China, 1907.

DestinAsian - - DEPARTMENTS -

A cen­tury ago, on a gray June morn­ing in 1907, five cars pulled out of the gates of Pek­ing, their grilles pointed to­ward In­ner Mon­go­lia and the track­less wastes of the Gobi Desert be­yond. It was the start of the long­est, most gru­el­ing auto race to date, an in­cred­i­ble transcon­ti­nen­tal jour­ney that could have been plucked from the pages of a Jules Verne ad­ven­ture. An­swer­ing a chal­lenge posed by the French news­pa­per Le Matin— to drive from Pek­ing to Paris and prove that “as long as a man has a car, he can do any­thing and go any­where”—a hand­ful of in­trepid mo­torists made their way to China’s im­pe­rial cap­i­tal for a test that would take them through some of Asia’s re­motest cor­ners. There were mishaps aplenty on the leg to Moscow: French­man Au­guste Pons quit the race af­ter his Con­tal cy­cle-car ran out of gas in the Gobi, where he would have died had Mon­gol no­mads not come to the res­cue; Ital­ian aris­to­crat Prince Sci­pio Borgh­ese’s seven-liter Itala—pic­tured here be­ing towed through a muddy Chi­nese street —was al­most wrecked when it broke through a bridge in Siberia. But on Au­gust 10, two months and some 14,000 kilo­me­ters af­ter leav­ing Pek­ing, the Itala en­tered Paris 20 days ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion, earn­ing Borgh­ese the prize: a mag­num of Mumm cham­pagne.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.