Over 100 Vintage And Classic Cars Set Off On Peking To Paris Endurance Rally Under The Shadow Of The Great Wall Of China
Over a month of exacting terrain for over 100 crews of vintage and classic cars got underway yesterday under the shadow of the Great Wall of China, as this year’s Peking to Paris classic endurance rally began. The Endurance Rally Association’s Peking to Paris event is, not for nothing, often described as the world’s longest and most grueling classic and vintage car rally. This year’s event covers some 13,840km and 114° of longitude over 36 days, as well as passes through 1300 waypoints, eight time zones and 12 countries, and even contains a few timed sections. It will conclude in Paris on July 7.
The 105 intrepid crews set off one by one at 7:31am to start the Peking to Paris’s seventh running, with an accompanying troupe of dancers, drummers, acrobats and ceremonial lions celebrating the departure and providing an incessant drumbeat from the antique stones of the Great Wall. The cars were flagged away by the Historic Endurance Rally Organisation (HERO) MD Patrick Burke, and HERO chairman Tomas de Vargas Machuca was also in attendance. Famous engine designer Mario Illien, of the Ilmor engine concern, is among those taking part, in his case in a 1955 Citroën 11B with his daughter Noele navigating.
The field was led by Anton Gonnissen and navigator Herman Gelan in a Contal three-wheeler, which is a recreation of the vehicle Aguste Pons used in the original Peking to Paris rally all the way back in 1907. This inaugural event took place when Paris newspaper Le Matin issued the following 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?” Five cars then assembled on June 10 at its starting point of the French embassy in Peking (now Beijing) and they set off into, almost literally, the unknown.
The modern Peking to Paris rally is open to cars of a type produced before 1976 and is designed to be suitable both to novice crews, with training and support, and to experienced rally entrants. The route is certainly eclectic on and off the stages, including gravel, sand and stunning roads, as well as luxurious hotels and desert camping under canvas in the deserts of Mongolia and Kazakhstan and the need to work on the car as you go, ensuring it is a challenge and life-changing adventure in equal measure. Average daily distances are around 400km, though rise to 650km in certain cases.
The opening day started in more sedate fashion, commencing with a modern expressway, though quickly got more appropriately-challenging as the route turned off to a Passage Control on the outskirts of the walled town of Zhuolu. For the next 80km the crews were taken back in time on a selection of unmade roads, alongside well-tended fields, through hidden villages and across fast flowing rivers.
Images courtesy of HERO events