Thursday 30th July 1908
George Schuster arrived in Paris in the Thomas Flyer to win the New York to Paris Race having covered 13,341 miles – the German Protos had arrived 4 days earlier, but was penalised 30 days for rules violation.The race, which was the first of its kind among automobiles, commenced in Times Square on February 12, 1908. Six cars representing four nations were at the starting line for what would become a 169-day ordeal. The national flags of Germany, France, Italy and the United States flew, with the Protos representing Germany, the Zust representing Italy, three cars (De Dion-Bouton, Motobloc and Sizaire-Naudin) representing France, and Thomas Flyer competing for the United States. At 11:15 AM a gunshot signaled the start of the race. Ahead of the competitors were very few paved roads, and in many parts of the world no roads at all. Often, the teams resorted to straddling locomotive rails with their cars riding tie to tie on balloon tires for hundreds of miles when no roads could be found. The American Thomas Flyer was in the lead crossing the United States arriving in San Francisco in 41 days, 8 hours, and 15 minutes. It was the first crossing of the US by an automobile in winter. The route then took them to Valdez, Alaska by ship. The Thomas crew found impossible conditions in Alaska and the race was rerouted across the Pacific by steamer to Japan where the Americans made their way across to the Sea of Japan. Then it was on to Vladivostok, Siberia by ship to begin crossing the continents of Asia and Europe. Only three of the competitors made it past Vladivostok: the Protos, the Züst, and the Flyer. The tundra of Siberia and Manchuria was an endless quagmire with the spring thaw making progress difficult. At several points, forward movement was often measured in feet rather than miles per hour. Eventually, the roads improved as Europe approached and the Thomas arrived in Paris on July 30, 1908 to win, having covered approximately 16,700 km. The Germans, driven by Hans Koeppen, arrived in Paris four days earlier, but had been penalized a total of 30 days for not going to Alaska and for shipping the Protos part of the way by railcar. That gave the win to the Americans with George Schuster (the only American to go the full distance from New York to Paris) by 26 days. The Italians arrived later in September 1908. The race was of international interest with daily front page coverage by the New York Times (a cosponsor of the race with the Parisian newspaper Le Matin). The significance of the event extended far beyond the race itself. Together with the Peking to Paris race which took place the year before it established the reliability of the automobile as a dependable means of transportation, eventually taking the automobile from an amusement of the rich to a reliable and viable means of long distance transportation for the masses. It also led to the call for improved roads to be constructed in many parts of the world. winning driver George Schuster was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame on October 12, 2010. The winning Thomas Flyer is on display in Reno, Nevada at the National Automobile Museum, alongside the trophy.