“Rally” is a term, as a motorsport unit, probably has dated back from the very first Monte Carlo Rally that was run in January 1911. Very few, if any at all used the term “rally” again until the late 1920’s. The sport of rallying can be traced to 1894 Paris-Rouen Horseless Carriage Competition. Prizes were given to the automobiles by a jury according on the findings of the spectators who were passengers in each car. The winning award went to Albert Lemaitre who drove a 3 hp Peugeot. However, Comte de Dion finished first but was disqualified because his vehicle was powered by steam.
This occasion led to an era of city-to-city road races that took place in France as well as other European countries which initiated several of the types of racing in later car rally racing. Some of the new features added were cars racing against the clock instead of a head-to-head car race, entry time controls and exit points.
The Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race was the first of these types of exciting races. The race was won by Paul Koechlin in June 1895. He drove a Peugeot, in spite of arriving 11 hours after Emile Levassor who drove a PanhardetLevassor. Levassor’s time for the 1,178 race, who ran without a break took over 48 hours. The average speed was 24 km/h. Eight years after that, in the Paris-Madrid race the Mors of Fernand Gabriel raced the same roads and took under 5 ¼ hours for the 550 km race to Bordeaux. Races had surpassed the limits of safety of dusty highways that were filled with spectators, not to mention the open traffic. Hence, numerous crashes involving animals and people caused severe injuries and eight deaths. Because of that, the French government halted the racing and prohibited the events. Racing in Europe from that time on (aside from Italy) would be raced on closed routes, at first on long rings of public highways, then in 1907, the first race was on a purpose-built track – England’s Brooklands.
The Tour de France of 1899 was one of the earliest road races. It went on to have an extended history between 1906 and 1937, then being revived in 1951. The revision was by the Automobile-Club de Nice.
Since 1895, Italy was a country who had been operating road races when a trial a reliability was run from Turin to Asti and back. Italy’s original motor race was in 1897 that went along the shore of Lake Maggiore. The race went from Arona to Stresa and back. This started an extended custom of road racing with events that included Targo Florio from Sicily and Giro di Sicillia, which followed around the island. Both races have kept going off and on until after WWII. The original Alpine race was in 1898. The race included the infamous Stelvio Pass.