First American Automobile Race

At 8:55 a.m. on November 28, 1895, six "motocycles" left Chicago's Jackson Park for a 54 mile race to Evanston, Illinois and back through the snow.

Number 5, piloted by inventor J. Frank Duryea, won the race in just over 10 hours at an average speed of about 7.3 miles per hour! The winner earned $2,000, the enthusiast who named the horseless vehicles "motocycles" won $500.

Racing began soon after the construction of the first successful petrol-fueled automobiles before that time people raced in other vehicles such as horse-drawn buggies. The first race ever organized was on April 28, 1887 by , by the chief editor of Paris publication Le Vélocipède, Monsieur Fossier. It ran 2 kilometers from Neuilly Bridge to the Bois de Boulogne. It was won by Georges Bouton, in a car he had constructed with Albert, the Comte de Dion, but as he was the only competitor to show up it is rather pointless to call it a race. On July 22 1894, the first real contest was organized by Paris magazine Le Petit Journal, as a reliability test. The Comte de Dion was first to arrive in Rouen on his steam car, but a Panhard et Levassor was judged to be the winner.

In 1895, the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris Rally was held and this was the first real race as all competitors started together. The winner was Émile Levassor in his Panhard-Levassor 1205 cc model. He completed the course in 48 hours and 47 minutes, finishing nearly six hours before the runner-up.

The first regular auto racing venue was Nice, France, run in late March 1897 as a "Speed Week." To fill out the schedule, most types of racing event were invented here, including the first hill climb (Nice - La Turbie) and a sprint that was, in spirit, the first drag race.

Persons who are inclined…to decry the development of the horseless carriage…will be forced…to recognize it as an admitted mechanical achievement, highly adapted to some of the most urgent needs of our civilization.”

— "The Future of the Motocycle", The Chicago Times-Herald, November 29, 1895.