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Grand Prix motor racing


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Grand Prix of Italy


Grand Prix motor racing has its roots in organized automobile racing that began in France as far back as 1894. It quickly evolved from a simple road race from one town to the next, to endurance tests for car and driver. Innovation and the drive of competition soon saw speeds exceeding 100 mph, but because the races were held on open roads there were frequent accidents with the resulting fatalities of both drivers and spectators.

Organized Racing

A seminal event in racing came in 1900 when James Gordon Bennett, Jr. (1841–1918), the owner of the New York Herald newspaper and the International Herald Tribune in Paris, established the Gordon Bennett Cup in Europe, an annual race that attracted international competitors. Each country was allowed to enter up to three cars. Following Bennett's lead, in the United States, the wealthy William Kissam Vanderbilt II launched the Vanderbilt Cup at Long Island, New York in 1904. Influenced by these racing events, Louis Chevrolet (1878–1941), a Swiss-born employee of a French motor vehicle manufacturer would move to the United States. Beginning in 1910, he would become a major figure in American racing and the designer of a car for General Motors that bears his name.

The first Grands Prix

In 1906, the first (and at that time only) race carrying the name Grand Prix was organized by the Automobile Club de France (ACF), and run over two days in June. The Le Mans based circuit used was roughly triangular in shape, each lap covering 105 km (65 miles). Six laps were to be run each day, and each lap took about an hour using the relatively primitive cars of the day. From the 32 entries representing 12 different automobile manufacturers, the Hungarian-born Ferenc Szisz (1873–1944) won the 1260 km race in a Renault.

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 around maximum (not minimum) weights in an effort to limit power by limiting engine size indirectly (10–15 liter engines were quite common, usually with no more than four cylinders, and producing less than 50hp). 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.

1931 Monza Grand Prix won by Campari and Nuvolari

Racecourse development

Brooklands was the first ever oval style race track built for cars.

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 93mi of Sicilian roads), the 75mi 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 Grand Épreuve outside of France was the 1921 Italian Grand Prix held at Brescia. This was quickly followed by Belgium and Spain (in 1924), and later spread to other countries. 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 1924, however, many national motor clubs banded together to form the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (AIACR), whose Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI) was empowered to regulate Grand Prix 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).

In 1922, Italy became the first country outside France to host a race using the name Grand Prix, run at Monza. This was quickly followed by Belgium and Spain (in 1924), and later spread to other countries. 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 1924, however, many national motor clubs banded together to form the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (AIACR), whose Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI) was empowered to regulate Grand Prix 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).

1923 Bugatti Type 32 "Tank"


The Pre-WW II years

Important individual and corporate names emerged during this time which would change the face of automobile design and engineering:

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:

Beginning in 1934, the Germans stopped painting their cars, after the paint had been left off a Mercedes-Benz W25 in an effort to reduce weight. The unpainted metal soon had the German vehicles dubbed by the media as the "Silver Arrows".

1923 Alfa Romeo P3 driven by Juan Micheal Fangio

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). 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 600hp on alcohol fuels.

Bugatti T35B

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 around 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 800km 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 Epreuves) was instituted for drivers in 1935, and was competed every year until the outbreak of World War II in 1939.


The post-war years and Formula One

Main article: 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, at the end of the 1949 season it announced that for 1950 they would be linking several national Grands Prix to create Formula One with 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 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 during the entire history of the sport, still competing in 2008. The Formula One World Championship is still running today.


Grandes Épreuves by season

Note : For 1950 onwards, see List of Formula One Grands Prix. Italics denote that the race was also known as the European Grand Prix.

1906–1914

Race 1906 1907 1908 1912 1913 1914
1 22px-Flag of France.png French 22px-Flag of France.png French 22px-Flag of France.png French 22px-Flag of France.png French 22px-Flag of France.png French 22px-Flag of France.png French

1921–1929

Race 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929
1 22px-Flag of France.png French 22px-Flag of France.png French 22px-Flag of the United States.png Indy 500 22px-Flag of the United States.png Indy 500 22px-Flag of the United States.png Indy 500 22px-Flag of the United States.png Indy 500 22px-Flag of the United States.png Indy 500 22px-Flag of the United States.png Indy 500 22px-Flag of the United States.png Indy 500
2 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian 22px-Flag of France.png French 22px-Flag of France.png French 22px-Flag of Belgium (civil).png Belgian 22px-Flag of France.png French 22px-Flag of France.png French 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian 22px-Flag of France.png French
3 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian 22px-Flag of France.png French 22px-Flag of Europe.png European 22px-Flag of Spain.png Spanish
4 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian 22px-Flag of the United Kingdom.png British 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian
5 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian 22px-Flag of the United Kingdom.png British

1930–1939

Race 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939
1 22px-Flag of the United States.png Indy 500 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian 22px-Flag of Monaco.png Monaco 22px-Flag of Monaco.png Monaco 22px-Flag of Monaco.png Monaco 22px-Flag of Monaco.png Monaco 22px-Flag of Belgium (civil).png Belgian 22px-Flag of France.png French 22px-Flag of Belgium (civil).png Belgian
2 22px-Flag of Belgium (civil).png Belgian 22px-Flag of France.png French 22px-Flag of France.png French 22px-Flag of France.png French 22px-Flag of France.png French 22px-Flag of France.png French 22px-Flag of Germany 1933.png German 22px-Flag of Germany 1933.png German 22px-Flag of Germany 1933.png German 22px-Flag of France.png French
3 22px-Flag of France.png French 22px-Flag of Belgium (civil).png Belgian 22px-Flag of Germany.png German 22px-Flag of Belgium (civil).png Belgian 22px-Flag of Germany.png German 22px-Flag of Belgium (civil).png Belgian 20px-Flag of Switzerland.png Swiss 22px-Flag of Monaco.png Monaco 20px-Flag of Switzerland.png Swiss 22px-Flag of Germany 1933.png German
4 22px-Flag of Germany.png German 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian 22px-Flag of Belgium (civil).png Belgian 22px-Flag of Germany.png German 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian 20px-Flag of Switzerland.png Swiss 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian 20px-Flag of Switzerland.png Swiss
5 22px-Flag of Spain.png Spanish 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian 20px-Flag of Switzerland.png Swiss 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian
6 22px-Flag of Spain.png Spanish 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian
7 22px-Flag of Spain.png Spanish

For wartime events, see 1940-1945 Grand Prix season.

1946–1949

Race 1946 1947 1948 1949
1 22px-Flag of France.png Saint-Cloud 20px-Flag of Switzerland.png Swiss 22px-Flag of Monaco.png Monaco 22px-Flag of the United Kingdom.png British
2 20px-Flag of Switzerland.png Nations 22px-Flag of Belgium (civil).png Belgian 20px-Flag of Switzerland.png Swiss 22px-Flag of Belgium (civil).png Belgian
3 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Turin 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian 22px-Flag of France.png French 20px-Flag of Switzerland.png Swiss
4 22px-Flag of France.png French 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian 22px-Flag of France.png French
5 22px-Flag of the United Kingdom.png British 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italian

Other events included


See also:


Grand Prix races

See also:


Grand Prix drivers

Some of the notable drivers of the Grand Prix motor racing era included a few women who competed equally with the men:


List of Formula One drivers

External links