10/8/1907

Prince Scipione Borghese won the Peking to Paris race in an Italia.

Italian Prince Scipione Borghese is the first of five entrants to arrive in Paris, claiming as his prize a magnum of Mumm champagne for winning the 12,000-mile (19,300-km) Peking to Paris race. Accompanying the prince in his 7.4L, 4-cyl. Italia racecar is his chauffeur/mechanic and co-driver, Ettore Guizzardi, and Luigi Barzini, an Italian reporter covering the event. The race begins June 10 in response to a challenge laid down in March by the French newspaper Le Matin. Although suspicious Chinese officials reportedly try to keep the race from taking place, five cars show up for the sendoff. In addition to Borghese's Italia are two 10-hp French de Dions, a 25-hp Dutch Spyker and a 6-hp French Contal 3-wheel cycle car. There are no rules (although participants work out a gentlemen's agreement for mutual assistance), and the only official is the flagman hired to wave the cars off at the start. However, the race quickly becomes a contest between Borghese's Italia and the Spyker, driven by a Dutch circus roustabout named Charles Goddard. An accomplished con man, Goddard not only gets the loan of the car, but talks his way into free boat passage to China and hits up fellow competitors for gasoline. To supply racers with fuel, the Italia averages 6 mpg (33L/100km), a caravan of camels laden with gasoline containers is dispatched from the Chinese capital in advance of the race. With no official course, no maps and, for half the race, no roads, drivers navigate by counting telegraph poles, by compass and by observing the position of the sun. Hazards include deep mud and a collapsing bridge that nearly wipes out the Italia in Russia. Plus, the race cars need to be hauled over the mountains at Nankow, China, by men and mules. Crossing the Gobi desert, the Contal 3-wheeler gets stuck in and then covered by sand. Its crew, nearly dead, is rescued by local tribesmen. Borghese is so confident of victory he takes a 1,000-mile (1,609-km) detour to St. Petersburg, Russia, to attend a banquet given in his honor.

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