Saturday 10th August 1907
Prince Borghese of Italy won the 8000 mile, 62-day Peking-to-Paris motor race. Driving like a maniac across Asia and Europe, the Prince encountered brush fires, got stuck in a swamp, and was pulled over by a policeman in Belgium. The policeman refused to believe that the prince was racing, rather than merely speeding. 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 the Borghese 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.