There are just a couple of days left in the 33-day Peking to Paris Motor Challenge, also known as the Peking to Paris Rally, an endurance race that stretches 7,610 miles through China, Mongolia, Russia, Slovakia, the Ukraine, and Europe. The event began in 1907 and was run with the grand prize of a magnum of champagne. Italy’s Prince Borghese was the favorite and eventual winner with his 7-liter Itala, but second place went to quick-witted circus worker Charles Goddard in his Dutch Spyker.
Just a few of Goddard’s tactics included learning how to drive even as his car was being built, talking his way onto a ship to Beijing, begging some fuel off of Borghese at the starting line, and later driving 24 hours straight to catch up to the Prince.
The rally has continued ever since over nearly the exact same route. Italy even adopted red as its racing color (seen in the Ferrari Grand Prix cars) as a nod to the Itala’s red paint.
Here’s a map of the route for 2013:
Competitors still stay in tents along the route today, but they’re slightly more modern than these:
In the 1907 rally, there were only five competitors, three French teams, a Dutch team and the Italian prince. One French team, driving a 3-wheeled cycle car, was the only team not to finish the race. The driver was picked up by a camel caravan. Fun fact: the remains of the car are still in the Gobi desert.
Here’s a picture of the cycle at the start of the race:
Horses and even people used to pull the cars up mountainous terrain or larger hills. Here Borghese’s Itala needed some help getting into a hilly town:
Today, there are 100 teams from 24 nations including Australia, Great Britain, France, Austria, Japan, New Zealand, Italy and Russia, to name a few. Participants are divided into 4 classes: Vintage (1921-1931), Vintageant (1931-1941), Classic cars up to 2 Liter (1942-1975), and Classic cars over 2 Liter (1942-1975). The addition of mobile workshop facilities at each overnight stop are new as of 2013. Most teams can make basic repairs during each day of the drive, but a professional team of mechanics covers the daily route to fix more complex issues.
According to this article from Business Insider, many of today’s drivers take part in the rally just for the fun and the thrill. Some also drive to raise money for medical research or scientific development.
The teams are made up of families, couples, or friends, and often have a blog or website with their daily experiences of the rally.
The entry fee alone for 2013 is $60,000, not including the cost of fuel and maintenance on the road. The groups participating for charity are often sponsored, like this team of two brothers raising money for Sarcoma UK in memory of their father:
And as always, style is of the utmost importance:
This is the 2013 Peking to Paris Motor Challenge start in Beijing, China: