Temple Of Speed>> The Monza Banking

I don't know about you but I find international travel can, at times, be a bit disorienting. I don't think our bodies are necessarily designed to transport themselves from one side of the globe to the other in the matter of a day or so. I find that it usually takes a little bit of time for the rest of me to catch up to wherever it is that my Speedhunting duties take me. So you can imagine with all the travel that I've been doing recently, I've started to get a little bit "ungrounded" and am in need of a bit of routine in my life to get a sense of equilibrium going.

I think I'm still processing the Speedhunting trip to Italy too. The day in Venice was particularly memorable although it left me slightly haunted for a while. Although one of the most picturesque and idyllic places I've ever had the opportunity to visit, it left me with a sense of loss. Life in this part of the world, through my rose-tinted glasses, looked absolutely beautiful as Venice itself harks back to a simpler time and day to day life… it left me wondering what part of our human souls we have sacrificed for the sake of our modern, high speed, high tech, consumerist lifestyles…. Hmmm…. Or perhaps I was just having withdrawal symptoms from my 22 inch flat screen at the EA office…

Mind you, the day before Dino Dalle Carbonare and I visited Venice we paid our respects to one of the holiest lost cathedrals of speed: the ruins of the Monza banking.

This is also a rather haunting location, and transports a visitor back to a simpler time and place, before commercialism, health and safety and multinationals complicated what was once a very pure past time: the pursuit of speed.

Imagine a world where NASCAR racing never took off and a crumbling Daytona Speedway track lies in ruins in the middle of a well used, public park. It's a bit hard to visualize isn't it?

Yet, this is exact what the Monza Oval is.

Although the original Monza Circuit was constructed in 1922, it was heavily damaged during World War II and underwent an extensive rebuild in 1955 which included the construction of a 4.25 km  or 2.64 mile, high-banked oval track. By comparison, Daytona Speedway's construction didn't start until two years later in 1957 and is slightly smaller being 4.0 km or 2.5 miles in length. Are you starting to get the picture?

The Monza oval could also be combined with the Grand Prix track to make a combined course length of 10 kilmeters. Formula One used this configuration only a handful of times before it abandoned the oval in 1961 due to safety concerns.  Sports Car racing continued to use the full 10K course until 1969, when all racing on the banking ceased.

This photo is a particular curiousity. It shows the start of the 1958 "Race of Two Worlds" which featured top American Indy teams squaring off against the top F1 Teams in their special, one-off oval specials. It was a European Indy 500 if you will. The top qualifier that year was the American Tony Bettenhausen’s who averaged 177 mph to take pole position. This is absolutely astonishing if you consider the average speed record in '58 at Indianapolis was only 144 mph. By comparison, the fastest ever average speed on the Monza GP Circuit was set in 2002 when Juan Pablo Montoya raised the all-time F1 record to 161.5 mph— 15 mph slower than Bettenhausen’s lap.

Have a read of this article here if you want to know more about this crazy race series from 1957-58…. The pilots of these cars were taking their lifes into their hands every single lap around the banking. Open wheel racing was a pure knife edge between life and death, especially when you consider the speeds possible on the high speed ovals.

It's no wonder that Indy cars haven't run at Daytona since 1959.

As I previewed in my Speedhunting in Italy story a few weeks ago, this was the first view that Dino and our caravan of JDM import cars had of the famous banking.

Looking at Google maps you can see we were driving down the access road in the middle of the circuit that runs under the old Oval.

Without an entrace to the track at this point, we pulled off into a pathway in the woods.

You can see on Google maps it's easy to enter the banking from this spot.

Looking to the left, the banking looms over the surrounding foliage.

I followed Dino out to behold one of the most sacred places in all of motorsports.

I'd previously read that the banking is in a really sorry state, but it didn't look that bad to me…

The first thing that strikes you standing beside the track is just how steep it is and how the angle increases with height.

It's a comparable sense of scale to Daytona Speedway in Florida…. although that is as far as the similarities go!

The Italian JDM car owners didn't seem nearly as awestruck as Dino and I and took to amusing themselves by trying to climb up to the guardrail. As you can see, it's basically impossible to walk all the way up.

Dino got to work shooting….

… but I wanted to keep walking.

I reached this point where the banking crosses the Grand Prix Circuit.

There was a motorcycle track day happening on the main circuit. Through a hole in the fence you could see the riders flashing past.

It's no wonder that the drivers complained about safety on the oval. This guardrail is mounted onto wooden posts! It's a far cry from NASCAR's safer barrier, isn't it?!

Apparently, the surface is extremely bumpy too and cars would have a real problem with bottoming out as they blasted through the oval.

The platform you see in this shot was a marshal post apparently.

Walking along the track we noticed two teenage girls had set themselves up at one of the marshal posts.

In fact there were quite a few people around the banking. It sits in a public park, and seemed to be popular with the local cyclist contingent.

This adds a little bit of a sense of life into what would normally feel like a bit of a graveyard.

You can see the oval's back straight here… in the foreground a family heads out for a Sunday ride. I wonder what they think of this place?

Do they feel the history? The racing memories encrusted in the concrete?

Or is this just an anonymous piece of concrete to leave a spraypaint marking? (note the Do Luck logo)

BTW I had to take this snap for Ernie Manasala at NOS Energy drink!….


So when you see photos of the Monza banking, and think about the unfettered era of racing it represents, do you think that modern corporate motorsports has become too sterilized? Have we lost the plot? Or is the rawness that we see in professional drifting a potential saviour of the species? Is older better or is new better?



Article on the Race of Two Worlds

Monza Circuit on Google Maps



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theres only one thing to say really



What a breathtaking locale. This is REALLY awesome.


thats sick !!! thank you ROD !!!


I don't think that motorsports these have lost their way too much despite many criticisms. I mean yes they do need to level the playing field a bit here and there but as far as the pursuit of speed goes nothing has changed except safety. With the advancements in Prototype and F1 over the last 50+ years comes the need for more stringent safety regs hence ovals like Monza become too dangerous for racing. I am all for the fastest of fast but I think these days people actually worry about the drivers and the drivers worry about themselves.


wallpaper of the 1st photo please!!!!!!!!!!!


Amazing, one of the best posts I,ve seen on this website


I was already in awe until I found out that there are still people using the track for family activities, how cool is that!


Great post, easily one of the best for me, keep up the good work guys!


Do you guys live under a rock? I'm trying to understand why I am always so negative (or negative for the most part)....but I really don't see anything in particular here. Just a famous track that got deglected, much like Yatabe and many other track around the world.

(aside from the numerous pictures that look nearly identical).....

Sorry, I really don't see anything fascinating about this feature.


I never knew this existed. Call it a rock I've lived under or just a neophyte automotive fan appreciating the efforts of enthusiasts on Speedhunters to aggregate this kind of history for those too busy with life to pay attention to TV; too hamstrung by a career to travel in order to see it all first-hand; awash in the legacy of dysfunction to be introduced before now. Thanks guys, for us sub terra dwellers - THIS ROCKS! heh.


sadly it has turned out to be a public park....Hmmm


Does anyone else think of History Channel's "After People" series when you look at these photos?


the movie death race has nothing on how dangerous that track would be in today's race cars

i don't think motor sport has lost anything by upgrading the safety levels the crashes etc are still spectacular to watch and the drivers tend to survive injury free more then they used to so its win win there its a bit sad the track just got neglected tho a re seal and a barrier upgrade would make it an awesome place to go see a race but i guess the lack of followers for banked racing in italy ment it wasnt worth the $$$ sad really.. someone do it up and make it an international stop for the US nascar series


OH hello I am Italian and I am astonished to see what car culture is in my country.Now I hope it will be Rome GP so I will be able to see F1 near to my town!!


I could already see foresberg just destroying that Bank in his Z than the camera will zoom on the lil NOS engery Drink drawing...and now you have a beast ass commercial


Nice writeup. Forward Progress without accounting for the mistakes we have made in the past will only lead to us repeating those choices. Thankyou for the images of a time past.


Great write up, Have you seen the movie Grand Prix? The final race takes place at Moza and it is one of the most Beautiful race films ever made. I think I'm going to go watch it again now.


Anyone with negative comments...get out. You're a disgrace to yourself and this site.

Here's footage. I was kinda hoping the details of the Jag D type would be explained in the field. I know that they won Le Mans that year.



great article Rod, i like reading your ramblings, they're insightful. and your photos are definitely better than they were around this time last year ;)


Wow, I learned something about the history of racing and famous race tracks of the world today! word on EPIC


less corporate=better...

everything in life has been dumbed down to a money making fashion symbol.

no soul, no heart


Cool post, i feel proud to live near it..


Monza Race Footage from the movie Grand Prix...


You'll see the exact same spots where Rod was.

Massive respect is due. Fantastic article Rod, i know alot of guys don't "get it" but until you visit somewhere like this, you don't get the feeling of history. When you look around, and then see what unfolded, well, i can imagine it was a great experience. I haven't been to Monza but i know the feeling!


"I'd previously read that the banking is in a really sorry state, but it didn't look that bad to me..."

It's not the top surface that is the issue - it's the underside. The concrete is falling apart. The oval part of the course was built as a make work program after the war using state and local funds. The concrete was poured using crushed war rubble with *some* new lower quality aggregates used - in other words - too much fly ass as a filler was used. From what I read from an article a few years back, the local government wanted to tear down ALL of the elevated sections of the oval including the section that runs over the current F1 track because of safety/legal issues. The cost to fix up the sections and add new support beams was more then the locals could afford - hence they went as far as to contract with a company to start tearing sections down.

There was great uproar from all around Europe, (local save the banking webpage’s cropped up) to the point where the Federal Government stepped in halting these plans. To date everything is up in the air about just who will fund the repair costs but it looks like it will be a state/federal formula based upon the fact it is in a public park and has historic value.

I think with a long term fix cost contract for maintenance, the sections at risk can be made safe for future generations although they really have to decide what type of park they want and what type of redevelopment they can allow onsite that could pay for these repairs.

People ask why should we care about this old track? If we as a current generation decide what to keep around and what to tear down, we deign future generations any sense of their past and a connection to past lives. Is it the Stonehenge of racing? You may laugh at that question but 300 years from now if ovals like Monza and Brooklands are still standing, they may well be considered as temples to speed. There may not be any racing 300 years from now but I’m sure those future generations may be fascinated by the thought that humans put themselves at such bodily risk for… a sport? The concept may fascinate them and we do not have the right to deign them some connection to a mid 20th century ‘madness’ for speed.


Yas Marina is the perfect temple of speed for the Middle East. Full of character, colour and personality


Yas Marina is the perfect temple of speed for the Middle East. Full of character, colour and personality


The energy absorbing walls are actually called SAFER(Steel And Foam Energy Reduction) barriers and were developed and first used at Indianapolis.