For years, racing cars has been a beloved sport around the world. Practiced in many countries, both professional and amateur automobile races come in a variety of formats on roads, oval tracks and closed circuits. Racing types vary from Grand Prix racing, speedway racing, sports car racing, drag racing, karting and many more.
Racing got its start shortly after the invention of the automobile in the 1880s. Racing began in France in 1894 with the first organized automobile competition, a reliability test from Paris to Rouen, with a distance of 80 km. In 1895, the first actual race was held between Paris and Bordeaux and back with an overall length of 1,178 km.
The United States held the first organized race on Thanksgiving Day 1895 in Illinois, with an 87-km race from Chicago to Evanston and back.
It became common to see town-to-town races throughout Europe. Racers began reaching speeds of greater than 80 kph by 1900, bringing ever-increasing danger to spectators and racers. Most races were held on roads not built for cars, let alone racing. It wasn’t until 1903, after numerous accidents, that authorities stopped the Paris-to-Madrid road race. The first closed-circuit road race was the Course de Périgueux in 1898 which had a length of 145 km per lap. This race was governed by the Automobile Club de France and became incredibly popular throughout Europe.
As racing gained more interest around the world, England became home to the first speedway dedicated to car racing in 1906. The track held sprint, relay, endurance, handicap and long-distance races. From country to country, there were more oval, banked speedways for auto racing. One of the most popular speedways, the 4-km Indianapolis Motor Speedway, opened as an unpaved track in 1909 and was paved with bricks in 1911 for the first Indianapolis 500.
After the Grand Prix race in France in 1906, and the Indianapolis 500 race in 1911, racing truly took form worldwide. From Grand Prix racing to Prohibition-inspired stock cars becoming the inaugural participants in NASCAR, the world of racing has become an incredibly popular sport, rich in history.