In 1900, drivers jaunted in their rattletrap Panhards, Mercedes, Darracqs and Fiats along a115-mile Italian endurance circuit called the Coppa Florio, a bone-rattling race on treacherous and poorly kept roads. Seven years later, the first 24-hour race got underway at Brooklands, the first speedway ever built specifically for auto racing.
From these humble beginnings sprang the great endurance races of today: the Le Mans 24-Hour, 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring. Along the way, the sport expanded and diversified into subcategories based on car type, manufacturer, course and event length, number of drivers and so on. In this article, I give you a head start in understanding this complex world and list some of the surprising ways that endurance motorsport has influenced the cars we drive every day.