Skip to main content

The 5 Most Dangerous Auto Races on the Planet

most dangerous auto races
Image used with permission by copyright holder
If the only things you know about car racing is the big NASCAR events and that South Park episode, then you’re missing out.

Some of the world’s most spectacular events are long-distance, multi-leg endurance races, testing the absolute limits of man, machine and the intersection where they co-exist.

To expand your motoring palette, we’ve rounded up five of the craziest races around the world. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, start planning your next trip now.

Dakar Rally

dakar rally
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What it is: The Rally earned its namesake as a race from Paris to Senegal’s capital city from 1978-2009, but has since moved to South America due to security concerns. In 2018, they’ll celebrate their 40th anniversary as competitors traverse unforgiving terrain in Peru, Bolivia and Argentina.

Why it’s insane: Drivers travel more than 500 miles on any given day during the event. It’s a sheer test of will on the competitor as you face just about every climatic issue on the planet, all while trying to beat a who’s who of world-class racing talent. In 1982, Mark Thatcher (son of then-PM Margaret) competed and went missing for six days during the race, almost prompting an international incident (he was found safe).

Rainforest Challenge

Image used with permission by copyright holder

What it is: A celebration of hardcore offroading across the best (worst?) of Malaysia’s rainforests. Competitors build basic, but ridiculous land crawlers meant to tackle any conceivable crossing or waterway. It’s fairly controlled compared to other races, but their machines are put to the test through all sorts of planned obstacles.

Why it’s insane: The Challenge founders host this race during the heart of SE Asia’s monsoon season, meaning the course is a muddy slop from start to finish. It’s pretty routine to see these 4×4 beasts end up on their side or completely tipped over sandwiched between a tree and/or trench.

Isle of Man TT

isle of man tt
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What it is: Conceivably the world’s most famous motorcycle race, it’s 37.7 miles of pure two-wheeled fury around the autonomous Isle of Man (TT stands for “Tourist Trophy,” by the way). In one form or another, it’s been happening annually since 1907 and is mostly volunteer-run in the spirit of the competition.

Why it’s Insane: People get killed competing. More than 200 have died in its various formats, nine in 2005 alone. It’s simply been ushered in over time and the residents of the Isle have come to accept the sheer danger of the annual event. The winding twists and turns are those steeped in tradition and the risk is part of the admission fee.

Baja 1000

Image used with permission by copyright holder

What it is: An epic race down Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Mainly modded trucks and even stock cars compete in this legend of endurance. The cheekiest competitors drive pre-1982 VW Beetles called “Baja Bugs.” Beyond some suspension and tire fixes, they’re mainly stock cars that take a beating on the sandy drive.

Why it’s Insane: It’s not meant for the average racer. The 850-mile course has few signs and competitors must be prepared for any condition (yes, there’s even ridiculous fog and snow during portions of the race). That doesn’t even include the crazy amount of dust that’s kicked up by wheels impairing vision much of the time. It’s an assault on the senses to the extreme.

24 Hours of Le Mans

24 hours le mans
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What it is: The world’s oldest endurance race runs on a mix of closed public roads and private raceway at the Circuit de la Sarthe. The event focuses more on durability as competitors and their teams switch off drivers over a full day of racing with several major manufacturers represented. At least three drivers have to switch off with each vehicle.

Why it’s insane: Driving for 24 hours is no joke. Driving 24 hours in June heat is even worse. The sheer endurance of the race has made it one of the most prestigious annual motoring events and the accolades matter. It’s also a proving ground for future technology that finds its way into some of the world’s best sports cars.

Editors' Recommendations

Geoff Nudelman
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Geoff is a former contributor to The Manual. He's a native Oregonian who’s always up for a good challenge and a great hike…
BMW introduces 2024 X5 and X6, adding range to plug-in hybrid option
BMW X5 and X6: Updated designs, standard 48-volt systems, and new tech are also on hand
Front end angle of the 2024 BMW X6 and rear end angle of the 2024 BMW X5 in a white studio.

BMW may be known for its high-performance sports cars and excellent driver-focused sedans, but the X5 was its best-selling model in 2022. The last time the X5 model was fully redesigned was in 2019, which means that it’s time for a host of updates. Enter the 2024 BMW X5 and its sportier X6 counterpart, which arrive with thorough mid-cycle refreshes. The main highlights are the introduction of a new inline-six engine with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, improved efficiency for the plug-in hybrid model, and a new interior design with added tech.
Both the X5 and X6 40i models will continue to come with a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine, but the motor has been redesigned for 2024. In addition to the new engine, the 40i models are now hybrids, too. The six-cylinder engine gets a 48-volt mild-hybrid system with an electric motor that’s integrated into the eight-speed automatic transmission. With the new engine and the addition of the mild-hybrid system, the base X5 and X6 models are now rated at 375 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. These are upgrades from 335 hp and 330 lb-ft from the outgoing model.


Read more
Survey: Auto execs aren’t as confident as they used to be about EV adoption
Auto executives believe high car prices, a possible recession, and supply chain issues are to blame
Tesla Model 3s charging outside of a work building in a parking lot.

Automakers may be coming out with electric vehicles, but the people running the brands aren’t confident that electric cars will catch on. In a recent global auto survey by KPMG, global automotive executives expressed concern over the rate of EV adoption compared to last year, citing economic concern and continued supply chain problems.
Roughly 900 automotive executives (more than 200 respondents were CEOs and an additional 200 were C-level executives) took part in KPMPG’s annual auto survey. the majority of respondents, 76%, expressed concerns of how high interest rates and inflation will adversely affect their business next year. For auto executives in the U.S., the figure was higher at 84%. One of the major concerns that auto executives have is the adoption of electric vehicles in the U.S. and globally by 2030.

Last year, KPMG’s survey revealed that estimates of new electric cars being sold by 2030 ranged from 20% to 70%. This year, the figure ranged from 10% to 40%. The median expectation for EV sales in the U.S. were that they would represent 35% of new vehicle sales. This figure is well below what it was from last year when it was 65% and is far less than the Biden administration’s goal of having EVs account for 50% of new car sales by 2030.
Automotive executives are less optimistic about the adoption of electric vehicles this year for a few reasons. In the U.S., the Inflation Reduction Act made large changes to the EV federal tax credit. Stricter price caps are in place for EVs, and electric cars have to meet ludicrous requirements for battery components, final assembly points, and critical components. These requirements have drastically reduced the number of EVs that are eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit. Other reasons include the high prices of vehicles, rising prices for battery components and raw materials, fears of a recession, and supply chain constraints.
Gary Silberg, KPMG global head of automotive, told CNBC that long-term optimism for EVs still exists, but automakers and automotive executives are starting to become more realistic.“There’s still a sense of optimism long term, and yet, most important, there’s a sense of realism in the near term. You see this realism throughout the entire survey,” said Silberg. “You can be long-term optimistic, but near term, you’ve got to be very realistic. It’s not rainbows and butterflies and euphoria anymore, it’s game on.”
Unsurprisingly, executives that took part in the survey believe that Tesla will continue to be a global leader in EVs, though its lead over traditional brands is expected to shrink. What is surprising is that executives believe that Apple will be a market leader in EVs in the very near future. While Apple has reportedly been working on an EV for years, it hasn’t showcased anything concrete. Audi and BMW followed closely behind Tesla as automakers that will lead the EV car market in 2030.

Read more
150 MPH Through the Open Desert: The Mint 400 is Back
Mint 400 unlimited class truck speeding through the desert.

If you've never seen a million dollars worth of off-road equipment fly over your head at triple-digit speeds, take my word for it here: It's something everyone should experience at least once before they die. Tragically, your average person goes their entire lives without seeing this spectacle firsthand, but at the annual Mint 400 off-road race, you'll find no average people.

Indeed, a great man once said that desert racing attracts a "very special breed" of individual. After spending race week bouncing around the 2022 Mint 400 myself, I'm inclined to agree.

Read more