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The Most Frightening Races In Sport

Picture of Luke Bradshaw
Sports Editor
Updated: 24 November 2016
Our recent coverage of wingsuit four-cross looked, quite frankly, terrifying, but it got us thinking – is it the scariest race going? We dug a little deeper – while peeking through our fingers, of course – to find the most nerve-wracking races from around the world.

Wingsuit four-cross

Held in the Phoenix desert in Arizona, the Red Bull Aces wingsuit four-cross championship sees four competitors at a time flying at 160mph through the sky, 8,000ft above the ground, slaloming through a course of mid-air gates. The wingsuits that the competitors wear are specially developed to factor in the sheer speed and aggressive turns and dips that need to be done as they scream through the course – it is, after all, the fastest non-motorized aerial sport in the world.

Isle of Man TT

Dubbed the most exciting motor event in the world, this iconic motorbike race has killed 252 people since 1907, more than two per year. The small island in the Irish Sea spends most of the year as a tax haven to the 84,000 people that live there, but once a year hosts 200mph motorbikes that charge through its streets. There have been changes to the Snaefell Mountain Course throughout the race’s history to make it safer, but it continues to claim the lives of those brave enough to attempt it.

Street luge

Find a road on a very steep hill, lie on your back on something that resembles a suped-up skateboard and see what gravity does with you. Breaks to slow down, you say? Just use your feet. Oh, and watch out for the other people trying to race you to the bottom too, because they can crash into you, and it hurts. A lot.

Downhill longboarding

See above. But stand up, don’t lie down.

The Dakar Rally

A rally raid, off-road endurance event across dunes, mud, erg (sand sea) and desert. Since its inception in 1977, 56 people have died attempting the ever-changing, but always treacherous course. The race itself is split into 14 stages, with some up to 600 miles long, to be completed by either quad, bike or car. If the race wasn’t tough enough already, it was moved to South America in 2009 because of terrorist threats and rebels in north Africa. Since the move, competitors have had to make do with cliff faces, jagged rocks and some of the most inhospitable terrain going – officially half don’t even finish.

World BASE Race

Competitors wear wingsuits like those mentioned above, but this race is simply about speed. Not at the same heights as wingsuit four-cross, and without the slaloming between flags, this is like a drag race through the sky. A race to the finish, but the finish happens to be at the bottom of a cliff, and you’re at the top.

The Green Race

Every autumn, in Asheville, N.C., some of the world’s best kayakers compete for nothing more than a glass trophy and bragging rights. The race starts at comedically notorious time of ‘high noon’ and has a rapid within it called ‘Gorilla’ because of the strength and aggression of the white water. Plunging waterfalls, boulders, jutting rocks and even a hike to get to the race’s starting point in the first place. Kayaks have been lost (for days), lungs have been punctured and bones broken, and yet competitors continue to return, all for the horrifying thrill.