Driving and music – name a more iconic duo. The infinite amount of ‘best driving songs’ compilation CDs cluttering the glovebox of many a car right now is more than confirmation of the joy and power of bringing together automotive and auditory pleasure. And racing is no exception at all. What springs to mind immediately the moment The Chain by Fleetwood Mac starts playing? Formula One, of course.
Which is why it seems obvious to us to relate some of the greatest musical tracks in history to some of the greatest racing tracks in history.
Both can be utterly timeless, only getting better the more times you spin the record or watch races there. Marvelling at a great guitar solo akin to marvelling at spectacular car control, soaring vocals akin to the roar of engines at full chat. The relationship is intrinsic.
So it only makes sense to bring you a list of racetracks as rock songs, right? Absolutely. So here are our top picks.
Brands Hatch (Great Britain): The Who – My Generation
Think about it. A British classic, not the longest but full of exuberance, flow and deceptive amounts of technical skill. That description could fit either Brands Hatch, an icon of British racing history, or the Who’s 1965 hit song, an icon of British music history. Both are relentlessly exhilarating and perfectly formed; there’s a very good reason the layout of Brands Hatch has barely changed down the years, and Roger Daltrey’s yelping vocals and John Entwhistle’s thrilling bass breaks are similarly timeless.
Circuit de la Sarthe (France): The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary
To be honest, we did kinda crib this one from Radio Le Mans. The legendary broadcasters have used this track as the theme song to their coverage of the Le Mans 24 Hours race for many years now, and why not? It fits perfectly. La Sarthe is a mix of a flowing race circuit and wide-open country roads and highways, creating the ultimate expression of speed and flat-out driving. So obviously, one of the greatest driving songs of all time is a natural fit; be it for belting down the motorway at 70mph or down the Mulsanne Straight at 200mph.
Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium): The Doors – Riders On The Storm
For driving through the hills and forests late at night, there’s few better cuts than the moody and atmospheric Doors classic. And what is Spa-Francorchamps? An atmospheric and formidable circuit set in the Ardennes Forest, winding over hills and through valleys, with a long history of hosting Grand Prix, sportscar and endurance racing. And as for the ‘storm’ part? How many times have drivers had to ride out literal rain storms at Spa down the years? Exactly. Just ask Damon Hill.
Nurburgring Nordschliefe (Germany): Led Zeppelin – Stairway To Heaven
It’s long, it goes through different movements each more intense than the last, it has a mythical reputation and is rightfully loved and revered worldwide. Am I talking about the eight-minute-long rock song, or the nearly 16-mile-long race circuit? The description easily applies to both. Both are viewed by some as overly long and self-indulgent, but both are also viewed by many as a magnum opus, a proving ground for drivers and musicians, and a defining moment in racing and rock music history respectively. Oh, and both build to a spectacular crescendo – belting onto Dottinger Hoe straight with Jimmy Page’s iconic guitar solo ripping in your ears is pretty close to motoring nirvana.
Mount Panorama (Australia): Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
Alright, time to admit some bias; Queen are my favourite band of all time. So why not marry their greatest musical peak to my favourite racetrack of all time, and racing’s literal greatest peak? Both are slightly shorter than our previous entry, but both – in my mind – are even more perect, and go through as many epic movements. And I’m quite sure whoever decided racing up and down a mountain in Australia was a great idea got a similar look of bemusement as Freddie Mercury’s flamboyant, multi-faceted behemoth got when presented to record company execs as a single. Too long, too outrageous, too unconventional? Who cares – in both cases, the gamble paid off spectacularly.
So that’s our list – one that could have been much longer. And if we had more ideas for this list, we’re sure you have your own ones too! Share them in the comments, or hit us up on Twitter @RacingMentor.