From Cars and Coffee to Le Mans, there’s an incredible range of festivals, rallies, shows and meetings where auto enthusiasts can indulge in their passion. But what if you had to choose just five events to slot into your bucket list? The question has been playing on our minds here at New Atlas, so we’ve put together five of our favorite celebrations of motoring passion.
Goodwood Festival of Speed
Regular, classic motor shows don’t have the same appeal they used to. Sure, there’s a heap of new cars sitting in the one place, but there’s something very sterile about seeing them sitting on a rotating platform. Cars are all about passion, a passion that can go missing under harsh convention center lights.
Goodwood has been providing a living, breathing, moving alternative to the classic motor show since 1993. Rather than limiting the pool to modern or classic cars, it’s designed to be a celebration of speed and power across the ages, which means there’s an incredible mix of classic and modern metal on display.
When we say on display, what we really mean is on the move. Cars line up at the bottom of a hillclimb – which, for 95 percent of the year is a driveway – and put on a show for the crowd. Forget about carefully tiptoeing up the hill as drivers rip massive burnouts on the start line, and there’s usually a spin or dramatic accident to keep the crowd entertained.
Everything from classic Formula 1 cars to modern brutes like the Bugatti Chiron took on the climb this year. You can check out all the action here.
Bonneville Speed Week
If it’s out-and-out speed you’re after, it’s hard to match Bonneville Speed Week. That’s because the famous Utah flats have an unrivalled history in the world of high-speed running. It’s played home to speed record attempts and racing since 1914, and countless records have been set on the salt since then.
Sir Malcolm Campbell was the first man to hit 300 mph (483 km/h) at Bonneville in 1935. Craig Breedlove broke the 500 mph and 600 mph (805 and 966 km/h) barriers on the salt. The famous flats have played host to some of history’s bravest (or stupidest) pilots, determined to make a white knuckle run into the record books.
In 1949, the Southern Californian Timing Association held its first Speed Week, drawing a new crowd of amateur drivers to the salt. From well-funded professional teams to optimistic backyard enthusiasts, anyone is welcome to roll up and push their machines to the limit.
New Atlas’ Chris Weiss immersed himself in this year’s Speed Week festivities, and came away with a serious case of salt fever. Check out his write up here.
Formula 1 in Monaco
Formula 1 is a sport in transition at the moment, trying to balance modern turbocharged powerplants with classic, dramatic ideas about what the pinnacle of motorsports should represent.
The best way to compensate for the lack of drama is to go and watch a race in Monaco. With absurdly expensive yachts moored in the harbour, absurdly expensive cars sitting in the hotel valet carparks and absurdly expensive drinks flowing freely, even the most discerning visitors are likely to be taken aback by the sheer excess on display.
And, if you manage to take a break from the schmoozing, there’s usually some impressive driving on display around the tight street circuit. It’s a pure test of skill, meaning the driver in the fastest car isn’t necessarily a shoo-in for the trophy. Make a mistake (someone invariably does) and the result isn’t a friendly run into the gravel trap, it’s a race-ending meeting with a barrier.
Ayrton Senna burst onto the scene at the drenched 1984 Monaco GP, and the streets played host to one of the great modern F1 dramas when Michael Schumacher parked his car on the exit of Rascasse to deny Fernando Alonso a final flying lap in qualifying.
If it’s drama and classic excess you’re after, no Formula 1 race can come close to Monaco.
Monterey Car Week
Every August, the immaculate lawns of Monterey play host to some of the world’s most significant cars. Although it’s best known for the classics that go up for auction, manufacturers are starting to use it as a launch pad for their latest concept cars, too.
This year was a particularly productive one for the auction houses. The XKD 501 Jaguar D-Type became the most expensive British car to sell at auction, going under the hammer for US$19.8 million. Meanwhile, from the other side of the Atlantic, a $13.75 million 1962 Shelby Cobra 260 Roadster toppled the record for most expensive American-produced car.
Average modern cars might struggle to stand out among such impressive classics, but that wasn’t a problem for the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 at this year’s event. Also flying the flag for modern luxury was the Cadillac Escala, while the BMW 2002 Hommage proved the Germans can still sex it up as well.
The combination of old and new – and the opportunity for visitors to enjoy it all under the Californian sun º make Monterey a must-visit.
Geneva Motor Show
Alright, so the idea of paying admission to a stuffy convention center might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Geneva is the best of the best.
On top of the usual cocktail of supercars, trucks and regular launches, it’s chock full of wild concepts. Pininfarina, Italdesign, Sbarro and Rinspeed all put on a show in Switzerland, showing the big manufacturers how it’s done in the world of pinup poster cars and crazy designs.
Forget about Detroit and Frankfurt, Geneva could easily lay claim to being the one motor show worth visiting every year.
One for the future: Roborace and Formula E
If it’s a unique spectacle you’re after, Roborace is shaping up as one of history’s most interesting competitions. After all, there are no drivers behind the wheel. Instead, cars are controlled by a central processor drawing on information from an army of cameras and sensors scattered around the body.
The cars are unique, the premise is unique, and we can’t wait to see how it all shapes up.
Of course, there are far too many interesting auto events that take place across the globe for us to list here, so if there’s one not listed above that would make your list, let us know in the comments.