It’s Monaco week, the grand prix that stands beyond the rest. Why? The history, the sheer familiarity of its every inch, the sheen of other-worldly glitz – and the flagrant anachronism that the place is still hosting grands prix in the 21st Century. Who said racing at Monaco was “like riding a bicycle around your living room?” Nelson Piquet? Or was it Jackie Stewart? Someone says it every year, surely… because like all good cliches it carries a ring of truth.
We missed the Monaco GP last year in the wake of its Covid cancellation. Or at least some of us did. There are those that hate the race, venting at the near-impossibility to pass (cleanly) as the prime reason it’s over-hyped. They have a point. But tradition is all too often dismissed – and we’d argue no sporting venue has more. Therefore Monaco still matters.
But is it the best motor sport street track? Let’s be clear here: we’re talking about urban venues, when racing goes around the houses, not the grand old road races – which is something else entirely. The old Spa, the Mille Miglia, the Targa Florio, Pescara – these are the great road courses. But they’re not street tracks by our ‘downtown’ definition. With that in mind, here’s our countdown of Autocar urban favourites, past and present. Which have we missed, or is our order out of kilter? You’ll let us know in the comments, won’t you…
10 St Petersburg, Florida
Founded in the mid-1980s originally as a sports car venue, St Pete has hosted Indycar racing since 2003 and is a firm modern favourite in US racing circles. The waterfront is picturesque and the racing usually close on a circuit that combines traditional right-angle turns with a main ‘straightaway’ based on a local airport runway – a pleasing contrast of challenges.
9 Pau, southwest France
‘Little Monaco’ is nearly as old as its sibling, first hosting races in 1930, a year after the inaugural Monaco GP. Jim Clark scored his first F1 win at Pau, but the Grand Prix is probably best remembered for its Formula 2 and Formula 3000 races. Still active today as a blue-riband single-seater and historic racing venue, although Covid has scuppered it for 2021.