The Sport

Motorsport (also known as car racing, motor racing or automobile racing) is a sport involving the racing of automobiles for competition. The main aim of an individual event is to set the fastest time in a set number of laps or time limit. The finishing order is determined by race time, with the fastest time in first place, second-fastest in second place and so on. Any driver failing to complete a race for any reason is deemed ‘retired’, or more commonly ‘out’. Retired drivers will have their positions determined by the order in which those retired, with the first to retire finishing last, the next second-last and so on. In most events a driver may be classified their final race position if he/she completes a certain amount of the race distance, usually just short of completing the full race (for example, in Formula 1, a driver’s race position is classified if he/she completes 90% of the full race distance). There are numerous different categories of auto racing, each with different rules and regulations, such as compulsory pit stops and car regulations, for all cars and drivers to comply.

There are now numerous different categories, each with different rules and regulations.

Almost as soon as automobiles had been invented, races of various sorts were organised, with the first recorded as early as 1867. Many of the earliest events were effectively reliability trials, aimed at proving these new machines were a practical mode of transport, but soon became an important way for competing makers to demonstrate their machines. By the 1930s specialist racing cars had developed.

Early motorsport

Internal combustion auto racing events began soon after the construction of the first successful gasoline-fueled automobiles. The first organized contest was on April 28, 1887, by the chief editor of Paris publication Le Vélocipède, Monsieur Fossier. It ran 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from Neuilly Bridge to the Bois de Boulogne. It was won by Georges Bouton of the De Dion-Bouton Company in a car he had constructed with Albert, the Comte de Dion, but as he was the only competitor to show up, it is rather difficult to call it a race.

Paris–Rouen: the world’s first motoring contest

On July 22, 1894, the Parisian magazine Le Petit Journal organized what is considered to be the world’s first motoring competition, from Paris to Rouen.Sporting events were a tried and tested form of publicity stunt and circulation booster. Pierre Giffard, the paper’s editor, promoted it as a Concours des Voitures sans Chevaux (Competition for Horseless Carriages) that was “not dangerous, easy to drive, and cheap during the journey.” Thus, it blurred the distinctions between a reliability trial, a general event, and a race. One hundred and two competitors paid a 10-franc entrance fee.

Sixty-nine cars started the 50 km (31 mi) selection event that would show which entrants would be allowed to start the main event, the 127 km (79 mi) race from Paris to Rouen. The entrants ranged from serious manufacturers like Peugeot, Panhard, or De Dion to amateur owners; only 25 were selected for the main race.

The race started from Porte Maillot and went through the Bois de Boulogne. Count Jules-Albert de Dion was first into Rouen after 6 hours and 48 minutes at an average speed of 19 km/h. He finished 3’30” ahead of Albert Lemaître (Peugeot), followed by Auguste Doriot (Peugeot) at 16’30”, René Panhard (Panhard) at 33’30” and Émile Levassor (Panhard) at 55’30”. The official winners were Peugeot and Panhard as cars were judged on their speed, handling and safety characteristics. De Dion’s steam car needed a stoker, which was forbidden.