The sport of motor racing has thrilled thousands ever since it first began. It wasn’t long after the first ‘horseless carriages’ had been invented and improved upon that the idea of pitting the strengths of different designs, and the skills of drivers, against one another in a race was conceived. The first organized racing event was in actual fact a Reliability Trial run which took place between Paris and Rouen in 1894. The winning vehicle had to, not only cross the finish line first, but had to be safe, easy to control and reasonably economical to run. The first over the line was Count de Dion, but his vehicle was deemed impractical and the prizes were awarded to the next two cars instead. The winning average speed was only 17km/h but the event gave birth to a new craze – motor racing.
As designs continued to be improved upon, the new sport saw a continued increase in cylinders and engine size. The addition of the pneumatic tire was impractical at first but soon gained popularity. Chassis design changed radically and new brake and tire designs struggled to keep up. And as soon as one design became the winning standard, other car manufacturers would strive to improve upon these to bring their own names into the lime-light. By the early 1900s car speeds were approaching 100mph and races where held on open roads, where both drivers and spectators where often involved in bad accidents. Eventually in 1906 the very first Grand Prix for manufacturers was held by the French. The race took place on a 64 mile course which was lapped six times a day for two days.
It did not take long for other countries to follow suit. Germany became a popular place for racing and their Mercedes motorcars often dominated the scene. The Alfa of Italy and the Fiat and Peugeot of France rose to the challenge, and soon they claimed supremacy for themselves. Because of the dangers involved in racing on public roads, wealthy enthusiasts soon started building oval racing circuits which became very popular. An attempt was made to counteract the dangers of the sport by increasing the rules and regulations surrounding the event. Eventually a recognized and standardized racing sport emerged and much of these standards are still maintained in the motor racing sporting events of today.
The year 1911 marks the beginning of the Indianapolis 500 making it the oldest and richest motoring event to ever have taken place. This American open-wheel event occurs every year on the weekend of Memorial Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Over the years this entertaining event has been attended to by hundreds of thousands of spectators from all over the country giving it its apt nickname, “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”. On top of that thousands more listen to the live event and watch it every year on Radio and Television broadcast ever since 1949. The year May 2007 marks the events 91st year since the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race was first created.
The actual Indianapolis Motor Speedway was first built in 1909 where it hosted many small motorway events on tracks made from tar and gravel. It was sometime later when the promoters decided that instead of having a lot of small events it would be better to focus on one large event. The next change to make was the actual racing surface, which had been related to a number of driver’s accidents and deaths. The reason for this was that the tar and gravel surface was too uneven to be safe at such high speeds. The new 500 mile track was built using bricks, over three million of them to produce the perfect track.
As mentioned above the first Indy 500 took place in 1911 on Memorial Day with over 80,200 spectators there to view this marked occasion. That day it was Ray Harroun who won the first event in his Marmon “Wasp” that he had put together. With the first race being an American win it now challenged European carmakers to produce cars of a similar nature that could compete in the Indy 500. Between 1913 and 1919 companies like French Peugeot and Italy’s Fiat came up to meet the challenge.
This well loved racing event continues to be a popular form of sport attended by a large following every year. Having existed for so long the Indianapolis 500 has developed a number of traditions, which the supporters love to keep up with.