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Auto racing

Auto racing (also known as automobile racing, motor racing, motorsport or autosport) is a sport involving racing automobiles. It is one of the world's most popular spectator sports and perhaps the most thoroughly commercialised.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Categories
3 Accidents
4 See Also


The beginning

Auto racing began almost immediately after the construction of the first successful petrol-fuelled autos. In 1894, the first contest was organised by Paris magazine Le Petit Journal, a reliability test to determine best performance.

A year later the first real race was staged, from Paris to Bordeaux. First over the line was Emile Levassor but he was disqualified because his car was not a required four-seater.

The first auto race in America, over a 54.36-mile course, took place in Chicago on November 2 1895, Frank Duryea winning in 10 hr and 23 min, beating three petrol-fuelled cars and two electric.

City to city racing

With auto construction and racing dominated by France, the French automobile club ACF staged a number of major international races, usually from or to Paris, connecting with another major city in Europe or France.

These very successful races ended in 1903 when Marcel Renault was involved in a fatal accident near Angouleme in the Paris-Madrid race. Eight fatalities caused the French government to stop the race in Bordeaux and ban open-road racing.

(much more on this)

Gordon Bennett Cup in Auto Racing


See: Grand Prix motor racing

The 1930s saw the radical differentiation of racing vehicles from high-priced road cars, with Delage, Auto Union, Mercedes-Benz, Delahaye and Bugatti constructing streamlined vehicles with engines producing up to 450 kw with the aid of multiple superchargers. Maximum weight permitted was 750 kg, a rule diametrically opposed to current racing regulations. Extensive use of aluminium alloys was required to achieve light weight, and in the case of the Mercedes, the paint was removed to satisfy the weight limitation.


There are many categories of auto racing.

Single-seater racing

Single-seater (open wheel) racing is perhaps the most well-known series, with cars designed specifically for high-speed racing. The wheels are not covered, and the cars have aerofoil wings front and rear to produce downforce and enhance adhesion to the track.

Single-seater races are held on specially designed closed circuits or street circuits closed for the event. Many single-seater races in North America are held on “oval” circuits and the Indy Racing League races exclusively on ovals.

Best known single-seater racing is in Formula One, which involves an annual world championship featuring major international car and engine manufacturers in an ongoing battle of technology as well on the track. In North America, ChampCars and Indy Racing League cars have similarities to F1 cars but have much more restrictions

There are other categories of such racing, including kart racing which employs a small, low-cost machine on small tracks. Many of today’s top drivers started their careers in karts.


Rallying, or rally racing, involves highly modified production cars on (closed) public roads or off-road areas. A rally is typically conducted over a number of stages which entrants are allowed to scout before competing. The navigator/co-driver uses the reconnaissance notes to help the driver complete each stage as fast as possible. Competition is usually based on time, though lately some head-to-head stages have emerged.

The main rally championship is the World Rally Championship (WRC), but there also some regional championships and most countries have their own national championships.

Famous rallies include the Monte Carlo Rally and the Rallye San Remo. Another famous rally-like event (actually a rally raid) is the Paris-Dakar Rally.

There are also many smaller categories of rallies which are popular with amateurs, making up the "grass roots" of motorsports.


Ice Racing


Touring car racing

Like rallying, touring car racing is done with highly modified production cars, but they race at the same time against each other, mainly on closed circuits.

There is no international championship in touring car racing, most countries running their own national championships. Among the better known are the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft (DTM, German Touring Car Championship), and V8 Supercars in Australia.

Stock car racing

Stock car racing is the American variant of touring car racing. Usually conducted on ovals, the cars look like production cars but are in fact purpose-built racing machines which are all very similar in specifications. Early stock cars were much closer to production vehicles.

The main stock car racing series is NASCAR and the most famous race in the series is the Daytona 500. NASCAR also runs the Busch Series (a junior stock car league) and the Craftsman Truck Series, (pickup trucks).

NASCAR also runs the Featherlite series of "modified" cars which are heavily modified from stock form. With powerful engines, large tires, and light open-wheel bodies. NASCAR's oldest series is considered its most exciting.

Drag racing

In drag racing, the objective is to complete a certain distance, traditionally 1/4 mile, (1320 ft, 400 m), in the shortest possible time. The vehicles range from the everyday car to the dragster. Speeds and elapsed time differ from class to class. A street car can cover the 1/4 mile in 15 sec whereas a top fuel dragster can cover the same distance in 4.5 sec and reach 330 mph (530 km/h). Drag racing was organised as a sport by Wally Parks in the early 1950s through the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) which is the largest sanctioning motor sports body in the world. The NHRA was formed to prevent people from street racing. Illegal street racing is not drag racing.

Launching its run to 330 mph, a top fuel dragster will pull 4.5g , and when braking and parachutes are deployed, the driver experiences negative 4g (more than space shuttle occupants). A single top fuel car can be heard over eight miles (13 km) away and can generate a reading of 1.5-2 on the richter scale. (NHRA Mile High Nationals 2001, and 2002 testing from the National Seismology Center.)

Drag racing is often head-to-head where two cars battle each other, the winner proceeding to the next round. Professional classes are all first to the finish line wins. Sportsman racing is handicapped (slower car getting a head start) using an index, and cars running faster than their index "break out" and lose.

Drag racing is mostly popular in the United States


Sports car racing

In sports car racing, production versions of sports cars and prototype cars compete with each other on closed circuits. The races are usually conducted over long distances, and cars are driven by teams of two or three drivers, switching every now and then. Due to the big difference between 'normal' sports cars and industrial prototypes, one race usually involves many racing classes. In the U.S. the American Le Mans Series was organized in 1999, featuring GT, GTS, and two prototype classes.

Famous sports car races include the 24 hours of Le Mans and the 24 hours of Daytona.

Offroad racing

In offroad racing, various classes of specially modified vehicles, including cars, compete in races through off-road environments. In North America these races often take place in the desert, such as the famous Baja 1000.

Hill climb racing



Seen as the entry point for serious racers into the sport, Karting is an economic way to try your luck at motorsport.

Legend car racing



For the worst accident in racing history see Pierre Levegh.

See Also