Auto Racing / City Car Racer

The golden age of auto competition

Pit Crew

In the previous article, we talked of the early days of car racing—that time when cars were designed, built, and driven by one person or a small team of people who happened to interested in how these primitive machines worked. To make a more modern analogy, cars in the 1800s might be compared to computers in the 1980s. Computers were often Frankenstein machines built by amateurs with a passion for computing and a lot of the technologies and developments were shared by word of mouth. When problems arose it was up to the owners of these early computers to fix them all by themselves. The same was true of early cars and early car races. But when mass production made cars available to a wider market, the auto racing industry blossomed and turned into something international and completely unprecedented.

Today we often think of America has the car nation, with its purpose-built motorways and being the home of so many of the worlds largest car manufacturers. Alongside America when one thinks of cars one thinks of Japan, with its world-renown efficient and often small cars, and of course there is Germany with its luxury, high-end performance cars. But in the early 1900s car manufacturing and subsequently racing was dominated by the French with nearly half of the world’s cars being built in France. Paris and its surroundings was home to the majority of the earliest races. That doesn’t mean however that other countries weren’t interested in the burgeoning sport and in 1907 the Brooklands was built, making it the first race track built specifically for the purpose. The track was just under 4.5-kilometres long and doubled as an airstrip for early aircraft.

By the time that Brooklands closed in 1939, in part due to the war, but Brooklands had become home to some of the most prominent races of the day of day. In 1934, at a time when gambling was illegal in the UK, William Hill, now one of the world’s largest bookmakers was founded, and a great many bets were placed on the races held at Brooklands. Today of course there are a great places for sports betting and auto-racing remains one of the most popular sports to bet on.

With a seating capacity of more than 235,000 the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana, in the US, remains however the largest sporting venue in the entire world. And having been built in 1909, it’s track record, so to say, of being in use for more than century makes it one of the oldest sporting venues anywhere, despite being built for a relatively new sport.

In the 1940s the war drained resources across the global with nearly all major auto manufacturers producing cars or by that time planes and tanks for the war effort. Like so many parts of society, the gold age of racing was impeded and ultimately doomed because of the second World War.

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