Grand Prix racing started in Europe. However, at its inception, the term ‘racing’ was somewhat of an misnomer. There have been no tracks especially designed for cars to run on. The first races were conducted over open roads. And the condition of the roads was deplorable. Consequently, the objective was survival not speed. Since breakdowns were frequent, the winning criterion was the driver’s ability to navigate from the starting line to the final line.
Nevertheless, car manufacturers were wanting to have their cars participate, as a good performance was an important selling point.
In 1887, a French publication, ‘Le Velocipede’, organized an auto race, which is known as to be the first planned auto-racing event. However, only one driver entered.
Then in 1894, a Parisian newspaper, organized a motor race to be run from Paris to Rouen, a distance of eighty miles.
In 1906, the Automobile Club de France (ACF) organized the first race to be called the Grand Prix. It was run over a 1,260-kilometer triangular shaped circuit located in Le Mans. Each lap was 105 miles and a driver had to perform six laps every day. Twelve manufacturers participated and there were thirty-two entries. A Hungarian named Ferene Szisz won.
His win was attributed to the fact that his car was equipped with detachable wheel rims that had been invented by Michelin. These considerably reduced the quantity of time spent for every tire change.
Throughout the decade, races, generally, were operate on closed circuit roads. There have been three exceptions. Great Britain completed the Brooklands course in 1907. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened in 1909, followed by the Autodromo Nazionale Monza in Italy in 1922.
Races conducted at the moment were also very nationalistic. It was not unusual for a country to set up its own race with its own individual rules. Then just prior to World War I, a formula of rules appeared. This was based on the scale and weight of the engine. However, it wasn’t universal.
Then, in 1924, the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus was formed with the Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI). Power to regulate Grand Prix as well as others varieties of international racing was granted to the CSI.
Other important changes occurred prior to World War II. In 1933 at the Monaco Grand Prix drivers were chosen by timed qualifying runs as opposed to the luck of an draw. In 1925, the first World Championship was held.
Towards the finish of the 1920’s, Italian cars took over the lead from the French cars and Germany started out to enter unique vehicles engineered especially for racing such as the Karl Benz ‘Teardrop.’
Between 1935 and 1939, Germany won basically three of the state Championship Grand Prix races.
Cars were now single seaters, as they no more carried a riding mechanic.
After World War II, the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus reorganized and became the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). The Formula One with a global Championship for drivers was made. The Association also established a points system, which awarded championship status to seven races. The Indianapolis 500 was one of the seven. Italian cars and Italian drivers took the lead with Giuseppe Farina in an Alfa Romeo being the first to cross the final line in the first World Championship race. A Ferrari was entered in the next race that occurred in Monaco. Ferrari continues to compete in 2008 and it is the only automobile manufacturer to compete throughout the history of the sport.
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