Often when people hear the word “speedway,” they think of the famous Indianapolis 500 race or perhaps the other popular American race, the Kentucky Derby. But, truth to tell, there are several different types of speedways around the world, and perhaps the most unique one is found in a tiny country in Europe – yes, you read that right: Europe! This article will tell you about the various types of speedways around the world, and the unique history that each one has.
The Speedway In Europe
Located in the heart of Europe, the small nation of Great Britain (that’s you, my friend!) is home to several different types of racing, including Formula One, rallying, and even dog racing. The most unique of those races takes place at a track called Silverstone – named after the metal used to manufacture the circuit’s outer shell – and it goes by the name of the International Speedway, making it the International Speedway of Great Britain.
Built in the mid-1950s, the International Speedway is one of the most storied sports venues in the world. It was originally designed to host horse races, but after years of being closed to the public, it was re-opened to motor racing in 1975. During the annual Grand Prix event, which features some of the biggest names in international motorsport, more than 400,000 people pour into the streets surrounding the track to watch the drivers battle it out on the famous dirt, wet, and extremely variable surface. For those wanting to get their feet wet in motorsport, the Grand Prix is a must-see event!
The Other Main Racecourses
Besides the International Speedway, there are two other main race courses in Great Britain – one in Birmingham and one in Leeds. The former is referred to as the “Superbowl” of British motorsport because it’s such an important city to the British motorsport community. The latter, also known as the “Rockingham Raceway,” is a very traditional track, named after the 17th Earl of Rockingham, who owned the land upon which the track was built. The venue is most famous for its annual ballroom dancing championship, which draws top-class dancers from around the world. It also boasts one of Europe‘s great dining experiences, with some incredible restaurants located near the paddock area.
If you’re a fan of American football, it’s worth a visit to the Wembley Stadium, the home of the famous English football team, the London Broncos. The venue opened its doors in 1923 and was the most recent home of the New York Jets until 1996. The Wembley Stadium hosted the Final of the 1948 London Olympics, which was the first time that the event had been held on British soil. In addition to being the home of the London Broncos, Wembley is also the site of the prestigious annual Football League Awards, where the best players and performances from the previous season are honored with prizes.
Indy, The Indianapolis 500
While most people think of the Indianapolis 500 when they think of the iconic Indianapolis race track, the original INDY 500 was actually held at the Brookyn Raceway in suburban New York, back in 1911. In that year, the race distance was 500 miles and was won by Ray Harron, driving an “Indianapolis”-branded car. Today, the name “Indianapolis” is used for the annual international motor race that takes place on May 24th each year.
The Indianapolis 500 actually got its inspiration from a race that was held earlier that year at Long Island’s Roosevelt racetrack. The winner of that race was Barney William Robinson, who at the time was considered to be the world’s fastest man. But, the 500 did not become associated with Indianapolis until several years later when the race was moved to its current home track. Since then, the iconic event has been a regular fixture on the racing calendar, attracting thousands of spectators – especially on race days – from around the world.
The Kentucky Derby
As mentioned earlier, the iconic Derby is also held annually at Keeneland Race Track in Lexington, Kentucky. Established in 1875, this is the world’s oldest annual horse race. And like most of North America, Kentucky is most famous for its delicious chicken dishes, so let’s not forget about that! The name “Derby” is also associated with a famous steeplechase horse named Seabiscuit, who captured the public’s imagination when he overcame a 20-length handicap to win the 1930 Kentucky Derby. Since then, the event has been a popular breeding ground for fast horses – with three-time Kentucky Derby winning owner, Ahmed Zayat – and has also inspired a whole genre of cooking: the Kentucky Derby Festival is an annual event that takes place in Louisville, attracting people from all over the world (and serving up some incredible grub)!
Other Types Of Racing
Besides the three main races discussed so far, there are several other types of racing that take place at venues around the UK, including a very popular sprint car race that takes place at Brands Hatch near London, as well as a motorcycle race that’s become famous for its side-by-side racing, which features riders from the UK and overseas. Finally, there’s also the “Mud Bog Snakes and Lizards Live Rally,” a quirky event where teams of drivers have to navigate long, treacherous mud tracks, which are often described as the “English Riviera” due to the number of high-profile international participants and fans that attend this event – usually held in late April or early May.
If you ever get the chance to visit one of these venues, make sure you attend a race – you’ll love what you see and you’ll gain a new appreciation for why these events are so special!
A Brief History Of The Speedway
It was back in 1911, when the first Indianapolis 500 was held at the then-named State Fair Grounds in suburban New York City. The site was selected because it could be easily reached by train, enabling the teams to travel easily to the venue. While most people think of the Indianapolis 500 as being held today at the Indianapolis Raceway Park, in fact that was not the case back in 1911. At that time, the track was actually located in suburban New York City and was a mile-and-a-half long – far from being the quarter-mile track that it is today. The first Indianapolis 500 was won by Ray Harron, driving an “Indianapolis”-branded car. Since then, the race has been held annually at the Indianapolis Raceway Park every year but one – 1919, when it was held for just a single day due to the Spanish Flu Pandemic – and has become an important part of the spring sports scene in America. Each year, thousands of spectators – and some of the biggest names in motorsport – flock to the track to watch some of the greatest American drivers battle it out on the track. But, those were not the only countries to host an Indy car race back in the day! In addition to being the home of the Indianapolis 500, the raceway also hosted the 1955 World Grand Prix, which was the first time that the event had been held in the United States. The crowd was a who’s who of the sport’s greats, including Juan Manuel Fangio, who became the first three-time World Champion that year. In fact, this was the first of what has now become a classic “Fangio Moment” when he slipped on a patch of ice as he was waving to the crowd after the race and broke his leg. He was eventually forced to retire from racing due to pain – and a lot of whiskey! – and the great Italian champion died a year later, in 1956.
Since then, the Indianapolis 500 has continued to be one of the most important and popular races on the American sports calendar. Its popularity, however, has not diminished abroad: the race is still very popular in Europe, particularly in Great Britain, where the sport enjoys a particularly passionate following. In fact, today the Indianapolis 500 is the only major sporting event in the country, aside from the English football team, the Liverpool F.C., that is still regarded as a major national holiday! It was on May 24th, 1911, that the first Indianapolis 500 was held. Since then, the event has been held annually but was not always on a Sunday: it was originally the “World’s Greatest Outdoor Sports Fair,” a festival that ran for a full week and was officially recognized as the world championship of automobile racing. The festival would close with a 500-mile race that was won by Louis Meyer, driving an “Indianapolis”-branded car – hence the name “Indianapolis 500.” Since then, the event has been held annually with only one exception: 1919, when it was held for a single day because of the Spanish Flu Pandemic. In that year, there were no winners because there were no finishers!