rea and Chaz Davies going side by side to finishing line on the last lap, for Rea to just pip Davies. The second was slightly more aggressive with Davies throwing his Ducati up the inside of Rea for what was simply one of the most explosive races in recent Superbike years. However, Sepang lands itself a top 10 place not just for the layout of the track, but also for the sheer climate of Malaysia. Humid would be an understatement, and the weather really can be unpredictable, with sun beaming through one minute and rain lashing down the next. It puts riders and bike, as well as mechanics and journalists through the paces, and that’s why winning at Sepang could mean something extra special.
9.) Kyalami, Gauteng, South Africa
Kyalami in South Africa has been on and off the World Superbike calendar for a number of years and is currently having a makeover to hopefully bring MotoGP and WSBK back to that part of the world. The old track lent itself beautifully to bike racing, with some of the fastest and scariest corners in the world at this facility. The first turn was a right hand kink before sweeping left into a triple left hander. Then they would head along the old front straight into Sunset bend, before two more right handers were tackled. Perhaps the scariest part of the track was the mineshaft, the place where Regis Laconi nearly lost his life in 2009. The track has played host to some of the best races in history, including the sensation 2000 WSBK season opening round, when Edwards and Haga went head to head in not one, but two races. South Africa would dearly love to return to the MotoGP calendar, whether it be at Kyalami or Welkom, and it is for the frightening corners and ferociously fast straights, along with the atmosphere and fan support that earns Kyalami a place in the top 10.
8.) Laguna Seca, Monterrey, America
Laguna Seca made a welcome return to the World Superbike calendar in 2013 after an eight-year hiatus, and although the racing hasn’t been too spectacular, it’s the fact that it is edging a deprived World Superbike Championship back to its best by being there on the calendar. Let’s face it, after all the memories that have been made and saved at Laguna Seca, it would be hard to imagine the WSBK grid not being there. From Doug Chandler’s and Akira Yanagawa’s huge crash in 1998, to Colin Edwards’ sensational double four years later, this track has had it all, and is known for one thing. The Corkscrew. The Corkscrew has been home to many memorable moments at Laguna, including Valentino Rossi’s antics on Casey Stoner in 2008, as well as the site of Wayne Rainey’s number one salute on the final lap of the 1990 US GP. The track itself is incredibly dangerous, with the front straight lined with concrete walls. However, the trackside marshals at Laguna Seca are simply second to none, and had they not been as efficient as they had in the catastrophic start line pile up for the WSBK race one restart, there could have been a lot more serious injuries. It is the track, the features and the memories that put Laguna Seca in the category of great motorcycle racing tracks.
7.) Jerez, Jerez de la Frontera, Spain
Jerez may have not given us a last lap thrill in the premier class for a few years but in the past it has been a track that has thrown up an unbelievable finish to a race. World Superbikes returned to the track in 2013, and immediately, Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri went head to head, and it was the Irishman Laverty who snatched the win from ex GP star Melandri. Who can forget Rossi and Sete Gibernau clashing in 2005. The crowds of people that were on their feet in anticipation as two of the best riders of the time put on a sensational show. The lap starts off slowly but opens up through turn three and four before the Sito Pons corner forces you to get a good drive down to turn six, a prime overtaking opportunity. However, what really makes the track special is the double right hander heading back towards the pits and the final corner of Lorenzo (previously the Ducados Hairpin). The incredible atmosphere from the Spanish crowd all around the track has made it one that is loved by fans all over the world, but recent political issues in Spain could see an end to the Jerez circuit on the GP calendar, but WSBK looks set to continue at the venue. It really has got the perfect build up for a bit of ‘Argy Bargy’ in the final corner on the final lap.
6.) Misano, Rimini, San Marino
Misano has had something of a renaissance in the world of motorcycle racing in recent years, with the circuit being completely revamped, races now being held in the opposite direction and also the rise of Italian stars from the Adriatic Coast has made it a real fan favourite. When Valentino Rossi won back in 2014, the place went from a motorcycle circuit to an all-out street party, and it really is a special venue for all fans of the sport. However, it has seen some incredible races outside of the premier class of racing, particularly in World Superbikes. Back in 2001, Ben Bostrom romped home to take his first WSBK double; in 2007, Japanese legend Noriyuki Haga bought down Max Biaggi and also in the Moto3 race in 2015, we saw Italian Enea Bastianini take his first and so far only GP win. However, the track was renamed in 2012 to ‘World Circuit Marco Simoncelli’, in memory of the Italian 250cc champ of 2008, and you can really see why. The fast circuit asks a rider to be brave, flamboyant and determined, everything the late Italian was. And it is this combination of heritage entwined with a superb circuit that makes this a very special place!
5.) Old Hockenheimring, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
The Old Hockenheimring in Germany was for years one of the greatest rounds in the WSBK season. With more than eight riders battling it out for the lead, it was a massive fans favourite, as well as a rider’s favourite. However, this thrilling and exciting spectacle wasn’t without danger. In 1999, Igor German had a huge crash on his Bertochi Kawasaki, so violent that it ripped the front wheel off. In 1996, Troy Corser crashed out not just once but twice, both times were very fast. In 1989, Ivan Palazzese lost his life in a tragic 125cc GP accident. However, there have been brighter times too. In 1996, WSBK erupted into life with two smashing races; the first saw Aaron Slight and Frankie Chili go head to head right down to the final corners, until Chili crashed in a huge way. The second race was simply spectacular, with 24 lead changes, with Paolo Casoli, Carl Fogarty, Aaron Slight, Troy Corser, Simon Crafar, Anthony Gobert, Frankie Chili and John Kocinski all taking the helm at some point during the race! It was Foggy though who triumphed to the roar of everyone in the stands, to take one of just a handful of wins on the Honda! In 2000, Nitro Nori Haga stormed through to mug Colin Edwards of victory with just 3 corners to go, to claim Yamaha’s first WSBK win at the circuit. Hockenheim did consist of long straights, fast chicanes and hard braking points and is now merely a shadow of what it once was, although it is still a great track. It is for the memories and for the raw speed of the place that it earns itself a place on the Top 10 Motorcycle Race tracks.
4.) Suzuka, Ino, Japan
Suzuka is a track that isn’t used as much for bikes as it is for cars anymore, since Daijiro Kato was tragically killed in the MotoGP event back in 2003. However, the track is still home to the Suzuka 8 hours’ endurance race and most of the circuit has remained unchanged since its MotoGP days. The first section really is all about keeping your momentum up through the corners and through the elevation change, before you plunge downhill for the Degna corners. One of the best corners is that of the long right hander just before you arrive at spoon corner, which is itself a prime opportunity to overtake. However, one of the best corners in the whole world is that of 130R, just after the figure of eight crossovers. We have seen many races won and lost there, and some pretty big crashes too. Eddie Lawson and Michael Doohan had a major crash there at the start of the 1990 500cc championship, as well as seeing the 2003 125cc GP race decided at that very corner too. Despite being one of the most dangerous circuits still in existence and despite the negative press it often gets, Suzuka has all the essential ingredients to make it one of the best tracks in the world for bike racing.
3.) Brands Hatch, Fawkham, Great Britain
Brands Hatch in Kent, England has seen more people than any other venue in Europe pay to get in through the gates. Back in the early naughties, over 150,000 bike fanatics would squeeze into one of the most exhilarating courses in the world, creating an atmosphere that you could only experience if you were there. The track itself has some of the best corners in motorcycle racing, including Paddock Hill, the immensely fast Hawthorn corner, Dingle Dell and the final corner of Clearways, all of which have played host to some of the most audacious overtakes we have ever seen. The track itself is situated with in a forest, with trees lining the track from Surtees all the way back to Clearways. The fast challenging corners along with the electric atmosphere and air horns makes Brands Hatch one of the most iconic circuits in superbike racing; some would even argue that it is the signature of World Superbikes, despite it not being on the calendar any more.
2.) Assen, De Haar, Netherlands
Assen for me, is one of the greatest motorsport venues anywhere in the world. It’s tight and twisty first section may be one of those that is very much one-line and one that is hard to pass on, but as soon as we get past the Struben hairpin, the track opens up into a sensationally elegant and sophisticated surface, with passing opportunities one after the other. However, the last section from the fast double right hander down to the infamous chicane is one that hasn’t just decided races, but its seen host to some of the most controversial moments in our sport. From Frankie Chili and Carl Fogarty in 1998 right up to the recent 2015 clash between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez, the final six corners have dealt us some of the best racing in the sports history. This, coincided with the roars of the crowd makes the circuit live up to its name as the ‘Cathedral of Speed’.
1.) Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia
Phillip Island in Australia has thrown up some of the best motorcycle races in both MotoGP and World Superbikes. From the sensational 2015 Australian MotoGP back to the start of the year where World Superbikes put on a spectacular show, this circuit has never failed to deliver top class racing, testing not just the riders, but the bikes and mechanics too. Notorious for its fast sweeping corners of Doohan, Stoner, and the Hayshed, it is the perfect match of excitement and danger. There have been some huge crashes at the circuit; Alex Barros had a massive get off in 2005 at the Hayshed, Jordi Torres crashed at the fast turn one in the second WSBK race in 2015 and of course the huge crash at the Southern Loop that nearly cost Britain’s Danny Kent of title success in the 2015 Moto3 race. Phillip Island is what is known as a ‘rider’s circuit’, with its sensationally fast Gardner straight leading into incredibly fast sweeping corners, there is no surprise that everyone connected to WSBK and MotoGP can’t wait to get here, let alone the fans. It is for these reasons that Phillip Island is not just the best MotoGP circuit, but also the best race track in the world!