The very first automotive competition was held in France in 1894, and was little more than a parade between Paris and Rouen meant to demonstrate that early automobiles could cover great distances. It wouldn't be until the following year when organizers set up what's considered the first race, a 732-mile run from Paris to Bordeaux and back. The first to cross the finish line was Emile Levassor, driving a Panhart et Levassor, making the run in 48 hours, 48 minutes -- and driving the entire route himself, without sleep. (He did stop for sandwiches and champagne.)
The race launched what would eventually become the organizer of auto racing around the world, including Formula 1 -- which seems apt, since the organizers disqualified Levassor from the victory because he was driving a two-seater.