One hundred years ago today Prince Scipone Borchese of Italy won a 8,000 mile race from Peking to Paris. It is hard for me to even picture them having a race like this when the automobile was in its infantacy. Through mountains, deserts, vast deserted lands, no gas stations, no 24 hour restaurants, no bathrooms. I take it back about gas stations…they had fuel taken to certain points by camel so they could fill-up.
The race was well covered for its time period and apparently there were some books written at the time and hundreds of pictures taken. The car he used was a 45 horsepower Itala. They produced cars from 1904 to 1934, with time out to produce airplane engines during the first World War. It was sold to none other than Fiat in 1935. The official race had been cancelled because of the forty entrants only five cars showed up. Those five wanted to take it on anyway without any backup. There were no rules in the race, except that the first car to Paris would win the prize of a magnum of Mumm champagne. A tradition that is carried on in racing to this day.
In 2005 a four-part documentary series entitled Peking to Paris using only five similar cars to the original bunch and traveling on the original route.
In May of this year they decided to have race/rally/whatever open to the public for a healthy sum of money and five weeks of your time. Can’t escape rules and regulations this time. It will also be a documentary. 134 cars, for 35 days, including two 1907 Itala the winning marque in 1907. Starting at some point along the Great Wall of China, through the Gobi Desert, Outer Mongolia, Siberia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany and France. It was divided into 3 classes, 20’s and earlier, 30-40’s, 50-60’s.
1923 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost (class one, USA)
1938 Chevrolet Fangio (class two, England)
1966 Mercedes 200 (class three, Germany