Auto racing

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Auto racing (also known as automobile racing, autosport or motorsport) is a sport involving racing automobiles. Motor racing or motorsport may also mean motorcycle racing, and can include motorboat racing and air racing. It is one of the world's most popular spectator sports and perhaps the most thoroughly commercialized.


The Start

Auto racing began almost immediately after the construction of the first successful petrol-fuelled autos. In 1894, the first contest was organized by Paris magazine Le Petit Journal, a reliability test to determine best performance.

A year later the first real race was staged, from Paris, France to Bordeaux, France. First over the line was Émile Levassor but he was disqualified because his car was not a required four-seater.

An international competition began with the Gordon Bennett Cup in auto racing.

The first auto race in the United States, over a 54.36 mile (87.48 km) course, took place in Chicago, Illinois on November 2, 1895, Frank Duryea winning in 10 h and 23 min, beating three petrol-fuelled cars and two electric. The first trophy awarded was the Vanderbilt Cup.

City to city racing

Fernand Gabriel driving a Mors in Paris-Madrid 1903

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. Eight fatalities caused the French government to stop the race in Bordeaux and ban open-road racing.


The 1930s saw the radical differentiation of racing vehicles from high-priced road cars, with Delage, Auto Union, Mercedes-Benz, Delahaye and Bugatti constructing streamlined vehicles with engines producing up to 450 kW(612HP) with the aid of multiple superchargers. From 1928-1930 and again in 1934-1936, the maximum weight permitted was 750 kg(1654Lbs), a rule diametrically opposed to current racing regulations. Extensive use of aluminium alloys was required to achieve light weight, and in the case of the Mercedes, the paint was removed to satisfy the weight limitation, producing the famous Silver Arrows.

See: Grand Prix motor racing


There are many categories of auto racing.

Single-seater racing

A modern Formula One car

Single-seater (open-wheel) racing is perhaps the most well-known form 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.

Single-seater races are held on specially designed closed circuits or street circuits closed for the event. Many single-seater races in North America are held on "oval" circuits and the Indy Racing League races mostly on ovals.

The best-known variety of single-seater racing is the Formula One World Championship, which involves an annual championship featuring major international car and engine manufacturers in an ongoing battle of technology and driver skill. Formula One is, by any measure, the most expensive sport in the world, with some teams spending in excess of 201 million US dollars per year. Formula One is widely considered to be the pinnacle of motorsports, and a seat in a Formula One car is undoubtedly the peak of any driver's racing career. In North America, the cars used in the National Championship (currently Champcars and the Indy Racing League) have traditionally been similar to F1 cars but with more restrictions on technology aimed at helping to control costs.

Other single-seater racing series are GP2 (formerly known as Formula 3000 and Formula Two), Formula Nippon, Formula Nissan (also known as the Telefonica World Series), Formula Three, and Formula Atlantic.

There are other categories of single-seater racing, including kart racing, which employs a small, low-cost machine on small tracks. Many of today's top drivers started their careers in karts.


Main article: Rallying

Rallying, or rally racing, involves highly modified production cars 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 stages of any terrain, which entrants are often allowed to scout beforehand. The co-driver uses the "pacenotes" to help the driver complete each stage as fast as possible, reading the detailed shorthand aloud over an in-car intercom system. Competition is based on lowest total elasped time over the course of an event.

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 and Rally Argentina. 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 motorsports.

Ice Racing

Main article: Ice Racing

Touring car racing

Main article: Touring car racing
File:11 murphy leads.jpg
V8 Supercar Touring car racing

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, 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.

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 Great Britain. 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.

Stock car racing

One of the most famous NASCAR tracks was the old Riverside International Raceway in Riverside, California.
Main article: Stock car racing

Stock car racing is the American variant of touring car racing. Usually conducted on ovals, the cars look like production cars but are in fact purpose-built racing machines which are all very similar in specifications. Early stock cars were much closer to production vehicles; the car to be raced was often driven from track to track.

The main stock car racing series is NASCAR and the most famous race in the series is the Daytona 500. NASCAR also runs the Busch Series (a junior stock car league) and the Craftsman Truck Series (pickup trucks).

NASCAR also runs the Featherlite series of "modified" cars which are heavily modified from stock form. With powerful engines, large tires, and light open-wheel bodies. NASCAR's oldest series is considered by many to be its most exciting.

There are also other stock car series like IROC in the United States and CASCAR in Canada.

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 are contact.

Races are organised by local promoters and all drivers are registered with BRISCA and have their own race number.

What classes exist depends on the promoters, so events in Scotland at Cowdenbeath can be very different from an event at Wimbledon Stadium in London.

Formula Cars

  • F1 - Cars built to Specification normally utilising three-litre V8 engines
  • F2 - Specification built cars similar to F1 with 2 Litre Ford Pinto Engines

These are the two main National forms of British Stock Car Racing, there are World Championships organised by the governing body [1]

There are also local variants raced in some smaller tracks, they are usually similar to F2 Stock Cars.

F1's race (in the UK) at the following venues:

Belle Vue Stadium (Manchester), Owlerton Stadium (Sheffield), Skegness Stadium, Buxton, Hednesford, Birmingham, Northampton, Coventry, Kings Lynn, Ipswich, Cowdenbeath, Knockhill.

They also race in Holland.

Hot Rods

  • Local Variations on the concept of fibreglass cars that look like production models Non Contact

Production Models

  • Modified Road cars, classes range from Non-Contact 2 Litre Hot Rods to Contact Banger Racing.

Contact Classes can be identified by the inclusion of external side impact bars and large bumpers at either end made out of square section steel.

Drag racing

Main article: Drag racing

In drag racing, the objective is to complete a certain distance, traditionally 1/4 mile, (400 m), in the shortest possible time. The vehicles range from the everyday car to the purpose-built dragster. Speeds and elapsed time differ from class to class. A street car can cover the 1/4 mile (400 m) in 15 s whereas a top fuel dragster can cover the same distance in 4.5 s and reach 330 mph (530 km/h). Drag racing was organised as a sport by Wally Parks in the early 1950s through the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) which is the largest sanctioning motor sports body in the world. The NHRA was formed to prevent people from street racing. Illegal street racing is not drag racing.

Launching its run to 330 mph (530 km/h), a top fuel dragster will accelerate at 4.5 g (44 m/s2), and when braking and parachutes are deployed, the driver experiences deceleration of 4 g (39 m/s2), more than space shuttle occupants. A single top fuel car can be heard over eight miles (13 km) away and can generate a reading of 1.5 to 2 on the Richter scale. (NHRA Mile High Nationals 2001, and 2002 testing from the National Seismology Center.)

Drag racing is often head-to-head where two cars battle each other, 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, and cars running faster than their index "break out" and lose.

Drag racing is mostly popular in the United States.

Sports car racing

Main article: Sports car racing

In sports car racing, production versions of sports cars and purpose-built prototype cars compete with each other on closed circuits. The races are usually 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 now and then. Due to the performance difference between production based sports cars and sports racing prototypes, one race usually involves many racing classes. In the US the American Le Mans Series was organized in 1999, featuring GT, GTS, and two prototype classes. Another series based on Le Mans began in 2004, the Le Mans Endurance Series, which included four 1000 km races at tracks in Europe. While the ALMS is the most popular sports car series in North America, a competing body, Grand-Am sanctions its own set of endurance series, the Rolex Sports Car Series and the Grand-Am Cup.

Famous sports car races include the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Offroad racing

Main article: Offroad racing

In offroad racing, various classes of specially modified vehicles, including cars, compete in races through off-road environments. In North America these races often take place in the desert, such as the famous Baja 1000. In Europe, "offroad" refers to events such as autocross or rallycross, while desert races and rally-raids such as the Paris-Dakar, Master Rallye or European "bajas" are called Cross-Country Rallies.


Main article: Hillclimbing

Kart racing

Main article: Kart racing

Although often seen as the entry point for serious racers into the sport, kart racing, or karting, can be an economic way to try your luck at motorsport and is also a fully fledged international sport in its own right. World-famous F1-drivers like Michael and Ralf Schumacher and most of the typical starting grid of a modern Grand Prix took up the sport at around the age of eight, with some testing from age three. Several former motorcycle champions have also taken up the sport, notably Wayne Rainey, who was paralysed in a racing accident and now races a hand-controlled kart. As one of the cheapest ways to go racing, karting is seeing its popularity grow worldwide.

Go-karts, or just "karts" - seem very distant from normal road cars, with dimunitive frames and wheels, but a small engine combined with very light weight make for a quick machine. The tracks are also on a much smaller scale, making kart racing more accessible to the people.

Legend car racing

Main article: Legend car racing

Other categories

Use of flags

Main article: Racing flags

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.

Flag Displayed from start tower Displayed from observation post
Green flag The race has started or resumed after a full caution or stop. End of hazardous section of track.
Yellow flag Full course caution condition — pace car on track and no cars may pass. Local caution condition — no cars may pass at the particular corner where being displayed.
Yellow flag with red stripes Debris or slippery patches on the track.
Black flag The car with the indicated number must pit. The session is halted; all cars on course must return to pit lane.
Meatball flag The car with the indicated number has mechanical trouble.
Black and white flag The driver of the car with the indicated number has been penalized for misbehaviour.
White cross flag The driver of the car with the indicated number is disqualified or will not be scored until they report to the pits.
Blue flag with yellow stripe A car must allow another car to pass. A car is being advised to give way to faster traffic approaching.
Red flag The race is stopped—all cars must halt on the track or return to pit lane.
White flag One lap remains. A slow vehicle is on the track.
Chequered flag The race has concluded.

See also

External links