Major Motorsports Championships

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Are you a newcomer to the world of automobile racing? Has racing always fascinated you and now you want in? Or maybe you’ve been a racing fan your whole life and just want to read more about them. Whichever the case, you’ve come to the right spot. We discuss many aspects of the professional racing world, and this time we’ll be talking about the major motorsports championships no racing fan should miss.

Understandably, as racing is a very complex beast full of niches and subdivisions, multiple motorsports championships and leagues have propped up the world over. Some of them have found greater fame than others, and some of them are now renowned across the world with millions of racing fans tuning in to watch them every year. These motorsports championships are huge, packed full of excitement, and will always keep you on your toes no matter which racing type you’re watching. So, whether it be rally racing across bumpy dirt roads, motorbikes flying over dunes of dirt, or Formula 1 racing cars zipping past you on a professional track so fast you can barely keep your eyes on them, here are some of the major motorsports championships you should be on the lookout for.

Formula One (F1)

Arguably the most prestigious and well-known motorsport championship, F1 features single-seater cars racing in various Grand Prix events around the world. A list of major motorsports championships of the world wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the Formula One World Championship. For diehard Formula 1 fans, this is where racing began, and this is where it will end. To them, no other form of racing is as refined and as “Pro” as Formula 1. And if you see a Formula 1 race in action, you might just end up agreeing with them.

Everything about the Formula One World Championship oozes procedure and order. Started under the name of ‘The World Drivers’ Championship’ in 1950, the modern name came about in 1981. The word ‘Formula’ literally refers to the set of rules each participant has to strictly conform to. Each race’s results are also evaluated on a points system. And track selection has a strict criterion to meet, often needing custom tracks to be built for Formula 1 racing specifically. If refinement and structure is what you demand from your racing, then the Formula One World Championship is the motorsports championship for you.

MotoGP

Álex Márquez in Moto2 at Brno

MotoGP, or the Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing, is the pinnacle of motorcycle road racing on an international scale and is often considered the two-wheeled equivalent of Formula One.  MotoGP represents the highest class of motorcycle road racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM). It features top-level riders and the most advanced technology in terms of racing motorcycles.

The motorcycles used in MotoGP are purpose-built, high-performance machines, which are not available for purchase by the general public and cannot be legally ridden on public roads.  The MotoGP season consists of a series of races, known as Grands Prix, held on different racetracks around the world. The championship has a global footprint, with races in Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Australia.

MotoGP includes several factory teams from major motorcycle manufacturers like Yamaha, Honda, Ducati, and Suzuki, as well as independent teams. The competition between manufacturers is fierce, contributing to continuous advancements in motorcycle technology.   Points are awarded based on finishing positions in each race, and the rider and team with the most points at the end of the season are declared World Champions.

NASCAR Cup Series

logo NASCAR Cup Series

Predominantly popular in the United States, NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) involves stock car racing and features multiple races, including the famous Daytona 500. It’s known for its stock car races on various types of tracks.

The series features heavily modified sedans, with specifications regulated by NASCAR, designed for high-speed racing. Despite the term “stock,” these cars are custom-built for racing and bear little resemblance to their production counterparts. Races in the NASCAR Cup Series are held on a variety of tracks, including short ovals, larger speedways, road courses, and even a dirt track, offering a diverse range of challenges to drivers and teams.

The series consists of a regular season followed by playoffs. Drivers accumulate points based on their finish in each race, with additional points for leading laps and winning stages within the race.  NASCAR teams range from small, single-car operations to larger multi-car teams. Sponsorship plays a crucial role in the sport, with cars and drivers often featuring a variety of brand logos.

IndyCar Series

2012 DW12 chassis with the Speedway configuration driven by J. R. Hildebrand

Known for the Indianapolis 500, one of the most famous races in the world, IndyCar focuses on open-wheel, single-seater cars racing mostly in the United States.

IndyCar racing is another big form of racing with millions of loyal fans. And there is perhaps no other more iconic racing event for IndyCar racing than the Indianapolis 500. Also known as the Indy 500, this event takes place each year and features everything you could ever ask for as an IndyCar fan. And its cultural value alone is worth seeing this event take place at least once in your lifetime.

For newcomers who might not be familiar with it, IndyCar racing is another form of single-seater racing that is much more open about the type of track or the rules of the race, but also requires much more stringent laws about what types of vehicles can compete. There are multiple different IndyCar racing events that take place, but Indianapolis 500 is a popular one that takes place at the Indianapolis Motorway Speedway, a particularly uniform racing track that resembles a NASCAR racing track to some degree.

World Rally Championship (WRC)

WRC Logo

Similar to Formula 1 fanboys, some people swear by rally racing and refuse to watch anything else. To them, the excitement that rally racing brings is something not captured by any other form of motorsport racing. And the World Rally Championship, the global overseer of all things rallying, is exactly the championship to follow for rally racing fans. The World Rally Championship came about after the unification of multiple different rally racing championships, with its inaugural championship of the 1973 World Rally Championship.

For newcomers, rally racing is a racing discipline that goes off the beaten track, literally. Tracks in rallying championships consist of public asphalt roads and dirt roads, complete with turns that have cars drifting past billowing huge clouds of dust in the air, and huge bumps that literally send cars flying feet above the ground. Naturally, rally racing cars are outfitted to handle these extreme conditions, and make for some really thrilling races to watch.

24 Hours of Le Mans

Peugeot 905 at Le Mans Classic 2008

The 24 Hours of Le Mans, often simply referred to as Le Mans, is one of the most prestigious and storied automobile races in the world. Held annually near the town of Le Mans, France, it is renowned for being a grueling test of endurance, skill, and technology. The first race was held in 1923, making it one of the oldest active sports car races in endurance racing. The event has a rich history that has significantly influenced the evolution of sports cars and racing technology.

True to its name, the 24 Hours of Le Mans runs continuously for 24 hours. Teams must balance speed with the cars’ ability to last the distance, and drivers’ ability to sustain performance under physically and mentally exhausting conditions. The race starts in the afternoon and runs through the night, finishing the following day.  The race is held on the Circuit de la Sarthe, a mix of public roads and a dedicated racing circuit, known for its long straightaways allowing high speeds, challenging corners, and complex weather conditions.

The race features multiple classes of cars racing simultaneously, each with different specifications. These include prototypes, designed specifically for endurance racing, and GT vehicles, which are based on production sports cars.  Le Mans attracts a diverse range of competitors, from factory teams representing major car manufacturers to independent teams. The driver lineup often includes a mix of professional racing drivers and skilled amateurs.

FIA Formula E World Championship

Formula E is a relative newcomer to the motorsports championships, as is the type of car it uses. First conceived of in Paris in 2011, with its inaugural championship having been commenced only around six years ago in 2014, Formula E is a toddler compared to the other big leagues. Yet, because of the niche it fills, it might just be the type of racing you’re into. Formula E is all about racing electric cars. It is also the only single-seater racing series apart from Formula One to have been given World Championship status, making it rise above even the old and well-established IndyCar Series.

Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK)

The Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK) is a premier global motorcycle racing series that stands out for featuring modified production motorcycles, as opposed to the prototype-only motorcycles used in MotoGP.  WorldSBK was established in 1988 as a championship for modified production motorcycles. It was created as an alternative to the Grand Prix motorcycle racing, allowing manufacturers to compete using models that were more closely related to their road-going bikes.

Unlike MotoGP, WorldSBK motorcycles are based on production models available for purchase by the public. These bikes are modified or “tuned” for racing but must retain the fundamental design and appearance of their road-legal counterparts. This includes keeping the same engine configuration and displacement.

WorldSBK primarily consists of three classes: the Superbike class, the Supersport class, which features middleweight bikes, and the recently added Supersport 300 class, intended for entry-level riders on smaller displacement bikes.

DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters)

Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters 2007

DTM, short for Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters, is a premier touring car racing series based in Germany. It is known for its highly sophisticated and modified production cars.  DTM cars are based on production models but are extensively modified for racing. They feature powerful engines, advanced aerodynamics, and lightweight construction, making them among the most technically advanced racing vehicles in the touring car category.

Originating in the 1980s, DTM initially featured cars that closely resembled production models. Over the years, it has evolved into a series with highly engineered, bespoke racing machines.  While DTM is rooted in Germany, it has broad international appeal, attracting drivers, teams, and manufacturers from around the world. Its races are held on various European circuits, and it has a strong global fan base.

DTM races typically occur over a weekend, with practice sessions, qualifying, and usually two races. The series is known for its tight regulations, which aim to ensure close competition. DTM emphasizes driver skill and team strategy. The series has been a stepping stone for drivers looking to move into other forms of motorsport, including Formula 1.

FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR)

The FIA World Touring Car Cup, known as WTCR, is the international touring car championship organized by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).  WTCR replaced the World Touring Car Championship in 2018 and features races across various continents, showcasing a truly global competition.

The cars used in WTCR are based on production models but are modified for racing. The series is known for its diverse grid, featuring cars from several manufacturers, each with unique strengths and characteristics.  The championship features a multi-race format over a race weekend, including practice, qualifying sessions, and usually three races, making for an action-packed event.

International Superstars Series

The International Superstars Series was a touring car racing championship that primarily took place in Italy but also held events in other European countries.  The series was known for featuring high-powered, V8-engine sedans, making it popular among fans of larger, more powerful touring cars.

The championship saw participation from various manufacturers, showcasing a range of powerful and competitive vehicles.  The series typically included multiple races over a weekend, with a format that encouraged close and exciting racing.

Australian Supercars Championship (formerly V8 Supercars)

Todd Kelly's Holden Commodore VY at Barbagello, 2003

The Australian Supercars Championship, previously known as V8 Supercars, is Australia’s premier touring car racing event. It’s known for its high-powered vehicles and close racing.   The series features cars that, while based on production models from manufacturers like Ford and Holden, are heavily modified for racing. They are known for their powerful V8 engines, advanced aerodynamics, and distinctive roar.

The championship includes some of Australia’s most famous motor races, such as the Bathurst 1000, the Adelaide 500, and the Gold Coast 600. These events are not just races but significant cultural festivals.  The championship calendar comprises several rounds, each hosting one or more races. The format includes both sprint races and longer endurance events, testing the versatility and stamina of drivers and teams.

FIA World Rallycross Championship

For those of you who want the excitement of rally racing as well as the comfort of being able to watch the whole race in its entirety, rallycross might be the racing discipline for you. Rallycross is just like rallying, but takes place within closed circuit tracks that you will often be able to look over all at once.

For rallycross, you can’t go wrong with the FIA World Rallycross Championship. This championship, organized by the FIA in conjunction with IMG Motorsport, consists of 12 two-day events, meaning you won’t be lacking for content anytime soon. And, as expected of rally racing, the tracks are a mixture of both asphalt and dirt roads, making for a fun and varied race with differing struggles for the drivers as they progress along the track.

Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy)

The Isle of Man TT is a legendary motorcycle racing event held annually on the Isle of Man. Known for its high-speed races on public roads, it’s one of the oldest and most dangerous racing events in the world.  The TT has been held since 1907 and is one of the most prestigious motorcycle races. Its history is interwoven with the development of motorcycle racing.

The race takes place on a 37.73-mile course that winds through towns, over hills, and along country roads. The course is challenging and requires immense skill and bravery to navigate at high speeds.  The event features multiple classes, including lightweight, superbike, and sidecar races, each offering a different challenge to riders.

The TT is known for its danger, with high speeds and close proximity to road-side obstacles. This risk factor adds to the race’s allure and the respect accorded to its competitors.

FIM Endurance World Championship

The FIM Endurance World Championship is a premier global motorcycle racing championship focused on endurance races.  The championship tests not only the speed but also the durability of motorcycles and the endurance of riders. Races typically last for several hours, with teams of two or more riders sharing the riding duties.

The series includes famous endurance races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans for motorcycles, the Bol d’Or, and the Suzuka 8 Hours. These events are as much a test of mechanical reliability as they are of riding skill.  Endurance racing is as much about strategy as speed. Teams must manage fuel, tire changes, and rider swaps, balancing the need for speed with the need to maintain the bike’s performance over long periods.

The championship attracts a mix of professional endurance specialists and road racers. It’s not uncommon to see riders from other disciplines like MotoGP or WorldSBK participating in these events.

FIM Motocross World Championship

FIM Motocross World Championship

For some, the thrill that comes with Motocross racing just cannot be rivalled. Motocross racing is done with motorbikes on closed dirt circuits. There are plenty of tight corners to drift through, and lots of jumps that send drivers and their bikes flying, all the while pulling off insane stunts that leave you frozen in your seat with fear and awe. The FIM Motocross World Championship is the premier motocross racing championship, and is definitely worth checking out just to experience the unique rush it provides.

European Truck Racing Championship

Let’s finish the list off with something truly amazing. The epitome of human evolution. Truck racing. Is there anything better than watching huge trucks trucking it around a tight track? We didn’t think so. Jokes aside, truck racing is actually a lot of fun. Sure, it may not be as fast-paced as Formula 1 or as thrilling as Rallying, but boy is it super fun to spectate. It might just end up being your favorite motorsports championship simply because of how much fun it is. And we’re not joking.

Conclusion

Those were just some of the many, many motorsports championships out there that are worth checking out. The full list is simply too extensive to list out in a single post, but we managed to cover most of the major racing disciplines out there. For more on the subject, read about the different types of motorsports here. Or just get introduced to off-road racing if that was what really interested you in this article.

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