As Hamilton checks out touring cars, what’s our favourite motorsport outside F1?

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Lewis Hamilton went incognito to Donington Park last weekend to watch his younger brother Nicolas score his best result to date in the British Touring Car Championship.

The seven-times Formula 1 world champion will have seen an eventful opening to arguably Britain’s most popular home-grown motorsport series. While F1 may be the top draw for most viewers, it’s far from the only series which captures the attention of our writers.

The unusually long gap between Formula 1 races has given us more time to catch up on some of those categories. Here’s four series our writers would encourage you to sample.

BTCC: Best of British

Last year’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix had an appealing, ‘old school’ feeling which immediately transported me back to my childhood. The small park in Imola reminded me of weekends spent with my family watching the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Sunseeker Rally, World Rally Championship – and the British Touring Car Championship.

Jake Hill - Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport BMW 330e M Sport
Hamilton hid in the crowd to watch his brother in the BTCC
My dad works as a circuit doctor and was usually waiting patiently in the medical centre hoping for a quiet day. The smell of burgers would fill the air as the locals set up vans and you would embrace the familiar British spectator feeling of either being too hot or too cold, and wet.

It never mattered as soon as the engines roared into life and the racing began. That moment in Italy reminded me why I got into motorsport and how special a sport it is.

Last weekend, I headed to Donington Park for the first round of the British Touring Car Championship, thrilled to be getting back to work in such a vibrant and friendly paddock. With a plethora of racing throughout the weekend shown live on ITV4, you can’t help but feel warmth when the engines start spluttering off the start line. What ensues over the three races on Sunday is mostly chaotic – elbows are out and game faces are on.

Huge crowds flock to British Touring Cars
The large, heavy cars are far slower than F1’s, but due to the nature of the racing, we often see a lot of close battles. The BTCC also visits some of the best tracks in the UK, including my favourite Brands Hatch, plus Thruxton, Oulton Park, Silverstone and Knockhill.

Last season, the battle went down to the season finale at Brands Hatch after a double victory from Tom Ingram as the man from High Wycombe beat rivals Ash Sutton and Jake Hill to the title. This season is looking set to be another exciting and competitive campaign.

Sometimes working in Formula 1, you forget the simplicity of motorsports when it’s stripped back – but the BTCC is a series that always delivers.

Claire Cottingham

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IndyCar: Spec racing done right

Which series dependably produces the most thrilling and diverse racing without resorting to DRS-style gimmicks?

Formula E deserves an honourable mention – and certainly some more attention – for the quality of its racing this year. Ditching Fanboost has done it no harm at all (they get a loud ‘we told you so’ for that) and the ‘Gen3’ chassis is producing better races than either of its predecessors.

IndyCar produces thrilling racing action
But in recent years one championship more than any other has shown F1 and the rest how to consistently produce top-drawer racing. And, like Formula E, it deserves a greater audience.

IndyCar quickly discovered it was onto a good thing when it overhauled the aerodynamics of its cars back in 2018. Since then it has seldom disappointed wherever it has raced.

And what a range of venues it visits. Undulating road courses like Barber Motorsports Park, scene of this weekend’s race. True street circuits, unforgivably narrow and bumpy. And speedways unlike anything on the grand prix calendar, offering a formidable challenge too rarely tackled by today’s F1 drivers.

It has one of the best rosters of drivers outside of F1 as well, with potentially a dozen different winners from weekend to weekend. Last time out impressive American youngster Kyle Kirkwood produced a classy, pole-to-win drive at Long Beach.

I can think of no higher compliment that when IndyCar clashes with an F1 weekend I have to force myself not to watch it to avoid being distracted by work – and often fail.

Of course a key part of the reason IndyCar produces such great action is that the drivers have access to largely the same hardware. This bears stressing, as it’s a big part of the reason why F1’s racing will probably never be as close. But there’s room in my heart for both.

Keith Collantine

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Italian F4: Massive grids

Although it ultimately hasn’t had too many graduates go on to F1 since its creation in 2014, with former Super Formula star Ukyo Sasahara remarkably the only driver who has won at single-seaters’ top level, the Italian Formula 4 championship is still the favoured series by most F1 junior teams and as such is where you will find the biggest and best grids at this level of motorsport.

F1 juniors do battle in Italian F4’s packed grids
Last weekend’s opening round at Imola attracted 37 drivers, of which seven were F1 juniors. Red Bull-backed Arvid Lindblad leads the points, with McLaren protege Ugo Ugochukwu third in the standings. The other F1 juniors are outside of the top ten, but that shows just how competitive this series is.

In fact, because it is so popular, Italian F4 has had to adapt its usual three-race event format to split the cars into groups so each driver gets to contest two of the three ‘heat’ races and then there is a ‘final’, with the grid set by the results of the previous three races.

The racing is super-close among the 10 teams, even when the once-in-a-generation superstars are driving for the series’ usual benchmark outfit Prema. The calendar’s mix of four current F1 tracks and three iconic Italian venues makes it attractive for drivers seeking relevant track experience on the way to the top but also puts a spotlight on the circuits with as much history but are rarely used higher up the single-seater ladder.

Try not to enjoy a 12-car lead fight at Mugello later this year, or a season-long battle between young drivers that Ferrari and Red Bull have already picked out as their future stars, I dare you.

Ida Wood

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F1 Esports: Virtually better than the real thing

No, please, don’t stop reading.

Ever since Formula 1 began its official Esports series back in 2017, the simracing championship has faced as much cynicism, ignorance and plain bad faith criticism as Formula E has. “Who cares?”, they decried. “Why would I watch other people playing a video game?”.

F1 Esports’ virtual racing produces real drama
Yes, technically this is Formula 1. But to put it simply, if you enjoy close, exciting and unpredictable racing in Formula 1, why wouldn’t you check out the Esports Pro Series?

Across six seasons, the official F1 simracing championship has provided genuinely brilliant racing action. With all ten teams involved running with equal physics, it’s the closest thing fans will have to ever seeing F1 as a spec series.

With a condensed calendar of 12 races spread over four three-race events running to 50% race distance, F1’s Esports series requires far less of a time commitment to follow than pretty much any other series you could think of. The action is astonishingly close. Races are routinely won by less than a second with closer top tens than your typical NASCAR race.

Last season saw six different race winners for five teams across 12 races with a first-time champion crowned for McLaren. And do not think for a second that the sterile, controlled environment of a game makes F1 Esports free from controversy, off-track drama or allegations of cheating – that could not be further from the truth.

But perhaps the best element of F1 Esports is that, unlike every other series above, everyone reading has the opportunity to compete in it. Simply set a fast enough time in the qualifying event on the official F1 game and you could be on your way to being drafted by one of the ten F1 teams.

Yes, the official F1 game has its fault – many of them. No, its physics engine isn’t as authentic as iRacing’s or Assetto Corsa’s. But if you want the best possible racing action Formula 1 has to offer, the answer is to go virtual.

Will Wood

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Over to you

Got a passion for NASCAR? Never miss a rally? What are your favourite kinds of motorsport outside Formula 1 – and what appeals most about them? Let us know in the comments.

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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49 comments on “As Hamilton checks out touring cars, what’s our favourite motorsport outside F1?”

  1. Interesting article and a fun look into all the other fun racing series. One issue with ESports for me is that at the moment half the grid is accusing some participants of cheating. It takes the fun away from a sport if the people involved and close to it are saying that it’s like doping in the Armstrong days of cycling; almost everyone is doing it, it’s just a matter of doing it best without it becoming obvious and getting caught.

    1. Accusation of cheating are as common in real life racing as virtual. :)

  2. Like Claire (and Lewis Hamilton), I was at Donington for the BTCC this weekend. I’m a big fan of the series – and the various support categories – and try to never miss a round on the television, but I do think it’s a series best enjoyed from trackside. The atmosphere in the paddock is always great, and the series really looks after its fans. And at most tracks, wherever you’re sitting (or standing), you’re bound to see some great action.

    The other category – besides F1 – that I try to catch every round of is British GT. The cars are stunning, and the races are generally about two hours in length, which doesn’t feel like the same time investment required to watch something like the GT World Challenge endurance series or the Intercontinental GT Cup. Again, it’s nice to watch at the track – though it takes itself much more seriously than BTCC does – but easier to follow on television due to the multiple classes and lapped traffic. Also all the races are streamed live on YouTube, so very easy to get into.

    1. RandomMallard
      25th April 2023, 18:36

      @red-andy I’m actually looking at trying to make it to the British GT event at Silverstone in a couple of weeks time, which would be my first GT race in person. Hopefully, it will be a good watch!

      I’ll also add, for anyone who isn’t aware, all of the Stephane Ratel Organisation GT races (such as GT World Challenge, Intercontinental GT, and of course the Spa 24 hours) are streamed live and free on YouTube on the GTWorld channel, which is fantastic and I would argue one of the very best official motorsport channels out there in terms of content and action provided.

      1. I hope you enjoy it! British GT has some good series supporting it this year, too, so there will be lots of good racing to enjoy.

        I’ll be at Donington again in October for the season finale.

  3. As carter when i was young i would say carting. But i was always charmed in Rally and races as Paris – Dakar.

    Also F2 F2 FE touring cars i like to watch…

  4. petebaldwin (@)
    25th April 2023, 14:05

    F1 used to be the only series that I would watch over anything else but that’s been replaced by Indycar over the last 12 months. Indycar has lots of flaws but I love tuning into a race without already knowing who is going to win and you just don’t get that in F1. It also feels less gimmicky than F1 which if you asked me 10 years ago, is something I would have never thought I’d say!

    There are lots of changes I’d love Indycar to make but as it stands, it’s the best open-wheel series to watch as a fan. It’s not as good as F1 could be but it’s much better than what F1 currently is.

    1. Agreed, mainly because the gimmicks are fair. Push to Pass isn’t as derided when every driver gets the same number of seconds to use per race (depends on the track, up to 200s but sometimes less) as DRS which denies the driver in front a fair opportunity to defend.

      I’ve always had an interest in Indycar way back when Mansell crossed the pond and ITV showed 1 hour highlights the week after the race. Sort of followed the series until 1999 when Greg Moore died – partly because I liked his background but mainly due to the sheer violence of the crash that killed him. Basically stopped watching until around 2013 and started following again in part thanks to the new car that replaced. Mainly watched clips online but now that I’m living in the US it’s pretty easy to watch vs F1 races that start at 7am. That and I’ve been to far more races in person, went to the 2014 races in Milwaukee and Fontana, the 2017 Indy 500, & the Gateway & 1st Indy road course race in 2021. All of which cost a bit less than a 4 day ticket for the 2012 Australian GP.

      Looking forward to going to another few races this year. Gateway is basically next door and Nashville, Indianapolis & Iowa are 4-5 hour drives so viable races to watch in person. That and ticket prices are extremely cheap compared to F1 – $87 including tax for a reasonable T2 seat for the 500. $54 for a decent seat at T1 for the road course race in just over 2 weeks time, $70 for the race at Gateway.

  5. Highest concentration of talent racing is probably FIA KZ. No spec engine or chassis either so its real competition at every single aspect. It is pound for pound the best modern racing grid in the world. No overtaking aids, no balance of performance. It’s real as real can get.

    Division 1 SuperKarts are mind-blowing. Outright lap record at Cadwell Park says it all. Went to watch the other week and made every other car series on the program look pony.

    Finally, historic 100cc karting. I would say that, but honestly it’s the purist driving expression. No other motorsport comes close. Senna knew this. Everyone knows this.

    1. Jack (@jackisthestig)
      25th April 2023, 22:31

      Oh Super Karts are outrageous! The most shockingly fast, dangerous four-wheeled racing I’ve ever seen.

      1. Epic right?

        Motorsport is so weird really. I don’t think any other sport has such rich diversity. It cost me just £17 to watch the supers at Cadwell. As a racing spectacle on a long circuit like Cadwell, it made F1 look pony.

        The drivers obviously don’t get the promotion because for the BSRC there’s no route to that generating a return, but watching Matt Robinson just beast the Hall Bends was another level. Same Moss has the outright lap record at Cadwell, but wasn’t racing. I think the outright lap record could have gone again at the other weekend without the race interruptions and red flags.

  6. After F1 it’s WRC for me, then IndyCar.
    Rally 1 cars are just so fun to watch and they always look on the limit blasting around narrow roads and through small villages.

  7. GT3 is the best. Better than F1. F1 is a joke.

  8. F1, BTCC, WRC, although the latter series has the drivers with the titanium covered bits…

    Bikes don’t do anything for me, although it was nice hearing the sound of road racing over the seagulls last weekend!

  9. light, small, and purpose built race cars with racing so good, it takes your breath away.
    I give you the Mazda MX-5 Cup
    asthmatics be warned!

  10. I picked up NASCAR last season after tuning out for 15 years since I was a kid, and I have been so surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed it. There were 21 winners in 38 races, so the field is wide open. What I’ve found I love is that the repetition of the laps really allows you to lock in to different driving styles, and appreciate how different drivers use different lines and adjust as the track rubbers in lap after lap. Passing is almost always present and is a multi-lap affair, drawing yourself closer and closer before slinging yourself by in the draft. I used to think “they only turn left” but in reality each track is different, with wildly different styles and techniques needed to succeed at each.

    F1’s shambolic racing spectacle in recent years as made my favorite part of the weekend watching free practices, as equal attention is given to all cars and you can truly appreciate how magnificently they are built. Trying to pretend that the racing is “good” in any way has been lost on me.

    Realizing that I could give up that dream and still love F1 has been freeing for me, and I no longer have to pretend it is the races I watch for. Come try out a NASCAR race with me!

  11. If F1 eSports count so must TrackMania! If you think 1 second is close, TrackMania races are often decided by the tenths.

    Over ten thousand people compete in the daily cups and the same people usually end up in the top 20 or so. With a purely deterministic physics engine and replays being analysed constantly, cheating is entirely non-existent. It can be played competitively with keyboard, controller or wheel.

    Everyone is a ghost so they’re essentially simultaneous time trials but that also means no messy racing incidents or investigations and protests. And that’s not to mention chasing world records.

    It really is some of the purest racing around, despite its entirely arcade nature.

    For anyone interested check out wirtual on youtube

    1. Oh absolutely yes! The pursuit of perfection is not represented any better than it is in Trackmania. Near non-existent margins for error and those guys do it repeatedly.

      Wirtual showed me something new that I will forever cherish.

  12. For me it’s MotoGP. It reminds me of what attracted me to F1, riders racing hard start to finish and making their own decisions on how to ride.

  13. But to put it simply, if you enjoy close, exciting and unpredictable racing in Formula 1, why wouldn’t you check out the Esports Pro Series?

    Because, it’s not real. There are no consequences to any action. Without consequence, the outcome means nothing, and watching it has no value. I just don’t get it.

  14. Keith couldn’t put it better for my thoughts on Indycar. Particularly when there is a calender clash between F1 and Indycar, sometimes it pains me having to prioritise my F1 viewing and push I dycar back to the Monday night. Always worth the wait though.

  15. RandomMallard
    25th April 2023, 18:32

    Agree with what most people have said. Indycar has grown on me a lot over the last couple of years, and I will now try to make time to watch it when possible, even on the oval races which historically I had been less interested in. Their race at Texas Motor Speedway recently was particularly good.

    The F1 junior formulae are always a good watch in my opinion, and I can often find them to be more enjoyable than the F1 in any given race weekend.

    I am also a fan of Formula E, as I’ve learned to accept that it isn’t F1, and isn’t trying to be, and once you can get past that (and especially now they’ve got rid of Fanboost), it actually becomes quite an enjoyable watch in my opinion. Additionally, the Gen3 cars have produced some great racing. I attended my first live FE race in London last year, and it was a very enjoyable experience. Additionally, I also think their head-to-head qualifying system, while novel, is actually a really good idea. I’ll admit I was a bit sceptical at first, but having seen it live both on the track and at home, I really quite like it. I wouldn’t want it in F1, but I think it serves its purpose to FE very nicely.

    I also try and make time for Endurance and GT races when I can, particularly the major 24 hour races at Spa, Nurburgring, Daytona and of course Le Mans, while IMSA in general is a very enjoyable watch.

    NASCAR has never captured my interest, so I don’t really watch that either.

    And as T says above, the Mazda MX-5 Cup that often accompanies IMSA produces some of the purest and most enjoyable racing out there in my opinion.

    1. Out of curiosity, how does one actually watch/follow endurance racing? Do you watch the entire race, or just the highlights? I’ve been thinking about getting into it, but the races seem too long to follow, without missing any moments. And it seems to me that with the races being so long, the moments are few and far in between?

  16. MotoGP.

    I got into it many, many years after F1 and probably now prefer it.

    You do get the occasional procession, but more often than not you het full-on battles up and down the grid.

  17. Australian “Supercars” or NASCAR for this crass Ozzie.
    Both are sometimes good for a laugh

  18. For me, it used to be MotoGP. No other series can have you standing up and screaming like this. But sadly, in the last few years it’s now following in F1’s footsteps by letting new aerodynamics making overtaking more difficult. It fallen and we’ll have to wait and see if it can ever get back up.

    IndyCar has a lot going for it but like many racing series it is spoiled by *numerous* commercials. And NO! having the racing shown in a wee small window in the upper left during commercials doesn’t help!

  19. I 100% agree with Keith on Indycar. Along with F1 I never miss a race and the Monaco/Indy 500 Sunday every year is my own personal Christmas Day. All that is left is for the FIA to pull their heads out of their exhaust pipes and give Indycar its due and give their drivers more credit towards super license points than being sandwiched between F3 and F2. I will put Scott Dixon or Will Power up against any current F1 driver in equal machinery any day (and twice on Sunday).

    1. There’s no material benefit for the FIA to promote IndyCar. Also, do you really want more super licence points in IndyCar? All that does is promote the concept of paid drivers. Teams will have to ask themselves whether they want to employ full-time drivers, or just accept the cash bought to them from drivers hunting points.

      IndyCar would do well to disassociate itself from F1 and the Super Licence Point system and focus entirely on itself and it’s own drivers.

      1. Indycar is technically a member organization of the FIA although they are not directly governed by it, and the FIA is not a business stake holder in F1. I don’t see how fairly awarding points in Indycar vs F2 based on driver results and skill diminishes the legitimacy of Indycar. It would actually be quite the opposite. Pay drivers do just as poorly in Indycar as they usually do in F1 and F2. Here are the current points allotments given to the top ten in season standings for the top feeder series:

        F2 – 40, 40, 40, 30, 20, 10, 8, 6, 4, 3
        Indycar – 40, 30, 20, 10, 8, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1
        F3 – 30, 25, 20, 15, 12, 9, 7, 5, 3, 2
        FE – 30, 25, 20, 10, 8, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1

        I think the makeup of this table clearly shows a bias against Indycar and gives a laughable amount of credit to the glorified Karting that is Formula E. The points for 3rd through 10th in Indycar and FE are the same and are actually higher in F3! That is a joke. A part time pay driver isn’t going to gather up enough points in Indycar to get to F1. My argument is that Indycar is a much more difficult series to compete in because there are excellent veteran drivers competing in the series unlike in F2 or F3. It also happens to hold arguably the one of, if not the biggest, races in the world every year in the Indy 500. Giving talent its proper due doesn’t diminish an FIA Superlicense.

  20. How about some Marbula One?

    1. Huh!!!! I used to love marble racing back when it were all natural courses in the dirt. Much better they were!

  21. Jack (@jackisthestig)
    25th April 2023, 22:20

    Could I sing the praises of good old club racing. A typical 750 Motor Club meeting for instance will feature a huge variety of cars; single-seaters, prototype-style sports cars, historics, all sorts of Japanese stuff, endurance racing, teenagers in hatchbacks, anything you can think of really.

    There is a wide range of driving talent on display so there’s loads of battling and overtaking going on mostly caused by the drivers making mistakes missing gears, out-braking themselves and getting way-too sideways in the corners, it’s really entertaining.

    I’m from South Wales so my local circuit is Pembrey. The resident series is the Welsh Sports and Saloon Car Championship which has GT3, supertouring cars, TCR’s, Ginetta G50s, modified Caterhams, Mk2 Escorts and Sierra Cosworths, old Minis, MX-5s and a battered old Ford Ka all competing in the same race, it’s fantastic!

    On most circuits in the UK you can watch all this from the comfort of your own car and if you’re keen on photography the whole circuit is accessible and there are so few spectators you don’t need to get your elbows out at the good spots. Oh and it never costs more than £20 per day to get in, that’s less than watching two Grands Prix on Now Sport.

    1. I stand by the notion a decent kart club meeting is as high quality from a pure driving skill pov as any major international meeting the UK. In some circumstances more. Most people will live within 30 minutes of a club.

      Went Cadwell last weekend to watch Superkarts. Nothing laps faster there… literally. £17 per adult. I understand F1’s popularity and the mechanisms at play… but still… the price difference

      The value out there as you point out is incredible.

      1. That sounds pretty amazing. Next time I’m in Europe I will try to check it out.

        1. The race in Assen is apparently epic. The whole weekend is a proper festival type thing with around 60,000 fans as the weekend is shared with bikes etc… Elkman also races that so it’s a big showdown between everyone around Europe now we don’t have official FIA European Championship.

          Oulton is another place I’d like to go. Silverstone is a bit too big of an expanse really, and that goes for most race series to be honest. Donington was good as well for the kart. Anglesey and Knockhill would be good also.

          I think we really need to get behind encouraging our various motorsports from both spectator and participation point of views. While F1 hoovers up almost all the attention everything else is far from booming.

  22. I got sick of Indycar being such a lottery, so now I only follow WRC and Motogp outside of F1. I would check out karting, but there are only so many hours in a day…

  23. Coventry Climax
    26th April 2023, 0:48

    Caterham racing, any class, even the Graduates events are great.
    It’s spec, but racing at it’s best nonetheless.

    Non-spec would be KZ carts. But that shouldn’t get too popular, or the FIA will start to kill it.

  24. IndyCar, WEC, F2 and F3 for me, with a sprinkling of MotoGP and WRC thrown in.

    I was a huge fan of touring cars when I was growing up but I don’t follow it now. In the 90s I followed the incredible local Super Touring series we had in South Africa and would follow the BTCC religiously, but once the Super Touring era ended I couldn’t get excited about them anymore.

    P.S. The 1992 BTCC finale at Silverstone is still the greatest motor race I have ever seen and I urge everyone to watch it, you can find it on Youtube. I watch it at least once a quarter and it still gets my pulse racing.

    1. Youtube recently started throwing me recommendations for Super Touring videos. It just is so much better. It’s a weird issue motorsport faces. The best things tend to be unsustainable because they burn too bright.

  25. For me, WRC, which I’ve been following & watching as long as F1 (both since 2004), as well as Super Formula (I’m surprised no one has mentioned this series despite being the world’s second-fastest) since 2020.
    These two are the main ones beside F1, & I also watched Super GT at Okayama Circuit (the race was more dramatic than any F1 race for a long time bar maybe the 2011 Canadian GP) & intend to watch more later this year.
    I’ve only watched a single IndyCar race (last year’s opener), but intend to watch another at some point.

  26. Incognito, yet fully staged picture.

  27. I love F1 but I admit I don’t get the excitement like I used to ..the anticipation at the start etc it just doesn’t thrill me like it used to.

    Formula E? No thanks.

    Indycar? Yes but I never get to see it as I don’t have Sky.

    I’ve fallen away from BTCC in the last few years but recently I’ve moved to Fife so I’m about 20 minutes from Knockhill so I’m looking forward to going there soon and reigniting my passion by seeing some thrilling BTCC.

  28. What I dilligently watch:
    – Indycar
    – Formula 1

    What I non-regularly check out (because I used to dilligently follow):
    – WEC / IMSA + I always watch the LeMans 24h race
    – MotoGP / Superbike
    – World Rallye Championship (WRC)
    – Nascar
    – BTCC / DTM / Australian SuperCars
    – MotoCross / SuperCross
    – Motorcycle Trial

    And every now and again I watch some crazy USA-ian racing series like MotoAmerica Bagger racing:

  29. Dakar, no doubt.

  30. IndyCar easily has the history, the tracks, biggest race on earth, the drivers, and the best racing and is far better to watch than F1. F1 may be bigger, but IndyCar is better.

  31. MotoGP, indycar, super formula.

    I would have said DTM several years ago. I’ll check out BTCC! Great recommendation.

  32. I also never miss the Bathurst 1000.

  33. Josh Hetherton
    28th April 2023, 5:52

    V8 Supercars and MotoGP

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