In 1895, the first car race was held by motor enthusiasts between Paris and Bordeaux in France. The cars drove 1,178 km, with the winner averaging 24.15 km/h. The first race in the USA followed soon after, between Chicago and Evanston, Illinois, on Thanksgiving of the same year. Today, motorsports have developed into a substantial money-spinning enterprise overseen globally by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and the Federation of International Motorcycling (FIM). In 2018, annual sponsorship for all motorsports exceeded US$ 5 billion. It continues to increase as the popularity of the sport grows.
The world’s oldest endurance race is 24 Heures du Mans, which started in 1923. The race is 8.5 miles around the Circuit de la Sarthe track, where the winner drives the car that manages the longest distance over 24 hours. Many big car manufacturers have competed over the years for the prestigious title, including Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Porsche, Audi, Aston Martin, and Ferrari. Bentley and Alfa Romeo dominated the 1930s, the event was postponed for 10 years during the 1940s but returned with wins for Jaguar and Ferrari in the 1950s and early ’60s. Ford won between 1966 and 1969. The rivalry between Ford and Ferrari during that time was recently made into a film starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale.
In the USA, stock car racing was a spin-off from bootleggers during prohibition since drivers used small, fast cars to distribute liquor quickly to avoid the police. The NASCAR started in February 1948, with vehicles racing in three divisions: modifieds, roadsters, and strictly stock. As the sport became more popular, the drivers became celebrities and records were broken, notably Richard Petty, who won 10 consecutive races in 1967 as part of 27 wins over the season and 200 wins overall. Bill Elliot set a qualifying lap record in Talladega in 1987 at 212.8 mph in 1987, and Jimmie Johnson won five consecutive championships between 2006 and 2010.
The Pit Stop
With time and speed deciding the winners and losers, calling a car for a pit stop during a race is a calculated gamble to improve your chances of winning. So, what happens when the racing car is called off the track? The main reason is to change tires. Tires wear out, overheat and lose their efficiency and grip. They are also changed to improve a car’s control during wet conditions. If you go to your repair shop, the mechanic uses a changer machine or automotive lift to replace the car’s tires. During a race, teams change tires several times with a pit stop taking only a few seconds.
The fastest tire change in Formula One war 1.82 seconds by the Red Bull racing team during the Brazilian Grand Prix in November 2019. The Red Bull team perfected their changing techniques in an airplane, taking a racing car and team on a parabola flight path that provides 20 seconds of no gravity as the plane increased and lowered its altitude. They practiced changing the tires, with the tire gunners and wheel carriers coordinating movements during periods of zero gravity. During their experience, they made the process more efficient as they discovered new routines that wouldn’t have been understood during a usual change practice.
Motorsports have created considerable advances in technology to make people travel overland faster and for longer distances. The next challenge is the sport’s transition from gasoline to cleaner, sustainable fuel.