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Road racing is a general term used in North America for most forms of motor racing held on paved, purpose-built race tracks (i.e. "road courses"), as opposed to oval tracks and off-road racing. Temporary facilities built on paved airport runways and closed-off public roads (such as street circuits) are also usually included in the definition.
In British English, the term is usually used for officially-sanctioned races held on public roads (street circuits), that have been closed for the duration of the event. This form of racing was banned in the Great Britain in 1925 due to a spectator accident at the Kop Hill Climb, Buckinghamshire. The Isle of Man TT motorcycle race is probably the best known of these, though similar events such as the North West 200 are popular and well-attended in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. As the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland are not part of Great Britain (Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom), the ban does not apply. Sometimes the term "real road racing" is used to distinguish this form of racing from that which takes place on purpose-built paved circuits.
Global road courses
Global road-racing series such as Formula One, FIA WEC and MotoGP are almost always conducted on dedicated race tracks, such as Spa-Francorchamps, Suzuka, Monza, and Silverstone. Recent expansion of these series has resulted in dedicated tracks being built in Qatar in the Middle East, Sepang in Malaysia, and Shanghai in China.
Events for many types of motorized vehicles are held at road racing tracks. Hosting a road racing tradition since 1926 at Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia, the photograph at right shows motorcycle racing at a new track, called the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, which opened in 1989 with the World Motorcycle Championships.
Notable examples of temporary circuits include the Circuit de Monaco and the Guia Circuit, located on the streets of Monaco and Macau, respectively, whereas the Mille Miglia, Targa Florio, Isle of Man TT, and the Australian Formula One Grand Prix are held on public roads.
The Worlds most famous road race is the Isle of Man TT held for 2 weeks, normally the last week in May and the first week in June, when over 10,000 motorbikes and many more visitors flood the Island for the festivities.
North American road courses
There was a long tradition of road racing on real streets in North America. The term's definition has shifted over time, however, with the increasing dominance of Oval racing. Now the term road course often is used as a catch-all phrase for any racetrack that is not an oval, with even combined circuits (or Rovals as they are sometimes called) such as the 24-hour sports car version of Daytona being referred to as a road course. The most famous contemporary American road courses are purpose-built, but some where the original tradition evolved include: Riverside International Raceway at Riverside, California (closed since 1989), Watkins Glen International at Watkins Glen, New York, Road America at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and Sonoma Raceway at Sonoma, California.
A permanent, purpose-built, road racing circuit (specifically not a street circuit), is sometimes described as a "natural" or "proper" road course in the U.S.
After a few decades of such events three sons of Barron Collier—Barron, Miles, and Samuel—founded the Automobile Racing Club of America in 1933. That organization became the Sports Car Club of America in 1944. Throughout its history, American race car drivers such as Briggs Cunningham, Lake Underwood, Carroll Shelby, and Mark Donohue were among the contestants at these road racing events.
The Road Racing Drivers Club was formed and invited members by nomination alone. Its presidents have been, Walt Hansgen, Dolph Vilardi, John Gorden Benett, Robert Grossman, Lake Underwood, Mark Donohue, Bob Sharp, Skip Barber, Dave Ammen, Bob Akin, Brian Redman, and Bobby Rahal.
American purpose-built road courses include: Barber Motorsports Park, Miller Motorsports Park, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lime Rock Park, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Road Atlanta, Circuit of the Americas, Portland International Raceway, Virginia International Raceway and New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Additionally, racing over public streets is making something of a comeback; the most famous race of this sort currently held is the Long Beach Grand Prix, hosted annually in Long Beach, California. Other famous street circuits in North America include events held in Saint Petersburg, Florida, Montreal, Québec, Vancouver, British Columbia (no longer held), and Toronto, Ontario.
Airport runways figure into several part-time road courses in North America: Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio hosted a Champ Car race through 2007, the Saint Petersburg course uses the runway of Albert Whitted Airport as its main straight, and Sebring International Raceway, home of the prestigious 12-hour race in March, formerly was a military airfield in Sebring, Florida. More recently, the Edmonton Indy is held on the runways of Edmonton City Centre Airport in Edmonton, Alberta.
- "Road Racing Drivers Club - list of presidents". Rrdc.org. Retrieved 2011-08-08.