The Peking to Paris motor race was a race held in 1907 for automobiles between Peking (now Beijing), China and Paris, France, a distance of 9,317 miles or 14,994 km.
The idea for the race came from a challenge published in an article in the Paris newspaper Le Matin on 31 January 1907, that said:
“What needs to be proved today is that as long as a man has a car, he can do anything and go anywhere. Is there anyone who will undertake to travel this summer from Peking to Paris by automobile?”
There were forty entrants in the race, but only five teams ended up going ahead with shipping the cars to Peking. The race was held despite the race committee cancelling the race due to a lack of participants.
The participating teams that went on with their effort anyway were:
- Itala, Italian, 7 litre engine, driven by Prince Scipione Borghese and Ettore Guizzardi
- Spyker, Dutch, driven by Charles Goddard with Jean du Taillis
- Contal, French, three-wheeler Cyclecar, driven by Auguste Pons
- DeDion 1, French, driven by Georges Cormier
- DeDion 2, French, driven by Victor Collignon
There were no rules in the race, except that the first car to Paris would win the prize of a magnum of Mumm champagne. The race went without any assistance through country where there were no roads or road-maps. For the race, camels carrying fuel left Peking and set up at stations along the route to give fuel to the racers. The race followed a telegraph route so that the race was well covered in newspapers at the time. Each car had one journalist as a passenger, with the journalists sending stories from the telegraph stations regularly through the race.
It was held during a time when cars were fairly new, and went through remote areas of Asia where people were not familiar with motor travel. The route between Peking and Lake Baikal had only previously been attempted on horseback. The race was won by Italian Prince Scipione Borghese of theBorghese family, accompanied by the journalist Luigi Barzini, Sr. He was confident and had even taken a detour from Moscow to St Petersburg for a dinner which was held for the team, and afterwards headed back to Moscow and rejoined the race. The event was not intended to be a race or competition, but quickly became one due to its pioneering nature and the technical superiority of the Italians’ car, a 7,433 cc (453.6 cu in) 35/45 hp model Itala.
Second in the race was Charles Goddard in the Spyker, who had no money and had to ask others for petrol, and borrowed his car for the race.
Several races have been held to re-enact the event.
The first one being in 1997. “The Second Peking to Paris Motor Challenge” consisted of 94 participating vintage cars which went a more southern route. The 1997 event was so successful that the organizers ran it again in 2007 to celebrate the 100 year anniversary.
Most closely resembling the original race was a re-enactment in 2005. On May 15, 2005 five cars led by Lang Kidby departed Beijing for Paris retracing the original route with very similar cars to the originals; a 1907 Spyker, a 1907 and a 1912 De Dion-Bouton, a 1907 Itala and a Contal Cycle-car replica. This journey was televised by Australian ABC tv as a four-part documentary series entitled Peking to Paris.