The Peking to Paris Rally is regarded as one of the world’s toughest motoring challenges. Classic cars are driven through sand, mud roads and river crossings in order to make it to Paris and to be in with a chance of winning the grand prize of a bottle of champagne.
On the 2nd of June, 120 classic cars will be crossing the start in Beijing and setting off on the 13,000 km (8,500 mile) journey.
Anything can happen in the 36 days it will take to get to the French capital. In past years, competitors have passed away, driven to the wrong country and gotten divorced along the way.
The Peking to Paris first took place in 1907 following an article published in the French newspaper Le Matin, which challenged “Is there anyone who will undertake to travel this summer from Peking to Paris by automobile?” The race was won by the Italian aristocrat Scipione Borghese who took 60 days to travel between the two capitals in an Itala.
The aim of the original race was to test the endurance of the motor car. The route between Beijing and Paris had never been driven before and a large chunk of the way had no roads, let alone road maps.
Although much has changed since 1907, the Peking to Paris remains at its core an endurance race. The toughest part of the route will be Mongolia. The lack of paved roads, the river crossings and the dust, which manages to make its way into every nook and cranny, can lead to even the best prepared cars landing on the tow truck.
After Mongolia, the challenge for many teams will be to remain on speaking terms. The driver and navigator are often business connections or social friends. Spending 24 hours a day together for such an extended time, can bring some unexpected personality traits to the surface. It is not unheard of for teams to break apart mid race and for one of the two to flee to the nearest airport.
The whole route has been set by the organizer. Each day the cars leave from a given start point and meet at the same resting spot at night. If a team breaks down and isn’t able to make it to the hotel or camp site, it is pretty much on its own and has to figure out a way to catch up with the race.
Two main factors will determine who will be crowned the overall winner. The first is reliability. A car must pass all the checkpoints along the way and cannot miss a day of the rally in order to be in with a chance. The second is speed. Time Trials are stretches of road that have been closed off to the public and where the cars must drive as quickly as possible. The times of all the Time Trials are accumulated and ranked. The highest ranking car which passed all the checkpoints will be crowned the winner.