Your Ultimate Guide to Auto Racing and Top 10 Races of All Time

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Auto racing, as the name suggests, is a motorsport that involves racing cars for competition.
The first auto race can be traced to the creation of the first petrol fuelled automobiles back in the late 19th century. It was in France that the first organized races were held. These races would often be between cities.
You could say that auto racing history begins in France in 1895 and then in 1897 the first race car venue in the world was built in Nice. The first ever race was held on July 23, 1894. This race was from Paris to Rouen and is considered to be the world's first motoring competition.


Today there are numerous forms of auto racing. The most popular ones are discussed below.

Formula Racing

The term ‘Formula’ in racing implies a pure racing car, a single-seater, which has open wheels. The name ‘Formula 1’ is extracted from the rules formulated for racing after World War II. These rules were given the name "Formula One". This name has stuck with the sport since then.
Although Formula One racing is a type of racing that is completely disconnected with road-legal cars, Formula One is at the technological pinnacle of all motorsports. It is the sport where the world's best drivers, designers, engineers and engine builders all want to be.
Formula One is not only about competition between the drivers, in fact the rivalry extends to the cars and their manufacturers too!
Formula One: Official site for Formula One Racing
Planet F1: A site that gives you all the information you need about Formula One Racing
Australian Grand prix : Official site of the Australian Grand Prix
Austin Grand Prix: Official site of the Austin Grand Prix
Singapore Grand Prix: Official site of the Singapore Grand Prix
Bahrain Grand Prix: Official site of the Bahrain Grand Prix
Malaysian Grand Prix: Official site of the Malaysian Grand Prix
German Grand Prix: Official site of the German Grand Prix
Mercedes Grand Prix: official site of the Mercedes Grand Prix

Sports-Car Racing

This is one of the most popular forms of motorsports. In sports car racing we find a combination of purpose built race cars with typical street cars having a competition at a permanent road racing facility or a temporary street circuit.
The advantage that the fans have here is that they are treated to the opportunity of witnessing cars that they see on the road or maybe even drive them themselves.
Purpose built sports cars are generally raced in the Rolex Series and are called Daytona Prototypes. These and other simple prototypes are only found on the track. However, it is the Grand Touring racing where one can experience cars that can be found in a local garage.
Racing of sports cars is usually done on roads, or places with left and right turns. Racing tracks can be flat surfaces, such as roads or they could also be located in mountains or forests.
GT1 2012: A video showcasing the GT1s current 2012 season

NASCAR Racing

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) is actually a business that is family owned and operated. NASCAR actually sanctions and governs auto racing sports events.
The roots of NASCAR are found in drivers buying brand new cars right from the showroom and going racing with them. What NASCAR did was create a standardized set of rules for stock car racing. They also made a system whereby a national champion is selected based on performance at different races across the USA.
Initially, these races were done on dirt tracks. This however, led to the new, unmodified cars going bust as they were not made for such harsh treatment.
NASCAR eventually started to permit modifications to the stock cars so as to increase their life. As things progressed many modifications were allowed. These were done to basically increase the safety measures and increase competition.
Today however, cars that race in NASCAR races have almost nothing in common with street legal cars as they are mostly handmade and built from flat sheet metal. The engines of these cars are made from a bare block and the frame of the car from steel tubing.
Nascar: Official site for NASCAR
Indycar: The official site for indycar racing

Rallying

Rallying, or rally racing, is done on public or private roads. This form of racing uses modified production cars or specially built cars that are street legal.
The major distinguishing factor here is that this race is not run on a circuit but instead is done in a point to point format where the racers drive between certain set control points.
Rally racing basically is real cars racing against each other and against the clock on real roads that are closed off. These roads are also generally unpaved. A rally car racing event can be several days long and usually has drivers drive hundreds of miles through rain, snow, day or night.

A rally car cannot just rely on having high speed and/or incredible handling. These cars have to be built or modified to run on any road surface and in all possible weather conditions.
Another challenge for rally car racers is that their cars need to be street legal. This is because during the race they could travel on public roads that have traffic.
World Rally Championship: Official site of the FIA world rally championship

Drag Racing

Drag racing is basically just an acceleration contest. Typically a drag race has two competitors that take on each other in an acceleration contest on a track or a dragstrip. These cars begin from a standing position and have to compete in getting across a measured finish line.
A drag racing tournament is a series of two vehicle drag races with tournament type eliminations. The racer who keeps on winning keeps on moving ahead till only one is left and crowned champion.
Australian National Drag Racing Association: Official site of the Australian National Drag Racing Association
Sydney Dragway: Official site of the Sydney Dragway
ET Drag Racers Club: Official site of the ET Drag Racers club of New South Wales

Off-Road Racing

In off-road racing, as the name suggests, specially modified cars (including trucks, motorcycles, and buggies) compete in races in an off-road environment.
Both production and custom made vehicles can be used in an off road race where the drivers must negotiate a variety of surfaces (paved and unpaved).
The main objective of this kind of race is car control, race preparation and driving skill. There is no speed limitation in off-road racing.
Off road races in North America usually happen in the desert. In Europe however, one finds events such as the autocross or rallycross, and also desert races such as the Paris-Dakar.
Off-Road Racing, 2006 Championship: Video of racing moments from the 2006 Championship Off-Road Racing season

Touring Car Racing

Touring car racing is basically racing done with production derived race cars. The major touring car championships conducted worldwide are:

  • V8 Supercars in Australia,
  • British Touring Car Championship,
  • Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters,
  • and the World Touring Car Championship

Production-Car Racing

Also called showroom stock, production car racing is similar to touring car racing but is more restricted in terms of rules and has an overall focus on being economical. Production car races are generally based on the make of a car.
Australian Pro Street Association: Official site of the Australian Pro Street Association
Le Mans Classic: The official site of the Le Mans 24 Hour race
FIA World Endurance Championship : Official site of the FIA world endurance championship

With hundreds of thousands of races that have taken place since the advent of racing and the multitude of racing forms it is next to impossible to decide which races were the best. However, there have been incidents that have changed the world of racing. These races were more than just amazing races and can be categorized as being controversial, to outright crazy, to maybe just short of miraculous.

The 1955 Le Mans and the Infamous Mercedes Crash

This race saw over 80 spectators killed and changed the face of racing forever.
The accident ocurred when the Mercedes 300 SLR, driven by Pierre Levegh, flew off the back of Lance Maklin’s Austin Healy and into the spectators. The Mercedes caught fire and a large component from it took down 80 people. Auto racing was banned in Switzerland after this incident and Mercedes pulled out of motorsports.

Even though the crash took the lives of over 80 people the race was not stopped and 20 hours later Mike Hawthorn was named the victor.

More on the 1955 Le Mans Mercedes Crash

The 1978 Italian Grand Prix

This race had it all: excitement, thrills, drama and tragedy. It was an amazing spectacle for millions of spectators all over the world.

The race began with the infamous crash that took the life of Ronnie Peterson, a racing legend. The race continued with a battle for the lead, the contenders being Mario Andretti of team Lotus and Gilles Villeneuve of team Ferrari.

The race was won by Andretti with Villeneuve coming in second, but because both of them had jumped the start they were penalized a minute and Niki Lauda of the Brabham team who had come third was named the winner.

All About the 1978 Italian Grand Prix â€" A great Wikipedia article on this great race
The 1978 Italian Grand Prix Crash â€" See the video

The Le Mans 1966 Ford vs. Ferrari

This was the year that Ford avenged its loss to Ferrari in the 1965 Le Mans where Ferrari came in 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

After 1965’s loss, Henry Ford II got lapel buttons for his team that said "Ford Wins Le Mans in '66" and promised that any Ford employee who wasn’t with the plan could be shown the door. With the Ford GTs, Ford’s entry into the race was made faster, more reliable and all-stars were brought on to drive them.

The end was as Henry Ford II had promised and Ford were the victors taking 1st, 2nd and 3rd position. This was Ford’s first four wins at Le Mans.

The 1979 Daytona 500

Daytona 500 was first broadcast live in 1979 and provided a spectacle for its viewers that few can forget.

Drivers Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough were way ahead of the third place car in the last lap when Yarborough tried to pass Allison who instantly tried to block him. The result, both cars ended up getting wrecked on the third turn and Richard Perry took the win. The best was however, yet to come. After the race Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough got into a fist fight and Bobby Allison also joined in.

This incident gave NASCAR more popularity than it could have imagined as all this was being broadcast on National television, LIVE!
The Daytona 500 Fistfight â€" Check out the infamous fistfight here!

The 1992 Indianapolis 500 and the photo finish between Al Unser Jr. and Edges Scott Goodyear

This race is known for the closest finish ever in racing history.
Michael Andretti was in the lead in this race for the first 160 laps but with just 11 laps remaining he had engine problems and had to give up his lead to Al Unser Jr.

The duel was then between Al Unser Jr. and Scott Goodyear who was chasing close behind him. The final 7 laps were filled with thrills but Scott Goodyear could not overtake Al Unser Jr. who won the race by a miniscule 0.043 seconds.

The 1992 Indianapolis 500 Photo Finish â€" Read the NY Times article

The 1985 Indianapolis 500

Also known as the "Spin and Win," this race is famous for Danny Sullivan's 360 degree turn in the 120th lap. He was dueling with Mario Andretti when he made an inside pass to try and take the lead. At the end of the move he rotated a full 360 degrees. Although there was smoke all around him he did not hit the outside wall, straightened up, regained control and took second place.

Australian Grand Prix 1994 â€" Did Schumacher Cheat?

The title deciding Australian Grand Prix saw Schumacher becoming the first German Formula One champion but only after he and second placed Damon Hill were forced to retire because of a crash.
At the beginning of the race both were only a point apart, with Schumacher in the lead. The German had once hit the concrete wall earlier in the race but when Hill tried to overtake him at a later stage of the race, Schumacher (some claim purposefully) drove into the Williams that Hill was driving. Both ended up retired with Schumacher being proclaimed the champion.
Did Schumacher Really Cheat? â€" Check out the video and see for yourself

The 2008 Monaco Grand Prix and Lewis Hamilton’s Puncture

Another race filled with drama, thrills and excitement, this race is considered to be Lewis Hamilton’s greatest victory.

Weather conditions changed dramatically during the race with the rain getting increasingly heavy. In the 6th lap Hamilton had started off in 3rd place but had gotten to second when his rear tire punctured and he slid in the rain. He had to then slowly get back to the pit. Because of the puncture the McLaren team fueled the car for longer. Everyone thought he was out of the title run. However after this pit stop Hamilton performed amazingly and at times he completed his laps a second faster than the rest.

His amazing performance stole the show as Hamilton won his first Monaco Grand Prix and sealed his “Greatest Victory”.

All About the 2008 Monaco Grand Prix â€" A great Wikipedia article that covers everything you need to know about this great event

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