Behind Garage Doors with Joe Bradley. Kuwait 2022

News | November 29, 2022

The prospect of the first-ever 24H SERIES event to be held in Kuwait has got Joe musing about some of motorsport’s other ‘firsts’ this month.


Words – Joe Bradley

Images – Petr Frýba, Historics at Brooklands, and Alfa Romeo

The Hankook 12H KUWAIT will be a ‘first' in several respects. The first FIA-sanctioned motor race in Kuwait. The first time this brand-new track will be a part of the 24H SERIES. And, hopefully, the first of many visits to the Kuwait Motor town facility.


And this got me thinking about the many 'firsts' we’ve had in motor racing. The first time two people came together with motorised vehicles for example and tried to get somewhere before the other is of course not documented. But the very first official motor race is, and began soon after the invention of the internal combustion engine in the 1880s.


The first organized competition, a reliability test in 1894 from Paris to Rouen in France, was over a distance of about 80km and was won with an average speed of 16.4kph. One year later, the first true race was held, from Paris to Bordeaux in France and then back again, a distance of 1,178km. Won at an average speed of a comparatively rapid 24.15kph.


Racing in the United States meanwhile began with an 87km race from Chicago to Evanston, Illinois, and then back again on Thanksgiving day, also in 1895. Interestingly, both of these early races were funded and promoted by newspapers in an effort to boost each publications’ sales figures. 

In Europe, town-to-town races in France – or from France to other countries – became the norm until 1903 when authorities stopped the Paris-to-Madrid race at Bordeaux because of the large number of accidents. In 1898, the first closed-circuit road race, the Course de Périgueux, was run over a distance of 145km, and just one lap! The governing body for these early races was the Automobile Club De France, founded, yep, in 1895.


By 1900 speeds had reached the giddy heights of more than 80.46kph, but the roads at this time were not built for motorised transport like automobiles. They quickly became a danger to spectators and competitors, which ultimately caused road races to decrease in number. A notable exception was the Mille Miglia, which was not stopped until 1957.


International racing in the modern sense began after James Gordon Bennett, owner of The New York Herald, offered a trophy that would be competed for annually, with manufacturers entering three cars each that had been built from parts made in the respective countries of their national automobile clubs. The Automobile Club de France organized the first Bennett Trophy races in 1901, 1902, and 1903, and the event was later held at the Circuit of Ireland (1903), the Taunus Rundstrecke in Germany (1904), and the Circuit d’Auvergne (1905). French manufacturers though soon grew weary of entering just three cars, which led to their boycott of the Bennett Trophy Race for 1906 and the creation later that year of the first French Grand Prix Race at Le Mans. In a sign of changing times, the first Targa Florio was held in Sicily that same year, and thereafter – minus understandable gaps between 1915 and 1918, and 1941 and 1947 – until 1977 at distances varying from 72 to 1,049km.

Amazingly, the first purpose-built closed circuit was only constructed in 1906 at Brooklands, near Weybridge, Surrey, England. The track was 4.45km long and 30 metres (100 ft) wide with two curves banked to a height of 8.5 metres, and catered to sprint, relay, endurance, and handicap events as well a 24-hour event from 1929 to 1931. A 1,600km long distance run was even held in 1932 before Brooklands sadly closed in 1939.


Let’s also not forget that 2023 will also see the 100-year anniversary of unarguably the most historic endurance race of them all, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.


Records and results of these early races can be found on the internet of course, and that does beg the question which of our competitors will be the first put their respective names into the Hankook 12H KUWAIT record books. 


The challenge at a brand-new circuit after all is massive, given that no one has data on anything: tyre wear; fuel consumption; car setup. It’s a clean sheet of paper for everyone, and a level playing field that will make track time all the more important. And I, among many others, am excited as to how things pan out. To see which of our teams and drivers can get their heads around the Kuwait circuit first.

You can also check out Joe’s column in our magazine for the 2022 Hankook 12H KUWAIT, available for download below. 

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