Popular Racing Competitions

Motor racing or motor racing is a sport in which drivers at the wheel of cars compete in regulated races, in various forms and categories, on the circuit, on the road or the track.

There are many disciplines and events involved in motor racing. The most prestigious of the categories on the circuit is the Formula 1 which runs in single-seaters, but there are many other categories. Among the most famous, we can mention the endurance race with the mythical French 24 hours of Le Mans or, in the United States, the IndyCar, and its legendary flagship race, the 500 miles of Indianapolis; these two races combined with the F1 Monaco Grand Prix form the Triple Crown. On roads and tracks, there is the World Rally Championship (with the famous Monte-Carlo Rally, created in 1911), but also Rally-raid events, the most famous of which is the Dakar Rally, and the recent World Rally Championship. In addition to machines designed exclusively for racing, there are various categories of passenger cars or grand Tourisme, with the World Cup for passenger cars as the flagship Championship. In the United States, NASCAR, which is mainly played on the oval circuit, remains the most popular category. More about this here.

Several international and national federations manage the numerous races which are divided into categories and formulas according to the type of car, the power and the type of engine, the field on which the race takes place and, in some cases, the people who participate (age, level, weight, sex).

  1. History

The first events in France were more like a parade than a real race, between Neuilly-sur-Seine and Versailles (since 1887)1 or a hike like the one organized by the Paris daily Le Petit Journal de Paris in Rouen in 18942: 102 competitors were registered, only 21 took the start. The competition rewards vehicles that meet three criteria: “safety,” “convenience,” and “relatively low cost.” The first prize of 5,000 Swiss francs is split between “Panhard & Levassor” and ” the sons of Peugeot brothers.”

The following year, the first real motor race was organized: it was Paris-Bordeaux-Paris. Twenty-one (or 22, depending on the source) vehicles were departing for nine on arrival. Emilee Levassor finished the first round on 15 June on a Panhard in 48 hours and 48 minutes, but he was ineligible for the first prize because his car was a two-seater car whereas the rules required a minimum of four seats with as many passengers as there were seats. It was a Peugeot driven by Paul Koechlin that won in 59: 48. In July 1896, the automobile club of Belgium organized the country’s first automobile competition, the SPA meeting. In October 1896, Paris-Marseille-Paris were on the program, and the fashion of the city-to-city raids stands out as the classic format of the automobile race. The accident of Emile Levassor in this trial does not question this principle. As early as 7 September 1896, however, a first circuit race was held in the United States, at Rhode Island, at Narragansett Park, on a 1-mile-long oval of land usually used for riding.

In 1900, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., a primary provider of various sports trophies, founded a challenge for motor racing: The Gordon Bennett Auto Cup. The regulation of this challenge is established by the Automobile Club of France, founded in 1895 and, stipulates the international character of the event. Thus, the problem foresees that the event will take place in the country of the winner of the previous year. It’s the nationality of the car manufacturer that counts, not the nationality of the driver. The first edition (1900) ran between Paris and Lyon and saw the victory of the French driver Henri Fournier on a horseshoe. In 1902, it was the British Edge who won; the 1903 edition will take place in Northern Ireland. Germany (1904), then France (1905) organize the following publications following the victories of their automobiles.

The Gordon Bennett Cup formula quickly reached its limits because it imposed preselections. However, a large number of French manufacturers managed to have a limit of three cars per country abolished. The name “Gordon Bennett” was dropped and replaced with the “ACF Cup.”

Grand Prix is a prestigious car race. This term is first used for horse racing or cycling competitions through the reward given to the winners. In 1901, was organized the Grand Prize of the South-West: played around Pau, it counts as being the first edition of the Grand Prix of Pau. Like “closed park,” it is a French term that still exists today in sport at the global level.

Following the numerous accidents that marked the Paris-Madrid race in 1903, the ACF and the civil authorities imposed the holding of the race on the circuit. Le Mans was nominated, and the city that saw the birth of the first commercial car received the early Grand Prix de France (then Grand Prix de ACF) in 1906 on a circuit of 103.16 km. Unlike City-to-city races, all traffic is prohibited on this road area. To bypass some villages, the organizers set up wooden deviations. Also, the circuit is ” hot ” tarred, but in some regions this work is disappointing. This work is costly, and the financial results of the Grand Prix are catastrophic. The 1907 and 1908 editions were relocated to the much cheaper Dieppe circuit. The British, Belgians and Germans also set up annual competitions more or less comparable to the Grand Prix de France, constituting the first bases of a real competition schedule.

The great raids began in 1907. The Paris daily Le Matin supports the first of them: Beijing-Paris.

In the United States, the first edition of the Indianapolis 500 was held in 1911. That same year, the Rallye automobile Monte-Carlo was born. The 24 hours of Le Mans, a reference endurance race, took place for the first time in 1923. The first Monaco Grand Prix was held in 1929.

  1. The course of the races

Speed on circuit

The start of the races can be initiated (sometimes by following a safety car that goes back to the stand just before the start line to clear the track) or stopped (the competitors are positioned on a grid in a pre-set order). The law on the starting grid is often determined by a qualifying session, with the fastest lap driver in pole position.

There are two types of races, speed or endurance. In gear, there are concise so-called sprint events (as in karting or Formula 3) often played in several rounds of 10 to 30 minutes, and medium duration events (maximum 2 hours in the case of Formula 1). Endurance racing takes place over a specific distance (e.g., 1000 km) or a long duration (6 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours).

The finish is always marked by a checkered flag waved by the race director or a commissioner.


The rally races are in the form of an individual time trial; the competitors are thrown one after the other at regular intervals. The crew that wins the best time has won.


The rallycross takes place on a circuit that alternates asphalt and dirt. Five cars head to head for four laps (qualifying round). The top twelve riders in four qualifying rounds advance to the semifinals and finals for the top six. The winner of the final wins the race.

  1. Racing Championship

The first championship created was the American Championship, in 1905. In Europe, it was not until 1925 that the International Association of Automobile Clubs (AIACR) created the world championship of manufacturers; the 500 miles of Indianapolis then gave a world dimension to the tournament, but European manufacturers rarely participated.

Today, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) is responsible for the most high-profile world championships: Formula 1 World Championship, World Rally Championship (WRC), World Endurance Championship (WEC), and many others such as the World Rallycross Championship (World RX), etc.

In North America, the NASCAR Cup Series and Indy Car Series are the two most popular championships.

In Asia, the essential championship is the Super Formula championship. In Africa, the South African Formula One championship was held from 1960 to 1986.

Olympic Games

Motorsport was present twice at the Olympic Games, in 1900 and 1936 as a demonstration sport.