In 1895, one year later, the first real race was staged in France, from Paris to Bordeaux. First over the line was Émile Levassor but he was disqualified because his car was not a required four-seater.
The first regular auto racing venue was Nice, France, run in late March 1897 as a "Speed Week." To fill out the schedule, most types of racing event were invented here, including the first hill climb (Nice - La Turbie) and a sprint that was, in spirit, the first drag race.
An international competition, between nations rather than individuals, began with the Gordon Bennett Cup in auto racing.
The first auto race in the United States took place in Evanston, Illinois on November 28, 1895 over an 87.48-km (54.36 mile) course, with Frank Duryea winning in 10 hours and 23 minutes, beating three petrol-fueled and two electric cars. The first trophy awarded was the Vanderbilt Cup.
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. Nine fatalities caused the French government to stop the race in Bordeaux and ban open-road racing.
Single-seater (open-wheel) racing is one of the most popular forms 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. In Europe and Asia, open wheeled racing is commonly referred to as "Formula", with appropriate hierarchical suffixes. In North America, the "Formula" terminology is not followed (with the exception of F1). The sport is usually arranged to follow an "international" format (such as F1), a "regional" format (such as the Formula 3 Euro Series), or a "domestic", or county-specific format (such as the German Formula 3 championship, or the British Formula Ford).
The best-known variety of single-seater racing, Formula One, involves an annual World Championship for drivers and constructors of around 18 races a year featuring major international car and engine manufacturers, and independent constructors, such as Ferrari, McLaren, Williams, BMW Sauber, Toyota, Honda, Renault, Red Bull Racing - in an ongoing battle of technology and driver skill and talent. The sport is one of the top five watched sporting events in the world, alongside the FIFA World Cup, the Olympic Games, the Super Bowl and the UEFA European Football Championship. Formula One is, by any measure, the most expensive sport in the world, with some teams spending in excess of $400 million per year. Formula One is widely considered to be the pinnacle of motorsports, with the F1 Drivers' Championship being one of, and the oldest among, only three World Championships awarded each year by the FIA (the others being the World Touring Car Championship and the World Rally Championship). What separates Formula 1 from all other forms of open wheel racing, is the basic premise of F1 revolves around the very important issue that each team is a "constructor". That is, the chassis of the car must be designed and manufactured in-house, and chassis can not be supplied to competitors on a "customer" basis. Engines are usually funded and/or developed by established major motor manufacturers, and can be supplied exclusively to just one team, or may be offered as "customer" engines, often to the smaller, lower-ranked teams.
In North America, the cars used in the National Championship (currently the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series, and previously CART) have traditionally been similar though less sophisticated than F1 cars, with more restrictions on technology aimed controlling costs.
Other international single-seater racing series are the A1 Grand Prix (unofficially often referred to as the "world cup of motorsport"), and the GP2 (formerly known as Formula 3000 and Formula Two). Regional series include Formula Nippon and Formula V6 Asia (specifically in Asia), Formula Renault 3.5 (also known as the World Series by Renault, succession series of World Series by Nissan), Formula Three, Formula Palmer Audi and Formula Atlantic. Domestic, or country-specific series include Formula Three, Formula Renault, Formula Ford with the leading introductory series being Formula BMW.
There are other categories of single-seater racing, including kart racing, which employs a small, low-cost machine on small tracks. Many of the current top drivers began their careers in karts. Formula Ford once represented a popular first open-wheel category for up-and-coming drivers stepping up from karts and now the Formula BMW series is the preferred option as it has introduced an areo package and slicks, allowing the junior drivers to gain experience in a race car with dynamics closer F1. The Star Mazda Series is another entry level series.
Students at colleges and universities can also take part in single seater racing through the SAE Formula Student competition, which involves designing and building a single seater car in a multidisciplinary team, and racing it at the competition. This also develops other soft skills such as teamwork whilst promoting motorsport and engineering.
In 2006, producer Todd Baker was responsible for creating the world's first all-female Formula racing team. The group was an assemblage of drivers from different racing disciplines, and formed for an MTV reality pilot which was shot at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
In December, 2005 the FIA gave approval to Superleague Formula racing, set to debut in 2008. This will be open-wheel, single-seat stock car racing around Grand Prix racetracks. The teams will be owned and run by prominent sports clubs such as AC Milan and FC Porto. The race weekend will follow the GP2 format of Saturday qualifying and two Sunday races, one featuring a reverse grid.
Touring car racing is a style of road racing that is run with production derived race cars. It often features exciting, full-contact racing due to the small speed differentials and large grids.
The V8 Supercars originally from Australia, British Touring Car Championship, Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters originally from Germany, and the World Touring Car Championship held with 2 non-European races (previously the European Touring Car Championship) are the major touring car championships conducted worldwide, along with a European Touring Cup, a one day event open to Super 2000 specification touring cars from Europe's many national championships.
The Sports Car Club of America's SPEED World Challenge Touring Car and GT championships are dominant in North America while the venerable British Touring Car Championship continues in the United Kingdom. America's historic Trans-Am Series is undergoing a period of transition, but is still the longest-running road racing series in the U.S. The National Auto Sport Association also provides a venue for amateurs to compete in home-built factory derived vehicles on various local circuits.
Many series follow the Group N regulation with a few exceptions. There are several different series that are run all over the world, most notably, Japan's Super Taikyu and IMSA's Firehawk Series which ran between the 1980s to 1990s all over the United States.
Stock car racing, the North American equivalent to touring car racing, is that continent's most-popular form of auto racing in terms of viewership. Usually conducted on ovals, the cars may slightly resemble production cars but are in fact purpose-built racing machines which are built to tight specifications. Early stock cars were actual production vehicles; the car to be raced was often driven from track to track. The modern car however is far removed from the production model which it represents, making the term "stock car" somewhat incorrect.
The largest stock car racing governing body is NASCAR. NASCAR's premier series is the Sprint Cup Series, its most famous races being the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. NASCAR also runs several feeder series. The Nationwide Series, and Craftsman Truck Series (a pickup truck racing series) conduct races across the entire continental United States. The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series conducts races across Canada and the NASCAR Corona Series conducts races across Mexico. NASCAR also governs several smaller regional series.
NASCAR also governs the Whelen Modified Tour. Modified cars are best described as hybrids of stock cars and open-wheel cars. They are heavily altered from stock, with powerful engines, large tires, tubular chassis and light bodies. The Whelen Modified tour is NASCAR's oldest series.
British Stock car racing is a form of Short Oval Racing. This takes place on shale or tarmac tracks in either clockwise or anti-clockwise direction depending on the class, some of which allow contact. Races are organized by local promoters and all drivers are registered with BRISCA and have their own race number. What classes exist depends on the promoter, so events in Scotland at Cowdenbeath can be very different from an event at Wimbledon Stadium in London.
Rallying, or rally racing, involves two classes of car. The modified Group A, but road legal, production based cars and the Group N Production cars compete on (closed) public roads or off-road areas run on a point-to-point format where participants and their co-drivers “rally” to a set of points, leaving in regular intervals from start points. A rally is typically conducted over a number of 'special stages' of any terrain, which entrants are often allowed to scout beforehand at reduced speeds compiling detailed shorthand descriptions of the track or road as they go. These detailed descriptions are known as 'pace notes'. During the actual rally, the co-driver reads the pace notes aloud (using an in-helmet intercom system) to the driver, enabling them to complete each stage as quickly as possible. Competition is based on lowest total elapsed time over the course of an event's special stages, including penalties.
The top series is the World Rally Championship (WRC), but there also regional championships and many countries have their own national championships. Some famous rallies include the Monte Carlo Rally, Rally Argentina, Rally Finland and Rally GB. Another famous event (actually best described as a "rally raid") is the Paris-Dakar Rally. There are also many smaller, club level, categories of rallies which are popular with amateurs, making up the "grass roots" of motor sports.
Targa is a tarmac-based road rally which is run all around the world. This began with the Targa Florio. There are many races including Targa Tasmania held on the island state of Tasmania, Australia, run annually since 1992. The event takes its name from the Targa Florio, a former motoring event held on the island of Sicily. The competition concept is drawn directly from the best features of the Mille Miglia, the Coupe des Alpes and the Tour de Corse. Other events around the world include the Targa Newfoundland based in Canada, Targa West based in Western Australia, Targa New Zealand and other smaller events.
Launching, a top fuel dragster will accelerate at 4.5 g (44 m/s²), and when braking parachutes are deployed the deceleration is 4 g (39 m/s²), more than the Space Shuttle experiences. A top fuel car can be heard over 8 miles (13 km) away and generates a reading of 1.5 to 2 on the Richter scale.
Drag racing is two cars head-to-head, 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 (a lowest e.t. allowed), and cars running under (quicker than) their index "break out" and lose. The slowest cars, bracket racers, are also handicapped, but rather than an index, they use a "dial-in". Bracket racing has been viewed as the main cause of the loss of public interest in drag racing. People don't understand why the slower car wins or why somebody needs to hit the brakes to avoid going too fast. Many local tracks have also complained that bracket racers will also go out of their way to spend as little as possible while at the track by bringing their own food, beverages, fuel and supplies thus, making it more difficult for tracks to make money on these events. This causes gate prices to rise and tracks losing interest in having such events.
In sports car racing, production versions of sports cars and/or grand tourers, and sports prototype cars compete within their respective classes on closed circuits. The races are often 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 few hours. Due to the performance difference between production-based sports cars and purpose-built sports prototypes, one race usually involves several racing classes. In the US the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) was organized in 1999, featuring GT1, GT2, and two prototype classes, LMP1 (Le Mans Prototype 1) and LMP2. Manufacturers such as Audi and Acura/Honda field or support entries in the Prototype class. Another series based on Le Mans began in 2004, the Le Mans Endurance Series, which included four 1000 km races at tracks in Europe. A competing body, Grand-Am, which began in 2000, sanctions its own endurance series the Rolex Sports Car Series.
Go-karts, or just "karts" - seem very distant from normal road cars, with diminutive frames and wheels, but a small engine combined with very light weight make for a quick machine.
While there are several professional teams and drivers in historical racing, this branch of auto sport tends to be contested by wealthy car owners and is thus more amateur and laid back in its approach.
In open-wheel, stock-car and other types of circuit auto races, flags are displayed to indicate the general status of a race and to communicate instructions to competitors in a race. While the flags have changed from the first years (e.g. red used to start a race), these are generally accepted for today.
|Flag||Displayed from start tower||Displayed from observation post|
|The race has started or resumed after a full caution or stop, or the race is proceeding normally.||End of hazardous section of track.|
|Full course caution condition for ovals. On road courses, it means a local area of caution. Depending on the type of racing, either two yellow flags will be used for a full course caution or a sign with 'SC' (Safety car) will be used as the field follows the pace/safety car on track and no cars may pass.||Local caution condition — no cars may pass at the particular corner where being displayed.|
|Debris or slippery patches on the track.|
|The car with the indicated number must pit for consultation.||The session is halted; all cars on course must return to pit lane.|
|The car with the indicated number has mechanical trouble.|
|The driver of the car with the indicated number has been penalized for misbehaviour.|
|The driver of the car with the indicated number is disqualified or will not be scored until they report to the pits.|
|A car must allow another car to pass if the flag is blue only. With an orange or yellow stripe, it simply serves as a warning that faster traffic is behind. SCCA Check mirrors/ faster traffic coming||A car is being advised to give way to faster traffic approaching.|
|The race is stopped—all cars must halt on the track or return to pit lane.|
|One lap remains. SCCA Slow vehicle on Track.||A slow vehicle is on the track.|
|The race has concluded.|