GT Week: The 14 Gran Turismo Tracks We Can’t Stop Lapping

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We’re now less than 24 hours away from the GT Sport reveal in London. The anticipation is palpable, as even Polyphony has stoked the fire with their brand-new official Snapchat account. Here at GTPlanet, GT Week celebrations continue unabated!

GT Week: Listen to GTPlanet’s 5 Favourite Gran Turismo Songs
GT Week: GTPlanet’s All-Time Favourite Gran Turismo Videos
Initial Announcement: Celebrate a Week of Gran Turismo with GTPlanet!

Today is all about tracks. Ever since the beginning, Polyphony has shown a knack for crafting unforgettable ribbons of virtual tarmac. As the years passed, the lineup expanded to include real-world locations from across the globe, replicated in stunning detail. The staff have once again been locked in a room and forced to select their top ten favourites, and before we get to the final countdown, here’s a sampling of 9 that just missed the cut (out of a nominated 38):

  • Suzuka (GT4)
  • Special Stage Route X (GT5)
  • Sonoma (nee Infineon) Raceway (GT4)
  • Motorland (GT4)
  • New York (GT4)
  • Grindelwald (GT2)
  • Tahiti Road (GT2)
  • Opera Paris (GT4)
  • Tahiti Maze (GT2)

#10 (2-WAY TIE): Midfield Raceway (GT2) and Spa Francorchamps (GT5)

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Prototypes diving into red water. Image courtesy of kornGT.

Coming at you first are two tracks that highlight the breadth of offerings the franchise has. Midfield is a Polyphony creation, first appearing in the massively-expanded track list of GT2. More recently, it was revived for the PS3 generation as part of a GT6 update. A crossover, two tunnels, plenty of passing opportunities: Midfield has always been a popular destination for GT racers young and old.

Midfield shares a high-speed nature with Spa, one of the world’s most historic race tracks. First appearing as part of a GT5 DLC pack in 2011, Spa has already solidified itself as one of the highlights of the expansive Gran Turismo track lineup. We’ve all experienced the thrill of going through Eau Rouge and Raidillon without lifting…

As an added bonus, check out this retrospective of Midfield!

#9 (3-WAY TIE): Autumn Ring Mini (GT1), Tokyo R246 (GT3), SSR11 (GT1)

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A peak into Kazunori’s morning commute? Probably not. Image courtesy of Stopforpetrol.

Here’s an odd bunch: the smallest track in the original Gran Turismo alongside the most difficult track from that game, combined with a track that borrowed from a real-world setting literally outside of Polyphony’s door.

ARM, as it can be known, was the great equalizer in the original GT. Here, a low-powered car needn’t worry about the powerful cars on the grid, as they’d never have more than a moment or two of flat-out fury. Of course, as anybody that faced off against the relentless NSX Type S Zero in the Normal Car Cup will tell you, this could work against the player!

Tokyo was a stunning presentation for the then-new PS2 way back in 2001. The back stretch, with an S-bend that is surprisingly more difficult than it first looks, provides eye-candy even at speed. R246’s walled-in nature gave it a zero-tolerance policy on mistakes, something it shared with the original GT monster: SSR11. For those that remember it, it needs no introduction. For those that don’t, I’ll let GTPlanet member ToyGTone show you, complete with another classic of GT, the Subaru Alcyone SVX:

#8: Red Rock Valley Speedway (GT2)

There probably would’ve been riots in the forums had this not made the list. Not that it’s undeserved: RRV hit a sweet spot at the intersection of speed and spectacle that many consider unmatched since. Another Polyphony creation, the track was infamous during GT2’s life as a prime location to exploit “freaky physics”, where a car could utilize ground effects for unnaturally quick laps. ToyGTone provides the goods again, with the rumbly GT40 race car:

#7: Rome Circuit (GT2/3 Version)

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Just about the most Italian image possible in GT6. Viva Italia! Image courtesy of TaSiMa.

The image, unfortunately, is a misdirect: as long-time players know, the Rome present in the PS3-era games is far removed from the classic track. Undoubtedly more realistic, it just can’t measure up to the excitement of the original, which arrived in the final days of 1999. The track still took in the Coliseum (on the driver’s left instead of right), but included more turns. GT3 players may remember it with slightly less fondness, as it played host to an insanely difficult race involving… the Toyota Vitz.

#6: Apricot Hill Raceway (GT2)

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If you’ve been playing Gran Turismo for a long period of time, there are certain car/track combos that are permanently burned into your brain. For me, few match-ups are more prominent than the NSX Type S Zero at Apricot Hill. In Imola Orange, of course. This was the exact combo used in GT2’s International A license test #3, and its difficulty meant that sector could be dispatched with laser accuracy once I’d finally achieved gold. Polyphony gave fans a huge gift when they announced its return in GT6, complete with variable time and weather!

#5 (2-WAY TIE): Seattle Circuit (GT2) & Nürburgring Nordschleife (GT4)

It’s hard to think back to a time when the Nürburgring Nordschleife wasn’t a part of Gran Turismo. But in 2004, the announcement of its inclusion in GT4 sent shockwaves through the community. It’s the crown jewel in a collection of fabled tracks, and players have spent ages trying to tame the German giant. While we could’ve shown you any number of images or videos from GT6, we’ve stepped back in time to a difficult challenge: cracking the 8 minute mark in a RUF Yellowbird in the game’s Economy tires.

The driver? A guy by the name of Bryan Heitkotter. You may have heard of him.

That Seattle ties the Green Hell goes some way to telling you what a beloved circuit it was. Featuring massive jumps, challenging chicanes, and railroad tracks just waiting to unsettle your car, it remains one of Polyphony’s best street circuits. The lighting – a fiery sunset as last seen in GT4 – was incredible. We hold out hope of its return…

#4: Grand Valley Speedway (GT1)

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Look at how far we’ve come. Part of a 15th Anniversary celebration, by yours truly.

From here on out, we’re looking at the classics: those tracks that showed up back in the PS1 days. Arguably Gran Turismo’s headline circuit, Grand Valley Speedway is part of the GT Track Trinity (a term we’ve coined just now): it joins Deep Forest and Trial Mountain as the only original PD creations to appear in every full title. It has something for everyone: a huge bridge, a great tunnel, high speed turns as well as tight bends. The original endurance location!

#3: Trial Mountain

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A pairing as old as the series itself: the unmistakeable RX-7 at Trial Mountain. Image courtesy of RandomCarGuy17.

Play spot-the-monkey! The well-known Trial Mountain Easter Egg shows Polyphony has a sense of humour, while the track itself is a serious challenge for drivers. The climb up to the peak of the track calls is difficult enough, but it’s the tumble down that separates the pros from the pretenders. The long left-hander after the back straight can be a drifter’s dream, while the chicane that ends the lap has ended plenty of players’ races all on its own. PS1 veterans will also remember it as a location of an overly-difficult license test: GT1’s A-4.

#2: Laguna Seca (GT2)

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The kink before the back-straight: to lift or not to lift? Image courtesy of GTracer98.

The Corkscrew. Laguna Seca’s defining feature is a daunting corner, but the focus on the 3-story drop ignores how challenging the rest of the circuit is. The Andretti hairpin is that rare beast: a genuinely interesting low-speed corner, since it can be attacked via different lines. The Rainey Curve is a balancing act, with a late-apex slice offering one of the few passing opportunities on the back half of the track.

For me, Laguna Seca will always be tied to Gran Turismo. You see, a contest during GT4’s life pitted me against people from across Ontario and Quebec, including a few GTPlanet members. Long story short, the winner walked away with a year’s tuition. I’ve still got the giant novelty cheque to prove it. Sure, that’s small potatoes compared to the amazing opportunities afforded to those that advance through GT Academy, but back in 2006, GT literally paid for my schooling. The track used in this competition? Laguna Seca.

I’m just glad the other staff members rated it this high! It couldn’t topple the winner, though…

#1: Deep Forest Raceway

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I suddenly have an urge to hunt for used NA Miatas. Again. Image courtesy of Aqualoop.

Deep Forest clobbered the competition here. By consistently rating highly on nearly every staff member’s list, it pulled away from the other tracks and never looked back. It’s no wonder: while quick, it’s not daunting like the ‘Ring. It may be a fictional track, but it doesn’t shout about it (we’re looking at you, Cape Ring). Easy to learn, but difficult to master, Deep Forest is the dependable best friend of race tracks. The double-left midway through a lap gives a driver almost endless options. Those tunnels on the back straight, with a rock face to one side and a drop to the valley on the other? A photographer’s dream. It’s a Gran Turismo mainstay, and we hope we’ll get to see this old friend soon…

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Comments (49)

  1. SonicBoone56

    Apricot Hill is my favorite original track. Twin Ring Motegi or Suzuka is probably my favorite real world track.

  2. TRLWNC7396

    For as much as GT2 (in my mind) was the greatest version in the series (if for no other reason than variety and uniqueness of everything), the greatest failure was that some of the tracks were NEVER used in gameplay! And then others were used to exhaustion! WHY????

    Rome Night was SUCH a BEAUTIFUL track! I wish we could get that one again! And then Red Rock, Grindelwald, and the original HSR. Those would be wonderful!

  3. Chaos Control

    Seattle Circuit with the beautiful sunset and atmosphere, in the TOM’S supra, and Smokey Mountain, with its fast pace with the Escort Rally car, and Trail Mountain in the R32, are amoung some of my fondest memories; up all night playing GT3 was when I found my true love for cars. Kaz needs to make the atmosphere great with the GTS… And of course bring back Smokey Mountain and Seattle.

  4. PinKPanther

    Amalfi, Costa di Aria, El Capitan (GT4/GTPSP) and Rome Night (GT2).
    And ofcourse, the almighty Green Hell.

  5. CyborgGT

    Rome GT2 all day. My first taste of Gran Turismo was in the Official US PlaySation Magazine demo disc that featured that track. I still have that demo.

  6. TRLWNC7396

    I think the biggest reason that SSR11 is loved to be hated is because in GT1, there wasn’t an easy way to learn it. Then there was the bus stop, with horrible visuals…..

    But, really, it was and is an amazing track!

    I would PAY to buy a classic tracks DLC! Seriously, even if they don’t bring them back at first, if they merely updated the graphics to HD and put them out, I KNOW they would make MAJOR money!

    And then, putting in all of the challenges from the earlier games… Wow, how much fun and how AWESOME could it get!!!!???

  7. infamousphil

    There is not one track, presented by PD, that l did not like. They all have a special place in my heart.

    Simply for nostalgic reasons, because the old PS1 (at least 4units purchased) and PS2 (least 3units) are no longer working… PS1s SSR11 and PS2s Rome at Night. Yup, the nights of GT where totally awesome back then.

  8. Tenacious D

    How can you not love all the tracks in the Gran Turismo series? They are all epical, from Tahiti Road all the way to the dreaded Green Hell. I even enjoy the heck out of the Course Maker tracks in GT5. I just wish I could have raced on them in Time Trial! Kaz, seriously…

    I can’t really pick right now, about to collapse before bed, but… the Nordschleife… there is no competition.

    1. Nomadpt1

      I couldn’t agree more with you, that is why I prefer that PD recover the old tracks instead of putting new ones. After that, they could put every circuit that comes to their mind; I just don’t care

  9. SavageEvil

    So many great courses in GT, I’m surprised Grindelwald and Rome Night from GT2 weren’t in the running. El Capitan was awesome but the only downside to that course was that kinky uphill that caused you to leave the track and collide into a wall. At least my most missed course is Red Rock Valley is GT’s greatest course, was a little bit of a high speed slightly technical stock car course, loved it and Apricot Hill GT 2 version. I see my drift course Trial Mountain made it very high on the list, that was the go to course in GT3 for tandem drifting fun with my brother so many years ago.
    Then there is Seoul and Hong Kong from GT4 which were epic city courses which are so sexy also NYC was a wonderful city course, those really need to return with transitions and weather omg would love to take photos at those locations. Also Super Speedway from GT2 was my go to test tune course, so many converted race cars were hot lapped there, omg I think I have to go play GT2 again, I blame you Kyle!

  10. bloodyboyblue

    I feel like El Capitan and Red Rock are the most likely to come back out of all the one hit wonders. I’m just concerned that PD will drop their original tracks to keep up with the competition who pretty much only use real life tracks, when that, along with the focus on street cars over race cars, has always been what’s made GT great and unique.

    I remember I always hated Grindelwald as a kid but when I drive it now I enjoy it, but I can never come to terms with Rome Night, and I still find the old Rome Circuit challenging. Seattle is also great.

    1. bloodyboyblue

      Out of all the old tracks though, Tahiti Road would probably make for an interesting HD remake. And the ice track that I can’t remember the name of from GT2 would be fun for Rallycross

  11. GMooreFan1

    Loved the story about how doing well at MAZDA Raceway Laguna Seca and paid for a year of your college tuition, Kyle! (I am a Mazda North American Operations employee. :) )

  12. shawtyoner

    No Citta di Aria??? I thought that would’ve definitely made the list. My go to track in GT4.

    1. Kyle Patrick

      I had it on my list, but it wasn’t very popular with the group. I miss tracks like that; there still isn’t a suitable replacement.

  13. GT_Alex74

    Trial Mountain all the way ! But all the originals from GT1 are indeed part of my favorites, being very well designed tracks and holding much memories, with just HSR being a bit off the others (liked the GT1 version more). I really love SSR5 though, it is certainly overshadowed by SSR11 in the community’s mind but doesn’t deserve that. In the end, the GT series produced a lot of truly awesome tracks. Rome by night was just absolutely fantastic, and I miss the Amalfi and Citta di Aria circuits. Generally, tracks that made an appearance only once in the series are great, but of course the ones we all still drive on are more persistent into our memories. El Capitan, Red Rock, also the rally courses sych as Tahiti Maze, Grand Canyon, etc. all of which I didn’t thought of immediately, but really appreciate.
    As for the non-fictional ones, Spa is my favorite, then there’s Streets of Willow, Suzuka, Laguna Seca…

    Picking only 10 must have been a torture…

  14. Chikane

    Trial Mountain at #3 come on its one of the worst tracks in any racing game i have ever played.No way it should even be on the list when there are better tracks… Other then that good list

    1. bloodyboyblue

      Lots of people love it, it’d always been my favourite track in GT since GT1, until GT6 when I realized how much I enjoyed Apricot Hill and discovered Ascari.

    2. TRLWNC7396

      The main reason why Trial Mountain is so loved is because if you passed the GT1 license test in the GT-R, you KNEW the toughest part, and could absolutely kick tail around the track! I know that that is pretty much my biggest reason for doing well on that track!

      It was an A-license, but I don’t remember the number right off…..

  15. Chameleon

    Its either trial mountain or route 246 for me. Actually never been that fond of deep forest raceway, but thats just me.

  16. SupraTurboNinja

    I love all these tracks. Especially the Nurb. A very good friend of mine taught me some important tuning and driving lessons there. Ahhh the good times

  17. jm79

    Great article, personally love a bit of Apricot, Laguna Seca and Deep Forest…

    Hopefully we’ll get at least one PD track in GT Sport… :)

  18. ttfn

    Loved R246 and Nurburgring but also Red Rock Valley from GT2. Wish it’d make a return in the future.

  19. JKgo

    …Why aren’t there any like button on this article??

    Seriously, Deep Forest and Trial MT always have been my go-to destinations alongside Cote d’Azur.

    Lately it had been Spa, but man, those three have been my favorites for long.

    1. TRLWNC7396

      I personally hate that track…. I’ve never gotten it down well. Most especially in reverse….

      But, I’ll admit, it IS an amazing track!

  20. Scuderia Paul

    It is great to see Grindelwald get onto the list. It is such a forgotten circuit in Gran Turismo yet it right up there with my favourite original locations.

    1. Kyle Patrick

      I was waiting for that! Really, an early draft had a spoiler at the beginning and everything.

      Believe it or not, El Capitan was very close to the bottom of the list. I think, when forced to only pick ten tracks, it tended to end up as 11th or 12th.

    2. Lain

      It’d be probably around the middle of my top 10, personally. Rome, Red Rock, SSR11, R246 and Spa would certainly not be making the cut.

  21. kolio

    This is my favorite GT Week article as of yet! Apricot Hill is the awesome. So is Laguna though….

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