None of us here in the office get out to the track as often as we'd like. And we know it's even harder for you guys- unless you're lucky enough to live near a decent circuit like Laguna Seca or Barber and can afford it. But we can still dream and talk shit in the bar (which is where we worked out this list of the ten best tracks in the world).
Whether they're soaked in gasoline heritage like Brands Hatch, pose a terrifying, life-or-death challenge like the Isle of Man, or are just incredible pieces of engineering like Sepang, these ten circuits all offer something extremely special. We've not ridden all of them though-yet!
Outside the US, this is probably the most famous track in North America, and has been the venue for some stunning contests in MotoGP and WSB, as well as AMA racing. It is, of course, dominated by its legendary Corkscrew corner, a dizzyingly steep downhill spiral that TV cameras do no justice to. But there's more to the circuit than just that, with the technical Andretti hairpin and blind crest along the front straight posing some particularly tough challenges for riders. The 2.238-mile, 11-turn circuit is set in a scenic country park, near Monterey, California.
Located 20 miles from London, Brands Hatch is one of the UK's best-loved circuits. The 2.3-mile, nine-turn GP circuit has hosted some of the biggest WSB rounds ever - in the 1990s, it regularly attracted 100,000 fans. The smaller Indy part of the circuit is located in a fantastic natural amphitheater, and from several vantage points, you can see the entire track, including Paddock Hill Bend, a terrifying off-camber downhill right.
The Isle of Man is a weird little island between England and Ireland, with its own ancient Parliament, legal system and (very favorable) tax regime. Up until the recent credit crunch, it was mostly populated by bankers and motorcycle racers -now there are just racers.
The TT (Tourist Trophy) races were first held on the Island in 1907, and in 2009 the races are still held on a closed street route. That circuit takes in narrow village alleys, super-fast, bumpy back roads and a simply awesome "mountain" section that rises up to 1,400 feet at Brandywell. The Isle of Man doesn't have a maximum speed limit out of town, so if you visit, you can ride the "mountain" course without worrying about the cops. And if you visit during the TT itself you can enjoy the pleasures of "Mad Sunday," when the mountain road becomes one-way. The modern TT circuit is 37.5-miles long, and has 'at least 200' corners.
The island location and hilly terrain of Phillip Island means it looks as impressive as it is to ride. The 2.7-mile track has 12 turns, including the heart-stopping downhill Lukey Heights. Watching the GP gods do battle here is one of motorcycling's greatest sights.
Donington Park is one of the UK's most popular circuits. Set in the middle of England near Leicester, the 2.5-mile, 12 turn track has two striking bends: the never-ending Redgate turn one, and the incredible Craner Curves section. This mega-fast, downhill right-left is truly astounding to watch when the MotoGP machines are screaming through it.
The facilities are a bit rough, it's a pig to get to and park, and the Melbourne Loop section is considered by many to be rather Mickey Mouse. But for thousands of UK bike race fans, Donington is the heart of the sport in Britain.
Located in a very beautiful corner of a very beautiful country, Mugello is the epitome of La Dolce Vita, in racetrack form. The track itself, located near Florence, is a peach: 15 turns in its 3.26-mile length. Nestled in the hills, it goes up and down like a roller coaster, and has one of the longest straights around. The MotoGP bikes slipstream up to 200 mph-plus before braking hard for the uphill turn one. The track's proximity to the Paso della Futa, one of Italy's finest riding roads, only adds to its appeal.
Built by the Malaysian government as a showcase for this emerging economy, the Sepang circuit is one of the new breed of mega-tracks aimed at attracting Formula One and the associated riches. It's a massive, super-long 3.44-mile track, with two fast straights up and down the start-finish grandstands, and a bewitching array of fast and slow corners-15 in total. The grandstands themselves have huge roofs shaped like the palm trees that the local economy relies on so much. And they need them: the tropical climate means there's almost always a heavy monsoon-like downpour each afternoon.
Often described as one of the most difficult tracks in the world, Suzuka was built in 1962 for Honda. Unique in its figure-eight layout, the 3.6-mile track crosses over itself at the Crossover straight, and has 17 technical turns. Its difficult, unforgiving nature was underlined by the tragic death of MotoGP racer Daijiro Kato in 2003 after crashing at the Japanese GP. Safety concerns mean MotoGP hasn't returned to Suzuka since, but the Suzuka Eight-Hour endurance race is still one of the most important events in the Japanese calendar.
The Spanish circuit of Catalunya, near Barcelona, is a real humdinger. It's got the infrastructure and facilities to host everything from Formula One and MotoGP down, and the track itself is long (2.87-miles), wide, and packed with corners. There are 16 turns in all, including the super-long right-hand turn 3 that scribes a massive horseshoe in the Montmelo hills. The main straight is enormously long, and is the scene of much 200 mph slipstreaming during MotoGP rounds.
Currently a WSB circuit, Kyalami in South Africa has also hosted MotoGP and Formula One races in the past. Built in 1961, the circuit's main feature is its extreme altitude: it's nearly 5,000 feet above sea level, which effectively chops almost ten percent off the power of a bike's engine.
That aside, the 2.6-mile track is fast, flowing, and its 13 turns cover all the bases-from hairpins to fast sweepers. It's full of altitude changes and isn't perhaps the safest track on the calendar: Regis Laconi suffered a broken back at the race there this year after a high-speed spill.
The track is lined with traditional local buildings, called "bromas," with quaint thatched roofs that serve as hospitality rooms.