The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Auto racing

Auto racing (also known as automobile racing or autosport) is a sport involving racing automobiles. Motor racing or motorsport may also mean motorcycle racing, and can include motorboat racing and air racing. It is one of the world's most popular spectator sports and perhaps the most thoroughly commercialized.



The Start

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

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

An international competition began with the Gordon Bennett Cup in auto racing.

The first auto race in the United States, over a 54.36 mile (87.48 km) course, took place in Chicago, Illinois on November 2, 1895, Frank Duryea winning in 10 h and 23 min, beating three petrol-fuelled cars and two electric. The first trophy awarded was the Vanderbilt Cup.

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.


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.

See: Grand Prix motor racing


There are many categories of auto racing.

Single-seater racing

A modern Formula One car
A modern Formula One car

Single-seater (open-wheel) racing is perhaps the most well-known form of motorsport, with cars designed specifically for high-speed racing. The wheels are not covered, and the cars often 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 mostly on ovals.

The best-known variety of single-seater racing is the Formula One World Championship, which involves an annual championship featuring major international car and engine manufacturers in an ongoing battle of technology and driver skill. In North America, the cars used in the National Championship (currently Champcars and the Indy Racing League) have traditionally been similar to F1 cars but with more restrictions on technology aimed at helping to control costs.

Other single-seater racing series are GP2 (formerly known as Formula 3000 and Formula Two), Formula Nippon, Formula Nissan (also known as the Telefonica World Series), Formula Three, and Formula Atlantic .

There are other categories of single-seater 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.


Main article: Rally racing

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 like the SCCA ProRally organized by the SCCA in North America.

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

Main article: Ice Racing

Touring car racing

Main article: 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.

The most prestigious international competition in this type of racing is the European Touring Car Championship , run for two-litre cars. The FIA announced in 2004 that this series would be expanded outside Europe for the 2005 series, and would become known as the World Touring Car Championship , reviving a title not used since 1987.

Most countries also run their own national championships. Among the better known are the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), the Deutschen Tourenwagen Masters (DTM, German Touring Car Masters), V8 Supercars in Australia and, in the United States, the Sports Car Club of America's SPEED World Challenge Touring Car and GT championships, and the long-running Trans-Am series.

Stock car racing

Main article: 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 by many to be its most exciting.

There are also other stock car series like IROC in the United States and CASCAR in Canada.

Drag racing

Main article: Drag racing

In drag racing, the objective is to complete a certain distance, traditionally 1/4 mile, (400 m), in the shortest possible time. The vehicles range from the everyday car to the purpose-built dragster. Speeds and elapsed time differ from class to class. A street car can cover the 1/4 mile (400 m) in 15 s whereas a top fuel dragster can cover the same distance in 4.5 s 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 (530 km/h), a top fuel dragster will pull 4.5 g (44 m/s&sup2), and when braking and parachutes are deployed, the driver experiences negative 4 g (39 m/s&sup2), 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 to 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

Main article: Sports car racing

In sports car racing, production versions of sports cars and purpose-built prototype cars compete with each other on closed circuits. The races are usually conducted over long distances, at least 1000 km, and cars are driven by teams of two or three drivers (and sometimes more in the US), switching every now and then. Due to the performance difference between production based sports cars and sports racing prototypes, one race usually involves many racing classes. In the US the American Le Mans Series was organized in 1999, featuring GT, GTS, and two prototype classes. Another series based on Le Mans began in 2004, the Le Mans Endurance series, which included four 1000 km races at tracks in Europe. While the ALMS is the most popular sports car series in North America, a competing body, Grand-Am sanctions its own set of endurance series, the Rolex Sports Car Series and the Grand-Am Cup .

Famous sports car races include the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Offroad racing

Main article :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. In Europe, "offroad" refers to events such as autocross or rallycross, while desert races and rally-raids such as the Paris-Dakar, Master Rallye or European "bajas" are called Cross-Country Rallies.


Main article: Hillclimbing

Kart racing

Main article: Kart racing

Although often seen as the entry point for serious racers into the sport, kart racing, or karting, can be an economic way to try your luck at motorsport and is also a fully fledged international sport in its own right. World-famous F1-drivers like Michael and Ralf Schumacher and most of the typical starting grid of a modern Grand Prix took up the sport at around the age of eight, with some testing from age three. Several former motorcycle champions have also taken up the sport, notably Wayne Rainey, who was paralysed in a racing accident and now races a hand-controlled kart. As one of the cheapest ways to go racing, karting is seeing its popularity grow worldwide.

Legend car racing

Main article: Legend car racing

Other categories


For the worst accident in racing history see Pierre Levegh.

See also

External links

  • AutoSport Magazine
  • Auto Racing Blog
  • SPEED TV Network
  • Motors TV Network
  • Covering All Forms of Auto Racing
  • Grand Prix Truck Racing

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