Throughout its 120-year history, a long list of pioneers have helped revolutionise the motorsport industry and paved the way for many more to follow in their footsteps.
The birth of motorsport:
From the moment ‘Le Petit Journal’ instigated the first ever motor car trial in 1894, racing has brought many major advances to the auto world.
Although not officially a race, the enthusiastic drivers were so fiercely competitive en route from Paris to Rouen it may as well have been.
The event saw 102 innovative vehicles powered by steam, petrol, compressed air, gravity, pendulums and hand lever, enter the race – but only 21 cars rolled up to the start line due to regulations, including the brands Peugeot and Panhard.
The first true motor race came the following year, from Paris to Bordeaux, in response to the massive turnout and keen public interest of the 1894 event.
Paris was the home of motorsport at this time and boasted the most advanced auto industry.
The city was known as the world leader for bringing public awareness to the motor car and promoting technical advances.
So it’s no surprise that the first automobile club was formed here in 1895 as the ‘Automobile Club de France’ to help organise the rapidly growing industry.
America quickly followed suit, establishing the American Motor League and in 1904 the current ruling motorsport bodies, the FIA (originally the AIACR) and FIM were created.
Motorsport goes international:
Motorsport had arrived and was causing a stir across the world, catching the interest of one motoring enthusiast and newspaper publisher, Mr James Gordon Bennett.
This man was instrumental in taking motorsport to a global platform by creating the first international race, the Gordon Bennett Cup in 1900.
It was a push to inspire more manufacturers to advance their cars through the exciting sport of racing.
The first circuits:
Following the demand for increased entertainment for spectators, Circuit de Bastgone was built.
It was the first closed racing circuit to hold the Circuit des Ardennes from 1902.
1907 was the year the sport really started to rev up and the Gordon Bennett Cup was replaced with professional Grand Prix racing.
Motorsport began to be recognised as a business, and Germany, Italy, Britain and USA reared their heads as serious contenders.
Perhaps the greatest milestones were when the first purpose-built racing circuits in the world were constructed at Brooklands (1907) and Indianapolis (1909).
A far cry from the dangerous town to town races previously run, the public were able to witness races in a whole new way, enjoying all the action from start to finish.
Formula One’s maiden race:
With the end of World War II many airfields across Britain were no longer of use.
But they formed the perfect basis for a race track, and so the country’s first circuit was constructed at Silverstone in 1948.
King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and the Earl and Countess Mountbatten of Burma all witnessed the spectacle of the first Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1950.
In the words of Henry Ford “winning a race or breaking a record was the best kind of advertising”.
Companies outside of motorsport started to pick up on this and in 1923 one of the first motor racing sponsorships was formed between Raymond May and Mumm Champagne.
Stirling Moss raced an “Eldorado Ice Cream Special” branded Maserati in 1958 at the 500 Miglia de Monza and Lotus founder Colin Chapman was responsible for securing Formula One’s first major “outside” sponsor.
It was a landmark event in sports sponsorship, completely transforming the traditional livery of national colours.
Gracing the silver screen:
The early ‘60s saw motor racing available on television in the USA for the first time.
One of the first races aired was the Firecracker 250 from Daytona.
Reporters had to learn the ins and outs of the sport and discover how to best present it to the audience at home.
This confirmed just how much motorsport’s popularity had grown.
The digital revolution…