Postcard picture of the Brighton Motor Trials – July 1905

In 1894, a French newspaper organised a race from Paris to Rouen and back, starting city to city racing.[1] In 1900, the Gordon Bennett Cup was established. Closed circuit racing arose as open road racing, on public roads, was banned.

Aspendale Racecourse in Australia in 1906 was the first dedicated motor racing track in the world.[2]

Following World War I, European countries organised Grand Prix races over closed courses. In the United States, dirt track racing became popular.[3]

After World War II, the Grand Prix circuit became more formally organised. In the United States, stock car racing and drag racing became firmly established.[4]

Motorsports ultimately became divided by types of motor vehicles into racing events, and their appropriate organisations.

Auto racing

Open wheel racing

Mercedes-Benz holds the record for the most consecutive constructor's championships in Formula One. Pictured: the Mercedes W11
Formula racing

Formula racing is a set of classes of motor vehicles, with their wheels outside, and not contained by, any bodywork of their vehicle. These have been globally classified as specific 'Formula' series - the most common being Formula One, and Formula Two. Many others include the likes of Formula 3, Formula Ford, Formula Renault and Formula Palmer Audi. However, in North America, the IndyCar series is the most followed open-wheeled racing series. Former 'Formula' series include Formula 5000, GP2 and GP3.

Formula One

Formula One is a class of single-seat and open-wheel Grand Prix closed-course racing, governed by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), and currently organized by the privately owned company Formula One Group. The formula regulations contain a very strict set of rules which govern vehicle power, weight, size, and design. The rules do allow for some variation, however.[5]

A 2020 Formula E car, driven by Felipe Massa
Formula E

Formula E is a class of open-wheel auto racing that uses only electric-powered cars. The series was conceived in 2012, and the inaugural championship started in Beijing on 13 September 2014.[6] The series is also sanctioned by the FIA and races a spec chassis/battery combination, with manufacturers allowed to develop their own electric power-trains. The series has gained significant traction in recent years.[7]

IndyCar Series
Hélio Castroneves at the 2019 Indianapolis 500

A series originated on June 12, 1909, in Portland, Oregon[8] at its first race. Shortly after, Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened in 1909 and held races that ranged from 50 to 200 miles (80 to 322 km). Its premier race is the Indianapolis 500 which began on May 11, 1911, and a tradition was born. Today, IndyCar operates a full schedule with over 20 teams and 40 different drivers. The current schedule includes 15 tracks over the course of 17 races per season.[9] Will Power was crowned the current champion of the IndyCar Series in September 2022.

Enclosed wheel racing

Enclosed wheel racing is a set of classes of vehicles, where the wheels are primarily enclosed inside the bodywork of the vehicle, similar to a North American 'stock car'.

Sports car racing

Sports car racing is a set of classes of vehicles, over a closed course track, including GT sports cars, and specialized racing prototypes. The premiere race is the 24 Hours of Le Mans which takes place annually in France during the month of June. Sports car racing rules and specifications differentiate in North America from established international sanctioning bodies.[10]

Stock car racing
NASCAR vehicles practicing at Daytona International Speedway with Carl Edwards, Elliott Sadler, Ricky Rudd, Dale Jarrett, and Sterling Marlin in 2004

Stock car racing is a set of vehicles that race over a speedway track, organized by NASCAR. While once stock cars, the vehicles are now purpose-built, but resemble the body design and shape of production cars. Bootleggers throughout the Carolinas are often credited for the origins of NASCAR due to the resistance during prohibition.[11] Many of the vehicles were modified to increase top speed and handling, to provide the bootleggers with an advantage toward the vehicles local law enforcement would use in the area.[12] An important part to the modifications of stock cars, was to increase the performance of the vehicle while also maintaining the same exterior. Many legends in NASCAR originated as bootleggers in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, like Junior Johnson.[13] Organized oval racing began on Daytona Beach in Florida as a hobby, but quickly gained interest from all over the country. As oval racing became larger and larger, a group gathered in hopes to form a sanctioning body for the sport.[14] NASCAR was organized in 1947, to combine flat track oval racing of production cars.[15] Daytona Beach and Road Course was founded where land speed records were set on the beach, and included part of A1A. The highlight of the stock car calendar is the season-opening Daytona 500, also nicknamed 'The Great American Race' which is held at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.[16] NASCAR has now held over 2,500 sanctioned events over the course of 70 seasons.[14] Richard Petty is known as the king of NASCAR with over 200 recorded wins in the series and has competed in 1,184 races in his career.[17]

A BMW M4 DTM touring car, racing in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters
Touring car racing

Touring car racing is a set of vehicles,[18] modified street cars, that race over closed purpose built race tracks and street courses.

Off-road racing
Rob Hall driving SCORE Stock Mini in Baja 1000

Off-road racing is a group of vehicles that specialize in off-road racing and are modified street cars that can race on close purpose-built off-road tracks and courses. Off-road racing is popular all over the world. Premier off-road events include the Dakar Rally and the Baja 1000 desert race.[19] Series like the National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA) which was founded in 1967, sanctions events utilizing off-road vehicles racing through the Baja desert.[20] The first event sanctioned by the organization was the 1967 Mexican 1000 rally that began in Tijuana and ended in La Paz.

Since the 1990s, the FIA has relentlessly pushed for off roading and other off-tarmac racing to be strictly governed by their regulations and standards. This move was done in order to curb the extensive damage to both human life and equipment that unregulated off-roading had caused. All FIA member countries have now passed legislation stating that any vehicle that partakes in off-roading, be it a local level or recreational level, must comply with basic Class 1 FIA rally racing standards, in order to ensure the safety of the participants and equipment.

Other forms of motor racing

Marc Márquez riding in the 2018 MotoGP World Championship
A Ford Focus WRC rally racing car during 2010 Rally Finland

Motor sports which involve competitors racing against each other include:

Non-racing disciplines

Forms of motorsport which do not involve racing include demolition derby, drifting, gymkhana, freestyle motocross, monster truck events, motorcycle trials, regularity rally and tractor pulling.


Racing events are governed by various race officials. Examples of various roles include race director, scorer, chief steward. Race officials are typically members of the country's motorsport governing organization and represent their rules and regulations.[21]

Throughout the racing event, officials are responsible for organizing logistics, onboarding participants, safety, scoring, arbitration, and any other support activities.

After the race, the officials are responsible for resolving any issues that may have arisen during the race. Parties can appeal the decisions to the country's motorsport governing organization.


Motorsport was a demonstration event at the 1900 Summer Olympics.

See also


  1. Gifford, p. 7.
  2. Gifford, p. 9.
  3. Gifford, p. 10.
  4. Gifford, p. 11.
  5. Jonathan Noble; Mark Hughes. "Discovering What Makes Formula One, Formula One". Formula One Racing For Dummies. Archived from the original on 2010-04-24. Retrieved 2015-08-10.
  6. Telegraph Sport (13 September 2014). "Formula E opens with spectacular crash involving Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost as Lucas di Grassi claims win". Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2022-01-12. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  7. Formula E (31 July 2017). "Agag: This has been our take-off season". Archived from the original on 3 July 2018. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  8. Straver, Haiko Benthem, Patrick. "OpenWheelWorld.Net >> Indy Car historie". Archived from the original on 18 April 2018. Retrieved 18 April 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. "Schedule - Verizon IndyCar Series, Indy Lights, Pro Mazda & Cooper Tires USF2000". Archived from the original on 25 January 2021. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  10. "Regulations". Federation Internationale de l'Automobile. Archived from the original on 2015-10-08. Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  11. "How Prohibition Gave Birth to NASCAR". Archived from the original on 23 April 2018. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  12. Billock, Jennifer. "How Moonshine Bootlegging Gave Rise to NASCAR". Archived from the original on 22 December 2022. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  13. "Racing legend outran the law". Archived from the original on 23 April 2018. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  14. "NASCAR founded - Feb 21, 1948 -". Archived from the original on 23 April 2018. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  15. Layford, Bob (1999). Built for Speed. Courage Books. p. 29. ISBN 0762404418.
  16. "History of the Daytona 500". Archived from the original on 23 April 2018. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  17. "Driver Richard Petty Career Statistics -". Archived from the original on 19 January 2018. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  18. "Car Facts | Pirelli World Challenge". Archived from the original on 2015-10-10. Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  19. "Off-Road Racer: The Grandfather of Off-Road Racing: BAJA 1000 -". 21 December 2014. Archived from the original on 18 April 2018. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  20. "NORRA: National Off-Road Racing Association, Home of the Mexican 1000 Rally". Archived from the original on 18 April 2018. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  21. Panure, Matt. "Officiating 101: How to Be a Successful Race Official". Motortrend. Motortrend. Archived from the original on 12 January 2023. Retrieved 12 January 2023.


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