Whether it’s racing through the historic streets of downtown Baltimore, or the ancient Ardennes Forest of Belgium, Grand Prix events have captivated throngs of people around the globe for well over a century. What began as simple races from one town to another on the back roads of France in the late nineteenth century has now evolved into billion dollar exhibitions that take place all over the globe. One of the most exciting takes place on the streets of one of America’s oldest cities.
Grand Prix of Baltimore
Turn 3 on Light Street on Baltimore Street Circuit — Photo courtesy of Noah Joseph
For the second consecutive year, the IZOD Indycar Series will host the Grand Prix of Baltimore on Labor Day weekend, September 2nd. The circuit is carved directly out of the downtown Baltimore streets around Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. Pratt Street serves as the long home straightaway, with which four hotels share a border, two of which are inside the track itself. After the first turn the cars will travel down Light Street with only a concrete wall separating the cars from the Inner Harbor. Last year’s race was a heart-pounding thriller that secured the event another year on Indycar’s short, but hotly contested schedule. With BWI International just a dozen miles away, a trip to Baltimore for the Grand Prix will be an easy event to attend.
Grand Prix of Belgium
Spa-Francorchamps Circuit — Photo courtesy of Le Mans Series
On the same day across the Atlantic, the prestigious Formula One World Championship will host the Grand Prix of Belgium at the famous Spa-Francorchamps Circuit, hidden deep within the Ardennes Forest. The track is a permanent circuit in the Stavelot Municipality, and it is surrounded on all sides by ancient cities with chateau-like hotels and spas. Liège Airport in the city of Grace-Hollogne is just a forty-five minute drive from the track. With some of the most death-defying corners in all of motorsports, Spa is widely regarded as one of the greatest racing venues in the entire world, and is second only to the Grand Prix events of Monte Carlo and the race that takes place the following week in terms of prestige and excitement.
Autodromo Nazionale Monza
Turn 1 on the Monza Circuit — Photo courtesy of Adrian-Liviu Dorofte
On September 9th, Formula One will visit just one of two venues that have stood the test of time and hosted one race during every season of F1 competition since 1950: The Autodromo Nazionale Monza in Monza, Italy. Over the years, the city of Monza has perfected the art of Italian hospitality and one will have no trouble in finding top notch hotels and restaurants in and around the permanent racing circuit. Linate International Airport is just fifteen minutes away from the venue and many hotels line the roads on the way to the track. Over 600,000 people attended various events at Monza in 2011 and witnessed the fastest racing on the entire F1 schedule with drivers routinely top 190mph on the long straights.
Petit Le Mans
The S-curves of Road Atlanta — Photo courtesy of American Le Mans Series
National Geographic recently put the 24 Hours of Le Mans at number one on their list of top ten sporting events in the world. While making the trip to Le Mans, France in the middle of June may seem like a farfetched dream for most, there is a similar event lurking in the backyards of many Americans. On October 20th The American Le Mans Series will host its fourteenth season finale at the permanent circuit Road Atlanta in rural Braselton, Georgia. The event is known as Petit Le Mans, and it is a ten hour endurance race that serves as the final race before teams shut down for off season repairs and innovations. The winners in each class receive a free invitation to the main Le Mans race in France the following year, making this event extremely important. With so much riding on one event, the racing is frantic and the amenities are top of the line. Just minutes off of I-85, Road Atlanta is as close to Le Mans as one can get here in North America.
As racing seasons draw to a close for the coming winter, some of the world’s biggest and most prestigious races take place. During these months, legends are born and hearts are broken. The events that take place from September through October are what make the difference between an offseason of joyous celebration and a long winter of defeat and rebuilding. Whatever the outcome, be sure to witness history as it is being made in the century old tradition of Grand Prix racing.