Who Will Rise to the Challenge?
“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?”
This challenge, published in Le Matin, a French newspaper on January 31, 1907, was answered by forty entrants but only five teams shipped cars to China. Officially, the race was cancelled; the five teams raced anyway; only 4 crossed the finish line.
This summer, for only the sixth time in history, 105 two-member teams will rise once again to the challenge (15 teams have already dropped out) and to make it more challenging they’ll travel the course in vintage cars. Why Peking (now Beijing) to Paris? It’s the farthest distance between two capital cities, the terrain is challenging, and it’s “the road less traveled.”
The Start - Day 1 - Beijing (Peking) to Datong China
Day 2 - Datong to Erenhot, China
Day 3 - Erenhot, China to Undurshireet, Mongolia
Day 4 - Undurshireet to Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia
Day 5 - Rest Day - Ulaan Baatar
Day 6 - Ulaan Baatar to Bulgan, Mongolia
Day 7 - Bulgan to Murun, Mongolia
Day 8 - Murun to Uliastai, Mongolia
Day 9 - Uliastai to Chjargas Lake, Mongolia
Day 10 - Chjargas Lake to Olgiy, Mongolia
Day 11 - Olgiy, Mongolia to Altai Republic, Russia
Day 12 - Altai Republic to Aya, Russia
Day 13 - Aya to Novosibirsk, Russia
Day 14 - Rest Day Novosibirsk, Russia
Day 15 - Novosibirsk to Omsk, Russia
Day 16 - Omsk to Tyumen, Russia
Day 17 - Tyumen to Yekaterinburg, Russia
Day 18 - Rest Day - Yekaterinburg, Russia
Day 19 - Yekaterinburg to Perm, Russia
Day 20 - Perm to Kazan, Russia
Day 21 - Kazan to Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
Day 22 - Nizhny Novgorod to Zavidovo, Russia
Day 23 - Zavidovo to Smolensk, Russia
Day 24 - Smolensk to Minsk, Belorussia
Day 25 - Minsk to Brest, Belorussia
Day 26 - Brest to Rzeszow, Poland
Day 27 - Rzeszow, Poland to Kosice, Slovakia
Day 28 - Kosice to Budapest, Hungary
Day 29 - Rest Day - Budapest, Hungary
Day 30 - Budapest, Hungary to Maribor, Slovenia
Day 31 - Maribor to Ljubljana, Slovenia
Day 32 - Ljubljana, Slovenia to San Martino di Castrozza, Italy
Day 33 - San Martino di Castrozza, Italy to St Moritz, Switzerland
Day 34 - St Moritz to Lausanne, Switzerland
Day 35 - Lausanne, Switzerland to Reims, France
Day 36 - Reims to Paris, France
On June 12, 2016 Bentleys, Studebakers, Lancias, Ford Model A’s and Model T’s will line up to undertake the 36-day, 8500- mile road rally but driving on a route that includes – Inner Mongolia, Gobi Desert , Outer Mongolia, Ulaan Baatar, Telmen Lake, Russia, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Tyumen, Samara, Kiev, Lviv, Slovakia, Kosice, Bratislava, Austria, Schladming, Switzerland, Gstaad , Troyes to Paris – may not be the hardest part of the race.
Getting these vintage cars stripped down to bare metal and rebuilt to Road Rally specification is itself a daunting task. For Stephen Waudby, the stakes are even higher. This race is a springboard for launching his new charity – Nutrition For Good. “Two years ago, while in India, I fed 1,000 people with a $250.00 donation. Now I want to feed one million people,” Stephen says with tears in his eyes. When asked about the tears he says, “I’m just grateful. I have so much. $250.00 is a night out. Now I know I can feed 1,000 people with it instead.” It’s an epiphany that’s changed Stephen’s life and set him on a course; traveling 8,500 miles in 36 days to feed the hungry.
Each rally team faces some of the same hurdles. They each have to find a car, outfit it, and try not to kill each other or the mechanics along the way. For Stephen and his partner Bryon Fusini, “It’s been rough,” Stephen says. “It puts a lot of strain on our 18 year relationship,” he adds. Stephen’s experience isn’t unique. While the race only takes 36 days, the process of finding, outfitting and shipping a vintage car often eats up 18 to 24 months before the race. When combined with the stress of the Rally, the experience has ended a number of relationships. In Stephen’s case, it has taken almost 2 years and a team of 10 mechanics who are now working around the clock to finish their rally car but all the stress has actually made “our relationship stronger,” Stephen says.
In 1907, there were no rules for 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 countryside where there were no roads or roadmaps. For the race, camels carrying fuel left Peking and set up at stations along the route, to provide fuel for 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 throughout the race.
It was held during a time when cars were fairly new and the route traversed remote areas of Asia where people were not yet 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 the Borghese family, accompanied by the journalist Luigi Barzini, Sr.
Today air travelers can fly from Beijing to Paris in roughly 11 hours; instead these 105 teams will test their workmanship, their navigational skills, and their relationships on a route that, even today, is not heavily traveled. Their prize? A sweet taste of French Champagne when they cross the finish line in Paris on July 17, 2016.
Today air travelers can fly from Beijing to Paris in roughly 11 hours; instead these 105 teams will test their workmanship, their navigational skills, and their relationships on a route that, even today, is not heavily traveled. Their prize? A sweet taste of French Champagne when they cross the finish line in Paris on July 17, 2016
Isomer Media, LLC