International competitiveness, testing the capabilities of specially designed automobiles and the skill of their drivers,
over tracks and courses of differing lengths and construction, this is automobile racing. The first car race considered
is the one held in France in July 1894, in which the winner averaged 24 kilometers per hour, when 100 automobiles set
out from Paris to Rouen. The first race in North America was held in Chicago, Illinois, in the year 1895. The
excitement generated by the possibility of driving at higher and higher speeds has made automobile racing one of the
world's major spectator and participant sports. Early races were held in two forms; pure speed races and the others
tested engine reliability, which later became known as rallies. In rallies, cars attempt to achieve and maintain a
set speed between points. The first races were held on public roads, but with increasing concern for spectator safety,
special closed-circuit tracks were built for rally racing.
The most common racing track is a paved oval with banked corners,
from 200 m to 4000 m in length. The difference between road and track racing ultimately led also to different vehicle
construction; four major types of racing cars are now built. Pure racing machines, such as those used in Grand PrixFormula 1
and in Indycar, are built for power and endurance at speeds of more than 320 km/h (200 MPH). In the past stock cars used to
be production automobiles modified for track racing, but are built now solely for the purpose of racing. Sports cars used for
racing, such as rallies, may be either rebuilt production vehicles or pure racing machines. Drag racers are cars built to accelerate
rapidly to high speeds over very short straight tracks, or drag strips, generally about 400 m (3 mi) long.
The race most popularly associated with the sport is the Indianapolis 500, so called because contestants must cover 500 mi
(about 805 km); it has been held annually on Memorial Day weekend since 1911. With crowds averaging 400,000, it is the best-attended
single-day sports event in the world. This year the Indy 500 will not involve most teams from IndycarCART, Championship Auto Racing
Teams, the regulatory body which is now being opposed by the IRL, Indycar Racing League, whose owner also owns the Indy 500 track. The
elite Grand Prix races are held at various international sites, such as SÃÂ£o Paulo, Brazil, and Johannesburg, South Africa, and through
the streets of Monte Carlo, Monaco. Points scored by winners of these races are totaled to establish the world champion driver. The 24-hour
race at Le Mans, France, is the most famous road endurance race. The annual stock car Daytona 500 in Florida and the U.S. Nationals for drag
racing at Indianapolis Raceway Park are classics in their respective fields.
Growth in auto racing has shifted away from producing speed. Today the engineers of racing are not focusing their efforts to generate more
speed, but to improve cornering speeds, fuel economy and the braking of the their creations. Straight away speeds have not risen significantly
since the 1960's. In spite of this, racing cars have shaved seconds off previous track or course records each year due to advances in
aerodynamics, brakes, tires and chassis design. Wings, which first appeared in the mid-1960's, were a major development allowing speed to
increase but also allowing the car to be safe for the driver. Wings are basically airplane wings turned upside down. Instead of lifting,
the wings force the car down. Today because of the downforce provided by wings, an Indycar can run upside down on the ceiling. Due to the
improvement in car design which has led to faster speeds, but also several deaths, many racing organizations are changing rules for the safety
of the drivers. Such examples are NASCAR implementing restrictor plates to slow the cars, Formula 1 changing from methanol burning engines
to gasoline burning engines, and Indycar adding pop-off valves, which open if engine pressure is to high thus exposing the engine to atmospheric
pressure and leading to low power production form the engine.
Auto racing advancement and research has also helped the commercial automobile industry. The majority of the worlds auto makers have one or more
entries in the 24-hours at Le Mans race. This race is chosen because the strain put on the car could equal strain put on a car by an average
consumer in a year or more. This can show the immediate reliability of new or revised components. The auto makers may test new engines, chassis,
or something as simple as head lights. The turbocharger got its start in racing. The turbo uses exhaust gases to spin a turbine. This then turns
a compressor fan that will compress air as it enters the engine. More air is then in the combustion chamber and it is also under pressure.
When fuel is added and the mixture is ignited, the compressed air will provide more power than an uncompressed combustion.
As time has passed safety of the car has followed directly behind improvements in performance of racing cars. Race tracks and courses are lined with
safety barriers to stop a car if it gets off the track out of control. Drivers wear flame retardant clothing from head to toe, even undergarments
must be flame retardant. The bodies of the cars are made to fall to pieces on contact. This is better than the car remaining in one piece because
more of the force of impact is absorbed by the car and not the driver. The hardest known material is used to make the chassis and body, carbon,
but in a form called carbon fiber. This is safe because parts of the car are less likely to break off from the car. These pieces are a great
hazard to all drivers who are on track at the same time.
As the popularity of automobile racing continues to rise, the quality of all people involved in racing will follow suit. Developments and
competition in recent years have led to revolution in the racing world as competing leagues strive to become the world's racing authority.
The technology in racing becomes updated and remodeled each year which will ultimately see its way into the consumer world.