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Grand Prix motor racing, a form of motorsport competition, has its roots in organised automobile racing that began in France as early as 1894. 100 miles per hour (160 km/h), but because early races took place on open roads, accidents occurred frequently, resulting in deaths both of drivers and of spectators.It quickly evolved from simple road races from one town to the next, to endurance tests for car and driver. Innovation and the drive of competition soon saw speeds exceeding
Grand Prix motor racing eventually evolved into formula racing, and one can regard Formula One as its direct descendant. Each event of the Formula One World Championships is still called a Grand Prix; Formula One is also referred to as "Grand Prix racing".
Motor racing was started in France, as a direct result of the enthusiasm with which the French public embraced the motor car. 126 km (78 mi), from Porte Maillot in Paris, through the Bois de Boulogne, to Rouen. Count Jules-Albert de Dion was first into Rouen after 6 hours 48 minutes at an average speed of 19 km/h (12 mph). He finished 3 minutes 30 seconds ahead of Albert Lemaître (Peugeot), followed by Auguste Doriot (Peugeot, 16 minutes 30 seconds back), René Panhard (Panhard, 33 minutes 30 seconds back), and Émile Levassor (Panhard, 55 minutes 30 seconds back). The official winners were Peugeot and Panhard as cars were judged on their speed, handling and safety characteristics, and De Dion's steam car needed a stoker which the judges deemed to be outside of their objectives.Manufacturers were enthusiastic due to the possibility of using motor racing as a shop window for their cars. The first motoring contest took place on July 22, 1894 and was organised by a Paris newspaper, Le Petit Journal . The Paris–Rouen rally was
In 1900, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the owner of the New York Herald and the International Herald Tribune , established the Gordon Bennett Cup. He hoped the creation of an international event would drive automobile manufacturers to improve their cars.Each country was allowed to enter up to three cars, which had to be fully built in the country that they represented and entered by that country's automotive governing body. International racing colours were established in this event. The 1903 event occurred in the aftermath of the fatalities at the Paris-Madrid road race, so the race, at Athy in Ireland, though on public roads, was run over a closed circuit: the first ever closed-circuit motor race.
In the United States, William Kissam Vanderbilt II launched the Vanderbilt Cup at Long Island, New York in 1904.
Some anglophone sources wrongly list a race called the Pau Grand Prix in 1901. This may stem from a mistranslation of the contemporary French sources such as the magazine La France Auto of March 1901.The name of the 1901 event was the Circuit du Sud-Ouest and it was run in three classes around the streets of Pau. The Grand Prix du Palais d'Hiver was the name of the prizes awarded for the lesser classes ('Light cars' and 'Voiturettes'). The Grand Prix de Pau was the name of the prize awarded for the 'Heavy' (fastest) class. Thus Maurice Farman was awarded the 'Grand Prix de Pau' for his overall victory in the Circuit du Sud-Ouest driving a Panhard 24 hp.
In L'Histoire de l'Automobile/Paris 1907 Pierre Souvestre described the 1901 event as : "... dans le Circuit du Sud-Ouest, à l'occasion du meeting de Pau... " (...in the Circuit du Sud-Ouest, at the meeting in Pau...)
The only race at the time to regularly carry the name Grand Prix was organised by the Automobile Club de France (ACF), of which the first took place in 1906. The circuit used, which was based in Le Mans, was roughly triangular in shape, each lap covering 105 kilometres (65 mi). Six laps were to run each day, and each lap took approximately an hour using the relatively primitive cars of the day. The driving force behind the decision to race on a circuit - as opposed to racing on ordinary roads from town to town - was the Paris to Madrid road race of 1903. During this race a number of people, both drivers and pedestrians - including Marcel Renault - were killed and the race was stopped by the French authorities at Bordeaux. Further road based events were banned.
From the 32 entries representing 12 different automobile manufacturers, at the 1906 event, the Hungarian-born Ferenc Szisz (1873–1944) won the 1,260 km (780 mi) race in a Renault. This race was regarded as the first Grande Épreuve, which meant "great trial" and the term was used from then on to denote up to the eight most important events of the year.
Races in this period were heavily nationalistic affairs, with a few countries setting up races of their own, but no formal championship tying them together. The rules varied from country to country and race to race, and typically centered on maximum (not minimum) weights in an effort to limit power by limiting engine size indirectly (10–15 L engines were quite common, usually with no more than four cylinders, and producing less than 50 hp). The cars all had mechanics on board as well as the driver, and no one was allowed to work on the cars during the race except for these two. A key factor to Renault winning this first Grand Prix was held to be the detachable wheel rims (developed by Michelin), which allowed tire changes to occur without having to lever the tire and tube off and back on the rim. Given the state of the roads, such repairs were frequent.
A further historic confusion arose in the early 1920s when the Automobile Club de France attempted to pull off a retrospective political trick by numbering and renaming the major races held in France before the 1906 French Grand Prix as being Grands Prix de l'Automobile Club de France, despite their running pre-dating the formation of the Club. Hence, the 1895 Paris–Bordeaux–Paris Trail was renamed I Grand Prix de l'Automobile Club de France; and the true first Grand Prix in 1906 race was renamed the IX Grand Prix de l'Automobile Club de France (9th). The ACF used this numbering in 1933, although some members of the Club dismissed it, "concerned the name of the Club was lent to the fiction simply out of a childish desire to establish their Grand Prix as the oldest race in the world."
For the most part, races were run over a lengthy circuit of closed public roads, not purpose-built private tracks. This was true of the Le Mans circuit of the 1906 Grand Prix, as well as the Targa Florio (run on 93 miles (150 km) of Sicilian roads), the 75 miles (121 km) German Kaiserpreis circuit in the Taunus mountains, and the French circuit at Dieppe (a mere 48 miles (77 km)), used for the 1907 Grand Prix. The exceptions were the steeply banked egg-shaped near oval of Brooklands in England, completed in 1907, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, first used in 1909 with the first Indianapolis 500-Mile Race in 1911, and the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, in Italy, opened in 1922.
In 1908, the United States of America became the first country outside France to host an automobile race using the name Grand Prix (or Grand Prize), run at Savannah. The first Grande Épreuve outside France was the 1921 Italian Grand Prix held at Montichiari. This was quickly followed by Belgium and Spain (in 1924), and later spread to other countries including Britain (1926). Strictly speaking, this still wasn't a formal championship, but a loose collection of races run to various rules. (A "formula" of rules had appeared just before World War I, finally based on engine size as well as weight, but it was not universally adopted.)
In 1904, many national motor clubs banded together to form the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (AIACR). In 1922 the Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI) was empowered on behalf of AIACR to regulate Grand Prix racing and other forms of international racing. Since the inception of Grand Prix racing, competitions had been run in accordance with a strict formula based on engine size and vehicle weight. These regulations were virtually abandoned in 1928 with an era known as Formula Libre when race organisers decided to run their events with almost no limitations. From 1927 to 1934, the number of races considered to have Grand Prix status exploded, jumping from five events in 1927, to nine events in 1929, to eighteen in 1934 (the peak year before World War II).
During this period a lot of changes of rules occurred. There was a mass start for the first time at the 1922 French Grand Prix in Strasbourg. The 1925 season was the first season during which no riding mechanic was required in a car, as this rule was repealed in Europe after the death of Tom Barrett the previous year. At the 1926 Solituderennen a well thought-out system, with flags and boards, giving drivers tactical information, was used for the first time by Alfred Neubauer, the racing manager of the Mercedes-Benz team. The 1933 Monaco Grand Prix was the first time in the history of the sport that the grid was determined by timed qualifying rather than the luck of a draw.
All the competing vehicles were painted in the international auto racing colors:
French cars continued to dominate (led by Bugatti, but also including Delage and Delahaye) until the late 1920s, when the Italians (Alfa Romeo and Maserati) began to beat the French cars regularly. At the time, the Germans engineered unique race vehicles as seen in the photo here with the Benz aerodynamic "teardrop" body introduced at the 1923 European Grand Prix at Monza by Karl Benz.
In the 1930s, however, nationalism entered a new phase when the Nazis encouraged Mercedes and Auto Union to further the glory of the Reich. (The government did provide some money to the two manufacturers, but the extent of the aid into their hands was exaggerated in the media; government subsidies amounted to perhaps 10% or less of the costs of running the two racing teams.) 600 hp (450 kW) on alcohol fuels.The two German marques utterly dominated the period from 1935 to 1939, winning all but three of the official Championship Grands Prix races run in those years. The cars by this time were single-seaters (the riding mechanic vanished in the early 1920s), with 8 to 16 cylinder supercharged engines producing upwards of
As early as October 1923, the idea of an automobile championship was discussed at the annual autumn conference of the AIACR (Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus) in Paris. However, discussion centered on the increased interest in racing by manufacturers and holding the first European Grand Prix at Monza in 1923. The first World Championship took place in 1925, but it was for manufacturers only, consisting of four races of at least 800 km (497 mi) in length. The races that formed the first Constructors' Championship were the Indianapolis 500, the European Grand Prix, and the French and Italian Grands Prix. A European Championship, consisting of the major Grand Prix in a number of countries (named Grandes Épreuves) was instituted for drivers in 1931, and was competed every year until the outbreak of World War II in 1939 with the exception of 1933 and 1934.
Related topics : Formula One, History of Formula One
In 1946, following World War II, only four races of Grand Prix calibre were held. Rules for a Grand Prix World Championship had been laid out before World War II, but it took several years afterward until 1947 when the old AIACR reorganised itself as the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile or "FIA" for short, headquartered in Paris. It announced the new International Formula, also known as Formula 1 or Formula A, to be effective from 1947. At the end of the 1949 season the FIA announced that for 1950 they would be linking several national Formula One Grands Prix to create a World Championship for drivers, although due to economic difficulties the years 1952 and 1953 were actually competed in Formula Two cars. A points system was established and a total of seven races were granted championship status including the Indianapolis 500. The first World Championship race was held on 13 May 1950 at Silverstone in the United Kingdom.
The Italians once again did well in these early World Championship races, both manufacturers and drivers. The first World Champion was Giuseppe Farina, driving an Alfa Romeo. Ferrari appeared at the second World Championship race, in Monaco, and has the distinction of being the only manufacturer to compete throughout the entire history of the World Championship, still competing in 2019.
For wartime events, see Grands Prix during World War II.
Notable drivers of the Grand Prix motor racing era included a few women who competed equally with the men:
From 1925 onwards, the AIACR and later the FIA organised World and European Championships for Grand Prix manufacturers, drivers and constructors:
The Monaco Grand Prix is a Formula One motor race held annually on the Circuit de Monaco on the last weekend in May. Run since 1929, it is widely considered to be one of the most important and prestigious automobile races in the world, and is one of the races—along with the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans—that form the Triple Crown of Motorsport. The circuit has been called "an exceptional location of glamour and prestige".
1901 in sports describes the year's events in world sport.
The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile is an association established on 20 June 1904 to represent the interests of motoring organisations and motor car users. To the general public, the FIA is mostly known as the governing body for many auto racing events, such as the well known Formula One. The FIA also promotes road safety around the world.
The British Grand Prix is a grand prix motor race organised in Great Britain by the Royal Automobile Club. First held in 1926, the British Grand Prix has been held annually since 1948 and has been a round of the FIA Formula One World Championship every year since 1950. In 1952, following the transfer of the lease of the Silverstone Circuit to the British Racing Drivers' Club, the RAC delegated the organisation of the race to the BRDC for the first time, and this arrangement has continued for all British Grands Prix held at Silverstone since then.
The French Grand Prix, formerly known as the Grand Prix de l'ACF, is an auto race held as part of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile's annual Formula One World Championship. It is one of the oldest motor races in the world as well as the first "Grand Prix". It ceased shortly after its centenary in 2008 with 86 races having been held, due to unfavourable financial circumstances and venues. The race returned to the Formula One calendar in 2018 with Circuit Paul Ricard hosting the race.
Road racing is a form of motorsport racing held on a paved road surfaces. The races can be held either on a closed circuit or on a street circuit utilizing temporarily closed public roads. Originally, road races were held almost entirely on public roads however, public safety concerns eventually led to most races being held on purpose built racing circuits.
Charles Pozzi was a French racing driver who participated in one World Championship Formula One race in 1950, the year of its inception.
Élie Marcel Bayol was a French racing driver who raced in Formula One for the O.S.C.A. and Gordini teams. He started his career in 1950 racing Monomill DB-Panhards and progressed to Formula 2 races and hillclimbs around France. His best result was a fourth place in the Circuit de Cadours, in 1951. In 1953 he was fourth again at Pau and obtained a pole position at Albi. He also succeeded the same year to win the Aix les Bains Circuit du Lac Grand Prix.
Philippe Étancelin was a French Grand Prix motor racing driver who joined the new Formula One circuit at its inception.
The European Drivers' Championship was an annual competition in auto racing that existed prior to the establishment of the Formula One world championship in 1950. It was established in 1931 and ran until the end of 1939 with a hiatus from 1933–34, and awarded points to drivers based on the results of selected Grand Prix races, the so-called Grandes Épreuves. The championship was discontinued because of the outbreak of World War II in 1939, and no champion was officially declared for the last season.
The Automobile Club de l'Ouest, sometimes abbreviated to ACO, is the largest automotive group in France. It was founded in 1906 by car building and racing enthusiasts, and is most famous for being the organising entity behind the annual Le Mans 24 Hours race. The ACO also lobbies on behalf of French drivers on such issues as road building and maintenance, the availability of driving schools and road safety classes, and the incorporation of technical innovations into new vehicles. It also runs a roadside assistance service for its members.
The 1906 Grand Prix de l'Automobile Club de France, commonly known as the 1906 French Grand Prix, was a motor race held on 26 and 27 June 1906, on closed public roads outside the city of Le Mans. The Grand Prix was organised by the Automobile Club de France (ACF) at the prompting of the French automobile industry as an alternative to the Gordon Bennett races, which limited each competing country's number of entries regardless of the size of its industry. France had the largest automobile industry in Europe at the time, and in an attempt to better reflect this the Grand Prix had no limit to the number of entries by any particular country. The ACF chose a 103.18-kilometre (64.11 mi) circuit, composed primarily of dust roads sealed with tar, which would be lapped six times on both days by each competitor, a combined race distance of 1,238.16 kilometres (769.36 mi). Lasting for more than 12 hours overall, the race was won by Ferenc Szisz driving for the Renault team. FIAT driver Felice Nazzaro finished second, and Albert Clément was third in a Clément-Bayard.
The Pau Grand Prix is a motor race held in Pau, in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department of southwestern France. The French Grand Prix was held at Pau in 1930, leading to the annual Pau Grand Prix being inaugurated in 1933. It was not run during World War II.
The World Manufacturers' Championship, also known as Automobile World Championship, was a competition organised by the AIACR between 1925 and 1930.
The 1925 Grand Prix season was a watershed year in motor racing. It was the first year for the new AIACR World Manufacturers' Championship season. The championship was won by Alfa Romeo, with its P2 model.
The Montenero Circuit, official name: Circuito del Montenero or sometimes referred to simply as "the Livorno Circuit", was a Grand Prix motor racing road course located at the southern outskirts of Livorno, a city on the mediterranean coast of the Tuscany region in Italy. The venue was best known as the home for the annual Circuito Montenero - Coppa Ciano and the 1937 Italian Grand Prix.
Henri Julien was a French racing car driver and motor sports team founder. He founded and managed the Automobiles Gonfaronnaises Sportives (AGS) racing team, which participated in the European Formula Two Championship and Formula 1 in the 1970s and 1980s.
Mario Alborghetti was an Italian motor racing driver who raced in Formula One for the Volpini-Arzani team. He was killed in an accident during his Grand Prix debut.
Circuit auto et moto Pau-Arnos is a club track in Arnos about 20 km to the west of the city Pau in southwestern France which is famous for its street circuit Circuit de Pau-Ville where the Pau Grand Prix is held.
Yvonne Marie Louise Simon was a French racing driver who participated in rallying, circuit races and endurance racing.