Auto racing (also known as automobile racing, motor racing or autosport) is a sport involving racing automobiles. It is one of the world's most popular spectator sports, it is also perhaps the most thoroughly commercialised.
Auto racing began almost immediately after the construction of the first successful gas-fueled autos. In 1894, the first contest was organised by a Paris magazine, Le Petit Journal[?]. The event, not a race, but a reliability test, was judged to select the car showing the best performance.
The first automobile race in America took place in Chicago on November 2nd 1895.
With both automobile construction and racing dominated by France, the French automobile club, the ACF, staged a number of major international races, usually from or to Paris, connecting with another major city in Europe or France.
These races, very successful, came to a stop in 1903 when Marcel Renault was had a fatal accident near Angouleme in the Paris-Madrid race . Eight fatalities caused the French government to stop the race in Bordeaux and forbid open-road racing.
(much more on this)
The 1930s perhaps started the radical differentiation of racing vehicles from high-priced road cars, with Auto Union[?], Mercedes-Benz, Delahaye[?] and Bugatti constructing massively-powerful, streamlined vehicles that produced up to 450 kilowatts with the aid of multiple superchargers, and weighed less than 750 kilograms (the maximum weight permitted, in a rule diametrically opposed to current racing regulations). Extensive use of aluminium alloys was required to reach the light weight, and in the case of the Mercedes, the paint was removed to squeeze the vehicle under the weight limit.
Nowadays, there are many categories of auto racing. A classification:
Single-seater racing is perhaps the most well-known category with the public. The cars are especially designed to race with, and therefore only have one seat. The wheels of the car are not covered, and the cars are often covered with wings in order to 'stick' the car to the ground, allowing for greater speeds.
Single-seater races take place on specially designed closed circuits. Many of the single-seater races in North America are conducted on so-called ovals.
The best known single-seater racing class is the Formula One, which involves an annual world championship. This championship attracts major international car manufacturers, making it also a technological battle. In North America, there are two classes, the ChampCars and Indy Racing League, which have the same nature but are technologically more restricted.
There are are variety of other categories of such racing, from kart racing (a low-cost category using minimalistic vehicles on miniature tracks) up.
Rallying, (or Rally racing) is conducted with upgraded production cars on public roads or through nature. A rally is typically conducted in a number of stages, in which each of the entrants drives a course, which they have been allowed to scout earlier. Based on notes taken by the co-driver during this reconnaisance, the driver can attempt to use as little as time possible for the course. Competition is based on time, though lately some head-to-head stages have emerged.
The main rally championship is the World Rally Championship (WRC), but there also some regional championships, while most countries have their own national championships.
There are also many smaller categories of rallies which are popular with amateurs, making up the "grass roots" of motorsports.
Like rallying, touring car racing is done with (upgraded) production cars, but it is conducted on closed circuits. The format in which touring car races are conducted varies, but all cars drive at the same time against each other.
As of now, there is no big international championship in touring car racing. Most countries have their own national championships, the most prestigious being the British Touring Car Championship[?] (BTCC), the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft[?] (DTM, German Touring Car Championship), and V8 Supercars in Australia.
Stock car racing could be called the American variant on touring car racing. Usually conducted on ovals, the cars raced are superficially similar to production cars but are in fact purpose-built racing machines which are all very similar in construction (historical stock cars were much closer to production vehicles).
The main stock car racing series is the US NASCAR series. The most famous race in this series is the Daytona 500. Nascar also runs the Busch Series, a junior stock car league and the Craftsman Truck Series[?], a pickup truck race series.
Nascar also runs the Featherlite series of "modified" cars. The cars, as their name suggests are heavily modified from stock form. With powerful engines, large tires, and light open-wheel bodies Nascar's oldest series is arguably its most exciting one.
In drag racing, the objective is to complete a certain distance, traditionally of 1/4 mile, (1320 feet), in the shortest possible time. The vehicles in competition range from the everyday car to the all out and out Dragster. Speeds and Elapsed time differ from class to class. A street car can cover the 1/4 mile in 15 seconds, where as a Top Fuel Dragster can cover the same distance in 4.5 seconds and will be traveling at 330 MPH at the end. ILLEGAL street racing is NOT drag racing. Drag racing was orginaized by Wally Parks in the early 1950s through the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association), which has now become the largest sanctioning motor sports body in the world. The NHRA was formed to keep people from street racing.
A top fuel dragster will accelerate from 0 to 330 mph in 4.5 seconds, it will pull 4.5 gs off the launch, and when the parachutes are deployed the driver will feel negative 4 gs in braking. (more then the space shuttle.) A single top fuel car can be heard over 8 miles away. When they run they give off a reading of 1.5-2 on the richter scale. (NHRA Mile High Nationals 2001 and 2002 testing from the national sizemology center.)
Professional classes are all first to the finish line wins. Sportsman racing is handicapped. (the slower car getting a head start and the faster car chasing it down.) Handicapped racing is done off an index, (or Dial in) if you run faster then your index or dial in you "break out" and lose.
Drag racing is often done in a head-to-head fashion, where two cars battle each other, the winner proceeding to the next round.
Drag racing is mostly popular in the United States.
In sports car racing, production versions of sports cars and prototype cars compete with each other on closed circuits. The races are usually conducted over long distances, and cars are driven by teams of two or three drivers, switching every now and then. Due to the big difference between 'normal' sports cars and industrial prototypes, one race usually involves many racing classes. In the U.S. the American Le Mans Series was organized in 1999, featuring GT, GTS, and two prototype classes.
For the worst accident in racing history see Pierre Levegh.