The Gruelling 8500-Mile Peking To Paris Motor Challenge Was Won By An 87-Year-Old In A 1974 Leyland P76!
The arduous Peking to Paris Motor Challenge was won for the third time by endurance rally veterans Gerry Crown and Matt Bryson in their 1974 Leyland P76 (above and below), but they didn’t quite have it all their own way as after 36 days of racing their margin of victory was a mere two minutes.
As 87-year-old Crown commented, “Our third win in the Leyland was the toughest yet but it was also very enjoyable. What we really needed though was a few more 87-year olds in the field to keep me company. I must also congratulate the organizers for keeping the spirit of the rally alive, it’s the Blue Riband event of the historic world and it needs to be tough”.
Graham and Maria Goodwin took the Vintage class win in a 1925 Bentley Super Sports (below) on their very first try, the impressive result made all the more special with this being Bentley’s centenary year. Graham was thankful for having luck on his side, saying: “The event was stressful but thankfully we had a bit of good luck which everyone needs. It was tough leading the event for so long and seeing your lead slowly coming down.” In the end, they crossed the finish line just five minutes ahead of the second-placed competitors Artur Lukasiewicz and Bill Cleyndert.
Another impressive drive and potential record was achieved by Mitch Gross and Christopher Rolph in their 1910 White MM Pullman steam car. While their choice of car made the trip even more grueling, Gross was in good spirits at journey’s end: “We set a world distance record for steam-powered cars but had to have three engine rebuilds on the way. We also almost ran out of fire extinguishers. But, with the help of our great support crew, we made it.”
The very first running of the Peking to Paris rally took place in 1907 and of the five teams that entered all but one finished, as Auguste Pons and his navigator Oscar Foucauld lost their Contal Mototri to the sands of the Gobi Desert. Auguste and Oscar were lucky to survive the ordeal themselves, and this year two ambitious and perhaps slightly mad Belgians Anton Gonnissen and Herman Gelan completed the journey in a similar Contal Mototri three-wheeler.
Gonnissen was proud of this historic achievement and felt that he and his navigator Gelan had set the record straight. “This was the journey of a lifetime,” he said. “More men have stood on the moon than have driven Peking to Paris. August Pons failed in 1907 and there was a gap to be filled. Today history has been written, we have put the ghost of AP to rest after 112 years.” Adding a further historical link to the event was Prince Costantino Paolo Borghese, great nephew of the original 1907 winner, Prince Scipione Borghese, as he flagged the cars across the finish line.
While the Peking to Paris in that original format was not run again until it was resurrected in 1997, it has since been run seven times under the Endurance Rally Association and is considered to be one of the toughest endurance rallies around. This year there were 106 entries representing 20 nationalities and 12 countries were crossed over the six-week event. The next running of the Peking to Paris will take place in 2022.
Images courtesy of Hero Events and Gerard Brown/Francesco Rastrelli