A Brief History of Automobile Racing

The world’s affinity with automobile racing is pretty evident. There’s NASCAR, Formula One, and Daytona 500 are among the most popular. It’s a sport that continues to capture the minds of both spectators and competitive drivers. The latter along with enthusiasts, work with companies like AndersonFordMotorsport.com and contribute to economies as well as they keep their cars in top shape.

Motorsport is also an event with a colorful history; one that deserves a second look.

Humble Beginnings

Upon the invention of the gasoline-powered combustion engine, automobile racing began. The world’s first-ever true race spanned a distance of almost 732 miles from Paris to Bordeaux, France and back. Race cars of yesteryears wouldn’t even appeal to modern competitive drivers, however — the winner only averaged 15 mph.

France set up the stage for the rest of the world, particularly in the United States. America’s first race track was a 54-mile course that spanned Chicago and Evanston, Ill. Given the speed (or slowness) of the earliest race cars, it took drivers about 10 hours to finish a course.

International Adoption

Automobile racing didn’t have a global following until The New York Herald owner James Gordon Bennett started offering prizes to national racing teams. Among Bennett’s conditions include the requirement that these clubs race 3 cars each, with all vehicles built of locally sourced parts. This competition was soon known as the Bennett Trophy and was first held from 1901 to 1903.

Since then, technological advances made the sport as it is enjoyed today. Cars became more powerful, making races much more adrenaline-packed for both spectators and drivers. Speed is always the key to winning, though governing bodies started limiting them on issues of safety. Disparities in speed can be jarring to look at — the first Indy 500 race in 1911 featured cars that go as fast as 74.6 mph. Now, cars can be as fast as 161 mph. Different types of events also began sprouting, with rallying, circuit, and endurance racing, among others.