Last summer when Ford was developing the 662 hp 2013 Mustang Shelby GT 500 with a goal of breaking 200 mph it took it to one of the few places that it could safely reach that speed, a 7.8-mile circular test track in the heel of Italy’s boot known as the Nardo Ring. But this isn’t the only spot for automakers and high-speed freaks to literally take their cars to the limit. Click through for a look at some of the fastest places on Earth.
Even today many stretches of Germany’s Autobahn have no posted speed limit, and 200 mph is not an uncommon commuting speed, but it was way back in 1938 when Rudolf Caracciola set a record that still stands today of 268.8 mph behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz race car on a closed stretch of the famous roadway, beating a mark of 268.4 mph set a short while before by Audi driver Bernd Rosemeyer. Rosemeyer would die in a crash later the same day trying to retake the record.
During the Cold War Volkswagen built a top secret testing facility in a no-fly zone near the East German border in the town of Ehra-Lessien. Among its 60 miles of roads is a 12-mile oval with a 5.6-mile straight so perfectly engineered that you can't see from one end to the other end due to the curvature of the planet. The VW-owned Bugatti Veyron Super Sport set the world speed record for production cars of 268 mph here in 2011.
Every year from late summer into fall, cars and motorcycles of all shapes and sizes head for the Bonneville Speedway near Wendover, Utah, a 10-mile track carved out of the vast Bonneville Salt Flats where they can be run as hard as possible without having to worry about running into anything. Hundreds of land speed records have been set here over the past century since racers started coming in 1912, the fastest being Gary Gabelich’s 622 mph mark aboard the rocket-powered Blue Flame in 1970.
Nevada’s Black Rock Desert may be better known for the laid-back vibe of the Burning Man Festival, but in 1983 it was the site of Richard Noble’s record-breaking 633 mph run in a jet-powered car that was appropriately called the Thrust2. Fourteen years later, in 1997, he returned with fighter pilot Andy Green and a twin-turbofan car called the ThrustSSC – or Super Sonic Car. Again, Noble’s vehicle lived up to its name and became the first car to break the sound barrier, passing through the 1-mile timing zone at 763 mph.
Where the sky's the limit for speed.