Motor Racing in the Olympics

The Olympics have always been full of races—swimming races, running races, cycling races, and plenty of others. But did you know that auto racing was once part of the games? It hasn’t been for a very long time, but our favorite type of racing was once a part of the world’s premiere athletic showcase.

The year was 1900 and the Olympics were hosted in conjunction with the World’s Fair in Paris, France. This was just the second Olympiad, and the lineup of events looked somewhat different than the modern set of events contested in today’s games, including events like cricket and tug-of-war.

However, auto racing was competed that year as an “unofficial” event, with auto manufacturers submitting entries as opposed to individuals. As a result, most of the competitors were French, though there were a few international contestants. There were 14 different classes that were run with some very different rule designations, including the seating capacity, vehicle weight, and even the style of the car (classes included “small truck,” “large truck,” and even “delivery van).

The French won a whopping 12 of the 14 events, failing only to win the “Fire Truck” class, which was taken by American Gilbert Brown. It’s a shame there were no video cameras to record this race.

One notable entry into this event came in a race that saw contestants drive from Paris to the nearby town of Toulouse and then back again. This event was run by both “small cars” and “large cars,” with the small class being won by a well-known gentleman by the name of Louis Renault, the founder of the modern major French car company Renault.

Sadly this was the only time auto racing was part of the Olympics. However, there has recently been a push to have the sport added into the four-year athletic celebration due to its worldwide popularity and incredible scope of global competition.

Admittedly, there are some tremendous hurdles that must be overcome before the sport can be admitted full-time. Will the competitors run open-wheel style cars or NASCAR-style stock cars? Will the races be held on oval tracks or road courses? Will racers have to traverse asphalt or dirt (or both)? And when all of these are decided, what will the rules of the competition governing cars, drivers, teams, and more decide to allow?

While there is a lot to consider, the sport took a tremendous step forward when the International Olympic Committee awarded auto racing governing body FIA with a full recognition. Some believe the popular choice would be to include Formula E-style cars, fully-electric cars with a Formula 1 style design and race rules. This would promote not only the sport, but the use of non-polluting fuels in vehicles.

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