The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2019 was held June 2th to July 7th, with 106 crews crossing the start line at the Great Wall of China in Beijing. Organised by the Endurance Rally Association, the hardy competitors journeyed through twelve countries including Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, Kazakhstan, Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania before entering Europe to reach the center of Paris.
The Peking to Paris rally is one of the last great endurance motor challenges, as it follows in the wheel tracks the original pioneers made in 1907. Driving an old car nearly half way around the world with a bunch of like-minded enthusiasts, against the clock, with the added spice of timed sections, makes the event the longest and toughest driving challenge for vintage and classic cars. The 7th edition of the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge crossed eight time zones, with more than 90 crews passing over the finish line after the 36-day, 8,500-mile rally.
The Australian team of Gerry Crown and Matt Bryson finished as overall winners of the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2019 in their 1974 Leyland P76. This was their third victory, making it a ‘Triple Crown’ in an event they have really made their own.
Rally veteran Crown, aged 87, said, “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 old’s in the field to keep me company. I must also congratulate the organisers for keeping the spirit of the rally alive, it’s the Blue Riband event of the historic world and it needs to be tough.”
The win in the Vintage category for pre-war cars went to Graham and Marina Goodwin (GB) in a 1925 Bentley Super Sports in their first attempt. After a hard-fought battle, the team eventually beat the 1931 Chrysler CM 6 of Artur Lukasiewicz (PL) and Bill Cleyndert (GB) by five minutes.
Graham Goodwin said, “It means so much to win in a Bentley in Bentley’s 100th year. 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.”
Regardless of their place in the standings though, all teams that reached the journey’s end in Paris achieved something great. Travelling halfway around the world, in vintage and classic cars, traversing some of the toughest roads the world’s largest landmass has to offer was no small feat. All crews battled fatigue, the weather, mechanical issues and the emotional stress of completing such an epic endeavour against the clock.
The endurance element was of course what all the competitors came to pit themselves against, and of this Mark Trowbridge (USA), competing in a 1968 Volvo P1800 had these thoughts, on a tough but enjoyable event: “We had some really gruelling days, but we recovered and are fired up again, lots of fun, fast and flying around a lot.”
The remote and turbulent roads were another attraction that draws people to this challenge, and this year saw some of the trickiest yet. Peking to Paris rookie Bill Holroyd (GB) gave his thoughts on the contest: “In effect they are mountain roads and farm tracks. If you were driving from Manchester to London and then back to Birmingham on farm tracks and mountain passes, you’d go bloody mental.”
The finishers roster contained many personalities and characters, but special mention went to Patrick Debussere (B) and Bernard Vereenooghe (B), winners of the Spirit of the Rally award. The self-titled “Dodge Brothers” from Belgium were a constant source of entertainment throughout the rally, despite tough conditions.
Patrick Debussere said, “We had enormous fun and we decided three years ago to do the rally, the fun started with the car prep’ social media has been great for us. It’s adventure and this must be fun for every waking hour.”
History was made and an historic journey completed as Anton Gonnissen and Herman Gelan (B) completed the event on a three-wheeled Contal Mototri, finishing the race started, but not finished, by Auguste Pons in 1907. The special significance of the event was not lost on an emotional Gonnissen: “This was the journey of a lifetime. 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.”
Seated at the front of the Contal, in the ‘suicide’ seat was Gonnissen’s navigator, Herman Gelan. It was a position few would wish to be in, but for 8,500 miles he had a unique view of the rally: “In my seat I was closer to nature than any of the other competitors and the sheer beauty of the route and the surroundings are what will stay with me for a long time.”
There was a potential record set by Mitch Gross (USA) and Christopher Rolph (GB) in Gross’ 1910 White MM Pullman steam car. If driving halfway around the world in a 109-year-old vehicle isn’t hard enough, to complete it in one powered by a steam engine must be doubly difficult. It was perhaps the longest journey ever completed by a steam car and life-long steam fan Gross had this to say: “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.”
Once the dust settled the 2019 edition of the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge will surely go down in the archives as one of the toughest and best ever. Preparations are already in place for the eighth edition of this gruelling endurance event that will take place in in 2022. For more information, visit EnduroRally.com.
Similar to 2016, Sports Car Digest also documented the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2019, with photographers Gerard Brown and Francesco Rastrelli offering the following wonderful pictures that highlight the breathtaking landscapes encountered on the seventh edition of the rally.
Peking to Paris 2019 – Photo Gallery (photos: Gerard Brown / Francesco Rastrelli)
Peking to Paris 2019 – Race Winners
1. Graham Goodwin – Marina Goodwin, 1925 Bentley Super Sports
2. Artur Lukasiewicz – Bill Cleyndert, 1931 Chrysler CM 6
3. Keith Ashworth – Norah Ashworth, 1928 Bentley 4.5-Litre Le Mans
1. Gerry Crown – Matt Bryson, 1974 Leyland P76
2. David Danglard – Susan Danglard, 1973 Porsche 911
3. Chris Bury – Tjerk Bury, 1972 Datsun 240Z
Against All Odds Trophy
Matteo Crippa – Roberto Crippa, 1975 Alfa Romeo Spider 2000
‘True Grit’ Award
Wim Van Gierdegom – Arne Quinze, 1927 Chrysler 70 Roadster
Spirit of the Rally Award
Patrick Debussere – Bernard Vereenooghe, 1933 Dodge Roadster
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[Source: HERO Events; photos: Gerard Brown / Francesco Rastrelli]