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Learning about the History of Auto Racing

Auto racing, otherwise known as car racing, is defined as a motorsport which features several vehicles competing against one another. It is touted as one of the world's most watched television sports.

Car racing traces its history back to the 18th century. The Parisian magazine, Le Petit Journal, organised the first formal car race that ran from Paris to Rouen. The length of the entire course was 127 kilometres or 79 miles. The paper's editor, Pierre Giffard, promoted it as a Competition for Horseless Carriages.

There were about 69 cars that participated in the elimination event which determined the competitors for the Paris to Rouen race. This initial round was 50 kilometres in length or about 31 miles. Participants ranged from established manufacturers such as Peugeot and Panhard to amateur owners. When the eliminations were over, only 25 cars were allowed to go on to the main event. Count Jules-Albert de Dion was the first to arrive at Rouen after 6 hours and 48 minutes. However, he was disqualified as his car made use of a stoker, which was against the rules. Georges Lemaître, who was driving a Peugeot, was announced as the champion instead.

Meanwhile, the first automobile race that had all competitors starting together was in 1895. It was known as the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris Trial where Emile Levassor, in his Panhard-Levassor 1205, was declared the winner. He completed the 1, 178 kilometre (732 miles) course in 48 hours and 47 minutes.

Nice became the first regular auto racing venue. It played host to the Speed Week that took place in late March 1897. Many types of racing events were invented here to fill out the schedule. This included the first hill climb and a sprint, an early form of drag racing.

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