The first prearranged match race of two self-powered road vehicles over a prescribed route occurred in 1867, between Ashton-under-Lyne and Old Trafford, a distance of eight miles. Internal combustion auto racing events began soon after the construction of the first successful gasoline-fueled automobiles. The first organized contest was in 1887, by the chief editor of Paris publication Le Vélocipède, Monsieur Fossier. It ran 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from Neuilly Bridge to the Bois de Boulogne. In 1894, the Parisian magazine Le Petit Journal organized what is considered to be the world's first competition, from Paris to Rouen. The first closed circuit automobile race was held in 1896 at the Narragansett Trotting Park in Cranston, Rhode Island.
The national clubs had formed a governing body in 1904, the Association Internationale des Automobiles Clubs Reconnus. International racing in the modern sense began after James Gordon Bennett, owner of The New York Herald, offered a trophy to be competed for annually by national automobile clubs, racing three cars each that had been built of parts made in the respective countries. The unwillingness of French manufacturers to be limited to three cars led to their boycott of the Bennett Trophy Race in 1906 and the establishment of the first French Grand Prix Race at Le Mans in that year. The 1930s saw the transformation from high-priced road cars into pure racers. Sports car racing then spread out to different areas of the world.
After the Second World War, sports car racing emerged as a distinct form of racing with its own classic races, and, from the 1950s, its own FIA-sanctioned World Championships (the world association renamed into the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) in 1946). The FIA organised the first World Championship for Drivers for Formula 1 in 1950. The World Sportscar Championship was created in 1953, and was the first points series for sports car racing in the world. In 1973, the FIA organised the first World Rally Championship, and in 1987, the FIA sanctioned the first World Touring Car Championship, etc..