The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 1997
September 6 - October 18, 1997
Starters assemble in Peking for the Great Adventure
Nearly 100 Vintage and classic cars will set out on Saturday, September 6, to drive from Peking to Paris to mark the 90th anniversary of the world's first ever car rally.
Competitors on this times event will be taking an epic 45-day journey through China, Tibet, India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and across Europe to Paris, in what has been hailed as the longest ever event staged for classic cars, and one of the longest rallies in motoring history.
In 1907, five pioneer motorists raced from Peking to Paris, across the Gobi Desert and the Marco Polo trails through Persia, to prove that the car could provide an independent means of travel. Throughout the intervening 90 years, the Chinese have always refused permission for a re-run of the original Great Race.
Cars leave from outside the Beijing Hotel for an official flagging-away from the Great Wall of China at Badeling, just outside Peking, at 10am on Saturday. The route will take the intrepid crews through Tibet and over the Himalayas, reaching a height of 17,000 ft, where they will spend a night camping at the foot of Mount Everest.
The entry is made up from 23 different nationalities - drivers have brought to the Chinese capital nearly 80 different makes and models of car, ranging from a Morris Minor, a Ford Anglia and three Citroen 2CVs, to Le Mans vintage Bentleys, Rolls-Royces, Aston Martins, Jaguars, Buicks and Cadillacs. The oldest car is a 1907 aero-engined La France, on an outing from a German motor museum. Also, 'blowing away the cobwebs' is 72-year old Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, who is piloting the National Motor Museum's prized 1915 Prince Henry Vauxhall, one of the world's first true sports cars.
In the burning hear of the Iranian desert (the rally is the first to be allowed to cross Iran in 20 years) the two all-woman crews will at least be better protected from the sun than most of the men - they will be well covered out of respect for Muslim traditions. Former British showjumpers, the Hon Francesca Sternberg and Jennifer Gillies will be up against the West Coast American women's team of Linda Dodwell and Genny Obert ("Just don't call us 'California Girls').
Other personalities among the entrants include Prince Idris Shah, the crown prince of Selangor, Malaysia, and straight out of the pages of Hello! Magazine comes Singapore's Melissa Ong, currently studying in London, who is one of the world's most eligible heiresses. Heir to much of the Daimler Benz empire is Dr Friedrich Flick, who has received press attention recent from a divorce case, and will be driving a product of the family form, a 1964 Mercedes 220 SB.