This is an article from an old subseries I used to do called ‘Race Tracks Of The World’. The articles in the subseries were all extremely casually written, so I ask for some leniency on that end.
Let’s go endurance racing!
In case you don’t know, endurance racing is when cars, usually sports cars or touring cars, race for long distances and/or long periods of time. For club racing, endurance races can just be events longer than the rest, like an hour long compared to fifteen to twenty minutes. As you move up the ranks, endurance races become longer and longer, reaching and on occasion surpassing 24 hours. Having multiple drivers becomes necessary pretty quickly. The longest endurance race to my knowledge that is still going is the Maxi Endurance 32 Hours at Algarve in Portugal, and the longest ever, again to my knowledge, was a 96 hour endurance race at the Nurburgring in 1971. Endurance races are almost always done on permanent road courses, though I suppose you could consider the Coca Cola 600 to be an oval endurance race. There are also a few endurance races at semi-permanent tracks, such as the Bathurst 1000, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. As for endurance races on street circuits, there aren’t many, but one of the very few examples is a track that wouldn’t look out of place in GTA 5. Welcome to Palangas Trasa, Lithuania.
Palangas Trasa is a temporary layout about two miles (3km) from the resort town of Palanga, on Lithuania’s northwestern shoreline. This track is literally carved out of a highway onramp. It’s a short circuit, at 1.675 miles, or 2.861 kilometers, with plenty of chicanes. If you looked at this circuit, you might think that, due to how messily the track is set up, that it’s an old endurance race that’s still going for old time’s sake. No, it’s actually the opposite. This track was first used in 2000. The race it hosts, the ENEOS 1000km, is 1000 kilometers, or 621 miles, and is held every July. This means that these guys run 373 long laps at this chicane-filled freeway circuit. The track used to be a little longer, but was shortened in 2014 when an access ramp was built at one of the hairpins. Note that with this track’s shortness comes the fact that laps can be done in 70 seconds. In fact, the lap record is 67.046, set by Konstantin Calko in 2014 in a Radical SR8, the same make that managed a lap of six minutes and fifty-five seconds at the Nordschleife. This is a lap record that likely won’t be beaten, as Radicals were disallowed after the 2014 race out of safety concerns.
Another oddity about this track is its pit area. It has two, one based around a literal gas station on the backstretch used for refueling only, and one in a more proper area near the start-finish line used for everything else. Yeah, I don’t even know anymore.
The race was extended in 2016 to 375 laps for 1006km due to a sponsor, and is still going strong today. Many different types of cars can be entered, from Porsches to Volkswagens. It’s a strange but unique race that puts drivers to the test due to how thin the circuit is. Passing zones are limited, with a driver’s best bet for an overtake being the run off of turn six, so it not only tests resilience, but patience, both things needed for any endurance race. Just make sure you aren’t planning on travelling in those directions anytime soon, because being a highway…