Motorsports are extremely popular, as demonstrated by the roughly 2.5 million people that attended the Formula 1 Grand Prix in 2021.
From the high-octane thrill of seeing vehicles race at high speeds to the buzzing atmosphere of the crowds, there are so many reasons why motorsports are beloved across the world.
But did you know that motorsports also has a rich and surprising history, full of thrilling facts?
In this article, we’ll share four fascinating facts about motorsports.
1. The dawn of motorsports
A contest held between Paris-Rouen in 1894 is widely thought of as the event that kicked off motorsports.
Four days of vehicle exhibitions and qualifying competitions preceded the Paris–Rouen Concours du ‘Petit Journal’ Les Voitures sans Chevaux, or Le Petit Journal Horseless Carriages Contest.
Like the motorsports events of today, Paris-Rouen wasn’t without its controversies. The first driver across the finishing line, automobile pioneer Jules-Albert de Dion, was disqualified due to his steam-powered car requiring a stoker. So, the victory went to Albert Lemaître instead, who drove an early petrol-powered Peugeot.
2. Manchester roots
Yet even though Paris-Rouen is commonly thought of as the first motorsport race, it was beaten to the punch by a lesser-known event in Manchester almost three decades earlier. This race was the first recorded time that horseless vehicles competed on a prescribed route, taking place in Ashton-under-Lyne in 1867.
A single-cylinder vehicle driven by Isaac W. Boulton took on Daniel Adamson’s smaller two-cylinder model along an 8-mile route leading to Old Trafford. The carriages achieved a modest speed of roughly 8mph, with Boulton’s smaller vehicle taking the lead and keeping it to the finish line.
3. The first motorsports track
Despite motorsports having seemingly European origins, at least one significant breakthrough happened on the other end of the world. This came in the form of the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit, the Aspendale Motor Raceway, which was built in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. Just short of a mile in length and featuring a gravel track with slightly banked curves, it hosted its first race almost 40 years after Paris-Rouen in January 1906.
4. F1 takes over
Since it was created in 1946, Formula One has been the world’s premier motorsport. The first championship took place at Silverstone in 1950, with 150,000 spectators in attendance.
Fast forward to today, and F1 has given rise to countless legendary moments, from Slim Borgudd using Avon Tyres to claw his way to sixth position in the 1981 British Grand Prix to Jenson Button’s improbable victory at the 2011 Canadian GP.
Motorsports have come a long way throughout its history, with 8mph steam carriages transforming into 220mph Formula One cars. And for those who love the sport, the fascinating facts and stories from along the way only make it that much more interesting.