Auto racing

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Sports

Auto racing (also known as automobile racing, autosport or motorsport) is a sport involving racing automobiles. Motor racing or motorsport may also mean Motorcycle sport, and it can further include motorboat racing and air racing. Auto racing began in France in the late nineteenth century and is now one of the world's most popular, and perhaps the most thoroughly commercialized, spectator sports.


The start

It 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. But the race was changed to: Paris to Rouen 1894. Competitors included factory vehicles from Karl Benz's Benz & Cie. and Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach's DMG.

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.

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

The first auto race in the United States took place in Chicago on November 28, 1895 over a 54.36 mile (87.48 km) course, with 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

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 stream-lined 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


As of today regulations are defined by the FIA.


There are many categories of auto racing. Categories are defined by the Appendix J to the international motor sports code.

Single-seater racing

A modern Formula One car: Michael Schumacher's Ferrari at the 2005 United States Grand Prix.
A modern Formula One car: Michael Schumacher's Ferrari at the 2005 United States Grand Prix.

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 of around 18 races a year featuring major international car and engine manufacturers such as Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz (McLaren), BMW (Sauber), Toyota, Honda, and Renault in an ongoing battle of technology and driver skill and talent. Formula One is, by any measure, the most expensive sport in the world, with some teams spending in excess of 700 million US dollars per year. Formula One is widely considered to be the pinnacle of motorsports. 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 the A1 Grand Prix (the world cup of motorsport), GP2 (formerly known as Formula 3000 and Formula Two), Formula Nippon, Formula Renault 3.5 (also known as the World Series by Renault, succession series of World Series by Nissan), 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. Formula Ford represents a popular first open-wheel category for up-and-coming drivers stepping up from karts.


A Ford Escort Cosworth, driven by Malcolm Wilson on a stage rally.
A Ford Escort Cosworth, driven by Malcolm Wilson on a stage rally.

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 at reduced speeds compiling detailed shorthand descriptions of the track or road as they go. These detailed descriptions are known as 'pacenotes'. During the actual rally, the co-driver reads the pacenotes 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.

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 motorsports.

Ice Racing

Ice racing, with cars, motorcycles or snowmobiles, takes place on frozen lakes or rivers, or on carefully groomed frozen lots. As cold weather is a requirement for natural ice, it is usually found at higher latitudes in Canada, the northern United States, and in northern Europe.

Motorcycle ice racing

Ice racing usually involves subcategories for full- rubber and studded tires. These classes are applied to cars and motorcycles, although a greater percentage of motorcycles use studded tires. Studs on motorcycles for ice racing are very sharp and may be as long as 75[mm] (2.5 inches) with as many as 500 studs per tire in ice speedway. Historically Czech made 4-stroke Jawa motorcycles have been the dominant force in this sport. Impressive motorcycle ice racing footage can be seen in the Bruce Brown documentary On Any Sunday.

Touring car racing

Andy Priaulx leading the World Touring Car Championship 2006 Race 10 in Curitiba.
Andy Priaulx leading the World Touring Car Championship 2006 Race 10 in Curitiba.

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, BTCC, 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.
One of the most famous NASCAR tracks was the old Riverside International Raceway in Riverside, California.

Stock car racing, the North American equivalent to touring car racing, is the most-popular form of auto racing (in terms of viewership) on that continent. Usually conducted on ovals, the cars may resemble 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's Nextel Cup, and among the most famous races in the series are the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. NASCAR also runs the Busch Series (a junior stock car league) and the Craftsman Truck Series ( pickup trucks).

NASCAR also runs the "modified" cars which are heavily modified from stock form. With powerful engines, large tires, and light 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 allow 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.

Drag racing

In drag racing, the objective is to complete a certain distance, traditionally ¼ 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 ¼ 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 Centre.)

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

In sports car racing, production versions of sports cars and purpose-built prototype cars compete with each other 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 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, 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 set of endurance series, the Rolex Sports Car Series and the Grand-Am Cup. Grand-Am events typically feature many more cars and much closer competition than American Le Mans.

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

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.

They also have courses that are in the woods such as mud pits that the vehicles have to go through on the track. It is basically a course to see whose vehicle can go through the worst terrain with the best time overall.


In Hillclimbing they take already off-road capable vehicles and put special parts on them so they can handle very rough terrain such as hills with rocks and divots so that the vehicle has to have very good traction and fast acceleration so that they can quickly push off of the rocks and holes. They also have a series of climbs in which the person with the fastest time overall out of the whole competition wins and there are different hills in the competition with different obstacles that the vehicle has to overcome. In the United Kingdom, Hillclimbs take the form of cars being timed on a particular section of hill route. Cars used vary from production vehicles, to group N racers onto formula racers from bygone eras. One such Hillclimb event is the Prescott Hillclimb, staged near Cheltenham, England.

Kart racing

Although often seen as the entry point for serious racers into the sport, kart racing, or karting, can be an economic way for amateurs to try racing 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 average enthusiast.

Legend car racing

Historical racing

As modern motor racing is centered on modern technology with a lots of corporate sponsors and politics involved, historical racing tends to be the opposite as it relies on cars of a particular era and rarely politics as they are merely seen as hobbies. Events are purely regulated to allow cars being around of a certain era to partipicate and only timing and safety device is the thing that is modern of it. A historical event can be of various different type of motorsport disciplines. Notably some of the most famous events of them all are the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Goodwood Revival in Britain and Monterey Historic in the United States

Other categories

  • Autocross
  • Autograss
  • Board track racing
  • Demolition Derby
  • Dirt speedway racing
  • Dirt track racing
  • Drifting
  • Folkrace
  • Grand Prix Truck Racing
  • International Sporting Code
  • Lapping
  • Rallycross
  • Rallying
  • Road racing
  • Short track motor racing
  • Slalom
  • Solo
  • Sprint car racing
  • Street racing

Use of 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. 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
Green flag The race has started or resumed after a full caution or stop, or the race is proceeding normally. End of hazardous section of track.
Yellow flag 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.
Yellow flag with red stripes Debris or slippery patches on the track.
Black flag The car with the indicated number must pit for consultation. 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 if the flag is blue only. With an orange or yellow stripe, it simply serves as a warning that faster traffic is behind. 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.


For the worst accident in racing history see 1955 Le Mans disaster. (See also Deaths in motorsports)

Racing car setup

In auto racing, the racing setup or car setup is the set of adjustments made to the vehicle in order to optimize its behaviour (performance, handling, reliability, etc.). Adjustments can occur in suspensions, brakes, transmission, and many others.

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