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Motor Sports Section

SAH International Motor Sports History Section

The automobile and automotive competition arrived on the scene almost simultaneously in the latter years of the Nineteenth Century and the early years of the Twentieth Century. Automotive contests in France and the United States in the mid-1890s were factors in both the development of the automobile and stimulating an interest by the public in this emerging form of conveyance. The Coupe Internationale (Gordon Bennett Cup), William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. Cup, and Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France races were major international sporting events at the dawn of the automotive age. From its rudimentary beginnings, international automotive competition evolved rapidly, beginning with endurance contests, reliability runs, time trials, hillclimbs, races held using horse racing venues, and open road races and evolving to today’s closed circuit events held using often complex formulas dictating the design of the competing machines.

Thus, from the outset, automotive competition has been an integral element in the development, evolution, and socio-cultural potency of the automobile. The study of automotive history, therefore, entails a concomitant understanding and thorough investigation of the role, practice, and impact of automotive competition. However, this study of automotive competition history often has been either neglected or trivialized by historians. Even within the subsets of the sports or automotive history fields, the attention devoted to those topics, issues, and questions related to the history of international automotive competition have been minimal.


The mission of the SAH International Motor Sports History Section is to promote, contribute to, and support the serious, scholarly study of international automotive competition history.

Goals of the SAH IMSHS

The general goals of the SAH International Motor Sports History Section are as follows:

To encourage and support serious, scholarly automotive competition history research and publication;

To develop and support activities and strategies that foster international automotive competition history;

To work with historically oriented groups, organizations, research centers, museums, elementary and secondary schools, and relevant community events to further the knowledge and understanding of international automotive competition history;

To support and, when possible, coordinate the dissemination of international automotive competition histories;

To encourage and support the development and expansion of international automotive competition archives and databases;

To develop a database for historical international automotive competition interests, research, and publications;

To develop a strong presence within the SAH on both its Website and publications;

To foster and support the study of under-represented groups and their involvement with international automotive competition;

To develop functional partnerships with allied entities such as businesses, publishers, sanctioning bodies, research centers, museums, colleges, and universities.

SAH IMSHS Programs

The mission and goals of the SAH International Motor Sports History Section (IMSHS) will be served by the following programs:

The SAH International Motor Sports History Section serves as the co-host with the International Motor Racing Research Center (IMRRC) located in Watkins Glen, New York, for the annual Jean S. Argetsinger Symposium for International Automotive Competition History to be held each October in Watkins Glen. The IMRRC and the SAH IMSHS will select a theme for each symposium, although any topic relating to international automotive competition history can be accepted. The SAH IMSHS and the IMRRC will coordinate on the selection of the papers to be presented, the composition of the panels and their chairs, with the IMRRC selecting the featured speaker for the symposium.

The SAH IMSHS will hold bi-annual business meetings in conjunction with the bi-annual conferences of the Society of Automotive Historians. In addition, there will be annual meetings of the SAH IMSHS held in conjunction with the Jean S. Argetsinger Symposium for Automotive Competition History.

In addition, the SAH IMSHS will explore the development of the following:

Recognition of the “best” publications (books, articles, Web fora, and blogs) on international automotive competition history;

A separate, standalone SAH IMSHS Website;

A SAH IMSHS newsletter.

Organization of the SAH IMSHS

The International Motor Sports History Section is a duly constituted section under the auspices of the Society of Automotive Historians, having been voted on and recognized as a legal section under the SAH Charter and By-laws.

The head of the SAH IMSHS is its Chairperson. The chair of the SAH IMSHS will serve as the official representative to the SAH Board of Directors and will act on the behalf of the SAH IMSHS in matters relating to the SAH.

The other formal officers of the SAH IMSHS will be the secretary-treasurer and the press and media outreach secretary.

Point of Contact

For further information on the SAH International Motor Sports History Section and/or international automotive competition history, please contact H. Donald Capps at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.