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  • The first race for cars took place in 1984 from Paris to Rouen in France. The French Grand Prix was first held in 1906 and established itself as the most important event. In 1921 the Italian Grand Prix was started. Now, under the Formula One banner, a whole Grand Prix season is held touring the world with races every fortnight involving highly tuned and specially constructed cars worth millions of pounds.

  • In contrast, motor rallying is confined to saloon cars of the type of sale to the general public, although the rally versions are highly tuned and especially prepared. The most famous rally was the Monte Carlo Rally, first held in 1911. Cars were divided into power and size, and were allowed to start from different locations across Europe. As it was held in January the road conditions were often extremely difficult, and the made the daily time checks extremely hard to fulfil. Lately, rallying has become very popular in importance.

  • Drag-racing came literally from the streets of California where it was the fashion to see how quickly souped-up cars could accelerate away from traffic lights. It had started in the 1930s, boomed after the Second World War and by 1955 the first National Championship meeting was held at Great Bend, Kansas. There is only one permanent track in England , at Santa Pod. The aim of drag-racing is to see how quickly the car can accelerate from standstill to passing the quarter-mile mark in a straight line. Parachutes at the back of the car are used to help it stop.


  • Motor-racing started on the roads before moving to specially built tracks (although the Monaco Grand Prix still uses the twisting roads of the principality). Rallying uses open roads, and tracks through forest land, while the latest addition to motor sport, drag-racing, for extremely high-powered cars, takes place over short distances on a straight strip. Motor-racing circuits vary enormously in length. Germany's Nurburgring is 14 miles in circumference compared to the tight and twisting roads around Monaco which make each lap a mere 2 miles. Formula One Grand Prix cars need as smooth a circuit as possible.

  • The opposite applied to rallying, where testing conditions are purposely sought. With growing opposition by authorities to the use of public roads for rallying, more and more racks, private forests and other difficult terrains are used.

  • Drag-racing simply requires a straight strip of tarmac or concrete a quarter of a mile long.


  • "Grand Prix drivers" clothing is heavily biased towards safety, especially against fire after several fatal accidents. Under highly coloured driving overalls, they wear a complete fireproof undergarment, including a fireproof balaclava under their helmet, leaving only their eyes and mouth uncovered. Their boots are lightweight as are their gloves.

  • Rally drivers don't wear such high-tech equipment as their Grand Prix computers. Their helmets contain an intercom so they can speak their co-driver above the noise of the engine. They don't wear the fireproof covering beneath their overalls. (off the three, rally drivers are the only ones with co-drivers.)

  • Drag-racing drivers wear the same safety conscious clothing as Grand Prix drivers.


  • The line-up at the start of a Grand Prix race is governed by the times the drivers have achieved during their practice laps on the days preceding the race. They start on a grid, spread across the track which gives each car enough room not to crash to another. Races are decided over a set number of laps. The cars are allowed to stop at the "pits", which house their engineers and equipment, for fuel and to change tyres. The winner is denoted by the waving of a chequered flag.

  • In rallying, different rules are applied to the different categories, but basically cars have to fulfil a certain time between control points, and penalties are imposed for going too quickly as well as too slowly.

  • The drag strip has a white line up the middle, and crossing it brings disqualification as does starting before the green light shows.


  • Every generation provides its champion in motor-racing but Alain Prost, born in St Chamond, France, in 1955, set an all time record with 51 formula One Grand Prix wins from 194 starts between 1981 and 1993. He was World Champion in 1985, 1986 and 1989.

  • One of the best rally drivers was Timo Makinen, born in Helsinki, Finland, in 1938. He won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1965, the RAC rally in three successive years from 1973 to 1975, as well as numerous other rallies.


  • The first woman to win any points in Grand Prix driving was Lella Lombardi of Italy, in the Spanish Grand Prix in 1975. Curiously, because the race was stopped early after an accident, only half the normal points were awarded - so she registered only half a point in the World Championships!

  • One of the most bizarre events in motor-racing history took place in 1958 when Argentinian world motor racing champion Juan Fangio was kidnapped by rebels connected with Fidel Castro of Cuba. He was released unharmed after two days.

  • The 1962 Daytona motor race was won by Dan Gurney - just! When he was well ahead the engine of his Lotus packed up with only yards to go to the finish. He was able to bump-start the car over the line.

  • Only three cars entered for the French Grand Prix in 1926 - and they were all Italian Bugattis!

  • Bad luck is hardly the way to describe it. In a freak accident in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix in 1995, a Japanese driver was out of the running when his car was wrecked by ... The official car used to ensure the driver's safety!

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