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The Roundabout Blog

Top 10 automotive endurance races

  • The mettle-testers

    Like ironman competitions and ultramarathons, automotive endurance contests reward resolve and resources over outright class-leading performance.

    What began as an opportunity for manufacturers to showcase their vehicles’ reliability and durability has evolved. No longer does “endurance” simply refer to a period of hours in which a racecar failed to break down. Advancements in technology and system durability mean the machines can be expected keep pace with the wanderlust of the driver, however extreme. Endurance races are now an expression of manifest destiny.

    Sounds dangerously fun and exciting, does it not?

    What follows is a selection of the world’s most famous, and most entertaining, attempts to push the limits of man and machine.

  • Dakar Rally

    The allure of a gruelling off-road rally has attracted hundreds of amateur and professional racers alike nearly every year since 1979 – except for 2008, when the race was cancelled after motoring deaths along the route combined with threats of terrorism put an end to the Dakar as it was known. The longest variation on the route sent racers from Paris to Cape Town, South Africa, in 1992. Having relocated in 2009 to South America, the race has been revitalised. Competitors covered more than 8,000 kilometres in January on a route from Lima, Peru, to Santiago, Chile. (AP Photo/Pascal Rondeau/Presse Sports)

  • Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona

    What began as a three-hour race in 1962 at a track in Daytona Beach, Florida, evolved into a full-bore 24-hour competition. This year’s race, held in January, marked the introduction of diesel racecars – based on the new Mazda 6 sedan – and fielded 57 competitors in three classes. (Mazda North America)

  • 24 Hours of Le Mans

    The founding mission of the most recognised motorsport event the world was neither to prove top speeds or attract corporate sponsorships, but rather to test the reliability of racecars. Le Mans has taken place since 1923 along the Circuit de la Sarthe road course, southwest of Paris. Its idiosyncratic rules and regulations have inspired the design and development of later road cars, and it comprises – along with the Monaco Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500 – the so-called Triple Crown of Motorsport. (Automobile Club de l'Ouest)

  • Indianapolis 500

    The most internationally recognisable North American automotive race, the Indy 500 has tested the mettle of open-wheel racecars on a 2.5-mile oval circuit since 1911. The race, held annually on Memorial Day weekend at the end of May, consists of 500 miles driven over 200 laps. All of the purpose-built Indy cars use turbocharged 2.2-litre V-6 engines. The winning driver historically drinks a glass of milk in front of crowds of adoring fans. (Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

  • Mongol Rally

    This endurance race allows competitors to choose their own adventure, from a starting line at the Festival of Slow in Britain to the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbataar. The catch? Entrants’ vehicles must have engines with displacement no larger than 1 litre. Think Fiat 500, not Ferrari 250. (The Adventurists)

  • Bathurst 1000

    This endurance race of 161 laps and 1,000 kilometres is Australia’s response to the likes of Daytona and Le Mans. Conquering the 23 turns of the Mt Panorama Circuit in New South Wales earned the Bathurst 1000’s winningest driver, Peter Brock, the title “The King of the Mountain”. (Mount Panorama)

  • La Carrera Panamericana

    To celebrate the completion of the Pan-American Highway in 1950, the Mexican government sanctioned a six-day, 2,096-mile carrera (race). It recurred through 1954, by which point the race had earned a reputation for danger, with 27 deaths being attributed to the competition over five years of racing. Aficionados revived the Panamericana on a closed course beginning in 1988 as a historical tribute. (La Carrera Panamericana)

  • Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

    A climb to the 14,110ft (4,267m) summit of a rounded mount in Colorado is the world’s definitive hill-climb event, and it has been going on since 1916. The rally event is so iconic that it enjoys placement within the selectable courses in the Gran Turismo video game franchise. As of the 2012 running, the first since the route was fully paved, New Zealander Rhys Millen holds the course record in a Hyundai Genesis Coupe. (Hyundai Motor America)

  • World Solar Challenge

    Alternative energy – in this case, sunlight – shines at this endurance competition held annually in Australia, which acts as a rolling caravan of photovoltaic innovation. Solar-powered racecars built by university students cover journeys of up to 2,000 miles. The event, which has roots in North America, was first sponsored by General Motors and dubbed Sunrayce. (World Solar Challenge)

  • Cannonball Run

    Unsatisfied with the double-nickel (55mph) speed restrictions imposed on US highways in the 1970s, teams of rogue racers set off on this cross-country dash, competing for the quickest time from coast to coast. It also inspired a feature film of the same name in 1981, in which a Mitsubishi Starion not unlike the one pictured above was driven by Jackie Chan. The race was later known as One Lap of America, and inspired future competitions of tenuous legality, including the Gumball 3000. (Mitsubishi Motors)

  • *Bonus race* 24 Hours of Lemons

    Cash-strapped amateurs have taken part in this 24-hour endurance race series since 2006. Its rules mandate that participants run vehicles with a budget constraint of $500; violators are subject to a handicap that can greatly diminish the team’s overall chance at victory. Penalties are doled out by “The Wheel of Misfortune”, which cannot be said of traditional Le Mans runs. (DriversDoor)