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The Early History of Automobile Racing by Rod Shegem


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A brief overview of the creation and early history of automobile racing in Europe and the United States.

Published in: Automotive
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The Early History of Automobile Racing by Rod Shegem

  1. 1. T H E E A R L Y H I S T O R Y O F A U T O M O B I L E R A C I N G ROD SHEGEM
  2. 2. 1 8 9 4 The first organized competition was a reliability test, held in 1894 from Paris to Rouen, France. The distance traveled was about 50 miles, and the winner had an average speed of 10.2 mph.
  3. 3. 1 8 9 5 The first true automobile race was held a year later from Paris to Bordeaux, France and back. The winner had an average speed of 15.01 mph over the course of about 732 miles. In the United States, organized racing began the same year with a 54 miles race on Thanksgiving from Chicago to Evanston, Illinois.
  4. 4. 1 8 9 8 The Automobile Club de France was founded, and closed-circuit racing was born. The first closed-circuit road race occurred in 1898, the Course de Périgueux. This style of racing became the most common form in Europe, except in England, Wales, and Scotland.
  5. 5. 1 9 0 0 By 1900, racers had reached speeds of more than 50 mph. Town-to-town races in France and races from France to other countries were incredibly common. The increasing danger to spectators, racers, and livestock on roads that were not built for automobiles or automobile racing caused the overall decline of road races. .
  6. 6. 1 9 0 1 - 1 9 0 3 James Gordon Bennett, the then owner of The New York Herald offered a trophy to be competed for. The annual Bennett Trophy Race was organized by the Automobile Club de France from 1901-1903 and consisted of national automobile clubs that raced three cars each, all built with parts from their respective countries. In the following years, the races were held in Ireland, Germany, and again in France at Circuit d’Auvergne.
  7. 7. 1 9 0 4 William K. Vanderbilt chartered America’s first international trophy race in Long Island. With the assistance of other wealthy racing enthusiasts, William formed the National Automobile Racing Association. In 1904, he founded the Vanderbilt Cup Race at Garden City, Long Island..
  8. 8. 1 9 0 6 French manufacturers boycotted the Bennett Trophy Race because they did not want to be limited to only representing three vehicles. This resulted in the established of the first French Grand Prix Race at Le Mans in 1906. Here, each car was raced by the manufacturer’s team.