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While motor-racing may not exactly be a spectator sport for all, there are nonetheless some circuits whose stunning locales, challenging terrains or difficult drives can lure even the most unenthusiastic of spectators.

Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

The event: 12th round of the Formula One World Championship

Why it’s exciting: Located in Belgium’s forest of the Ardennes, Spa-Francorchamps hosted its first race in 1921. The track has undergone many changes in its long history—from the original 14.1km layout to the current 7km, and more in between. A fast and twisty track, and loved and hated in equal measure by drivers over the years, it’s had a fairly large number of fatal accidents, and a safety campaign in the 1960s and 70s, and following the deaths of four-time champion Ayrton Senna as well as Roland Ratzenberger at Imola in 1993, the changes to the track may have made it a far cry from the original. Still, the Eau Rouge and Blachimont sections are among the most difficult to manoeuvre in racing, and drivers can reach a top speed of 330 km/hr through the wooded and hilly sections that take them right through the forest. In fact, the length and layout of Spa-Francorchamps mean wide variations in weather conditions, such as rain at one end while other parts of the track remain dry—a challenge for the teams and drivers while choosing the right tyre compound.

When: 23-25 August

Closest airport: Liège Airport


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Yas Marina Circuit.

The event: 18th round of the Formula One World Championship

Why it’s exciting: A recent addition to the racing calendar, Yas Marina played host to one of the most—if not the most—exciting Formula One races in recent years. Designed by Herman Tilke, Yas Marina is considerably more challenging than the other tracks the German has worked on. A set of angular turns from the third section of the lap leading up to the start-finish straight keeps the drivers on edge, especially when compared with the long straights leading up to the section. Overtaking is a definite possibility—something not seen as much as one would like in today’s Formula One. The 2012 race saw a spirited drive from eventual champion Sebastian Vettel from the back of the grid to a podium finish. And this being the Middle East’s version of Monaco, there’s no dearth of yachts (it is, after all, a marina). Surrounded by the blue waters of the Persian Gulf, Yas Island is home to Formula One’s night race—another challenge for the drivers.

When: 1-3 November

Closest airport: Abu Dhabi International Airport


Snaefell Mountain Course

The event: Isle of Man TT

Why it’s exiting: Once the most prestigious two-wheel racing event in the world, the Isle of Man, located in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland, hosts events that are among the most dangerous in the world. The time trials on the Snaefell Mountain Course through narrow roads, brushing past walls and buildings, have brought up the question of safety ever since the first race was held a hundred years ago. This is especially true in the case of Mad Sunday, when the A18 Mountain Road part of the Snaefell Mountain Course is open to the public. Aside from superbikes and sidecars, the Isle of Man is also host to a carnival atmosphere from the last week of May through the first week of June. The racing festival, in fact, contributes greatly to the isle’s economy. And indeed, stamps the Isle of Man as the road-racing capital of the world.

When: 25 May-7 June

Closest airport: Isle of Man Airport at Ronaldsway. Ferries from either side of the Irish Sea are also a viable option.


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The Silverstone Circuit. Photo: AFP

The event: 12th round of MotoGP

Why it’s exiting: Silverstone has undergone major changes in recent years. The circuit was once the fastest in the world, with the sweeping Copse, Stowe and Club sections providing magnificent racing as well as viewing for spectators. But with the increasing call for safety, modifications to the track in the late 1980s and again in the mid 1990s slowed the track down from the near 260 km/hr average speed for Keke Rosberg in 1985 and made it a more technical race. The New Grand Prix Circuit has been in use since 2010 for Formula One and 2011 for MotoGP. The 5.9km circuit is currently the fastest race of the MotoGP calendar. The remodelled track includes the new Silverstone Wing, a new pit lane exit and greater spectator viewing. Nonetheless, races at Silverstone remain at the heart of motor racing, an exciting event right from qualifying through 20 laps of close to flat-out two-wheel racing.

When: 30 August-1 Sepember

Closest airports: London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Birmingham International


Laguna Seca

The event: 9th round of MotoGP

Why it’s exiting: One reason to attend any race at Laguna Seca—the Corkscrew corner. Laguna Seca is a relatively short but fast, and extremely technical track to master. A dizzying array of turns, running both uphill and downhill, makes for excellent racing. The Corkscrew is the combination of turns 8 and 8A, one of the most challenging is motor-racing, with the cars taking the crest blind into a tight downward spiral. And that’s not all—there’s also the double-apex Andretti hairpin (turn 2). Returning to MotoGP in 2005, the Laguna Seca track at Monterey, California, has seen spectacular racing in the past, including Champ Car and the World Superbike Championship. The track hosted races from 1988 to 1994, but advancements in MotoGP bikes required the event to be moved elsewhere while the track was modified to meet better safety requirements.

When: 19-21 July

Closest airport: Monterey Penninsula Airport


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Photo: AFP

The event: Macau Formula Three Grand Prix

Why it’s exiting: Macau is the first street circuit in the world to host both four- and two-wheeler races. While the inaugural car race was held in 1954, the first motorcycle race was contested in 1967. The track is notably one of the most difficult in the world, with little space to manoeuvre on the narrow track with tight corners, barely any runoff areas and fast straights—Formula Three cars can hit a top speed of up to 275 km/hr. Over the years, the Formula Three race at Macau—the highlight of the weekend that hosts other races too—has emerged as a stepping stone to the higher echelons of motor-racing (past winners include Aryton Senna and Michael Schumacher). As with most street circuits, the Chinese special administrative region of Macau provides ample opportunity for spectators. Of added interest for those looking to attend this race are the casinos that Macau is also known for—including the Venetian Macau and the MGM Grand Macau that have opened in recent years.

When: 14-17 November

Closest airport: Macau International Airport

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