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The first motor racing

Updated on July 16, 2011

Grand Prix motor racing has its roots in organised automobile racing that began in France as far back as 1894.

In 1894, the editor of a Paris journal organised the first motor race, to find out what this kind of vehicle really could do. The first motor race took place on July 22.

Fourteen petrol cars and nine steam cars started from Paris for Rouen, and seventeen finished the course. Crowds of spectators, cheering frantically, lined the route, and many people threw bouquets at the cars.

A steam car need both a driver and stoker. At that time, a 'chauffeur' was not a paid driver of the private car of a rich and important person, wearing a special uniform. He was actually an operator of the steam engine, his role was to heat the boiler.

So in the race, a funny incident happened. The chauffeur of one of the steam cars signalled to the driver to stop, and when the vehicle came to a standstill he stepped off, saying that he was too hot and was going to rest in the shade of a tree. The driver's arguments were in vain, and the car would have had to abandon the race if another steam car had not lent a boy of thirteen to take the place of the disgruntled stoker.

Further road races followed in France every year, and each year saw an increase in the winner's speed. In 19011 the road between Paris and Bordeaux was covered at an average speed of 53.75 miles an hour, and the fastest long-distance express in the world, running between these cities, was beaten by a full hour.

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