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Classic Mini to take on 8500-mile Peking to Paris Rally

One of the world's longest and most difficult classic events is about to get underway, with a classic Mini among the entrants

The most insane car rally returns this year – the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2016 (aka the P2P). The rally – the sixth in its 109-year history – takes in 11 different countries, features 51 cars and as many as 111 crews.

And yet all this started with a crazy challenge published in a Parisian newspaper in 1907, which read as thus: ‘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?’

The challenge was taken seriously and started at the French Embassy in Peking. It had forty entrants and its winner was Italian Prince Scipione Borghese, who travelled along with a journalist Luigi Barzini.

Today the event will travel 8500 miles, starting from the Great Wall of China on Sunday June 12 and finishing in Paris on July 17. The route is loyal to that of the 1907 event, taking in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, Russia and Belarus.

The rally features 51 pre-1942 cars in the Vintageant class and 60 pre ’77 cars in the Classic class. The Vintageant class includes an abundance of pre-war American cars, following wins by Chevrolet Fangio Coupes in both 2010 and 2013.

But perhaps the most unlikely entrant in this year’s event is the 1972 Austin Mini 1000, the first Mini to have ever competed in the epic rally. The car was entered as a last-minute replacement for Car 34 after Paul and Chris Hartfield’s pre-war Packard wasn’t ready in time.

Paul was concerned about the Packard so contacted Owen Turner from the Rover Centre, who he met on last year’s Sahara Challenge, for advice as to his car’s state of repair. The prognosis wasn’t good, certainly not good enough to be ready in time for the P2P and so Paul bought the Mini that Owen had repaired for Le Jog and the 2015 Marrakesh event.

Owen said: ‘The Packard needed a lot of work still doing and would not have coped with the likes of Mongolia at all in its current condition. It will be a challenge for the Mini, especially the Gobi Desert, but at least you can fix it fast and get moving again.’

Indeed the range of machines competing in the P2P is vast but not as vast as the range of people taking part. Endurance Rally Association (ERA) Rally Director Fred Gallagher said: ‘We have husbands and wives, fathers and daughters, friends and colleagues taking part, who normally spend their days very differently. Occupations range from student to retired CEO, from Fish Farmer to Rocket Scientist. But none of that will matter once we cross the starting line. It’s all about the next 35 days and getting to Paris.’

‘Some of our competitors have faced the P2P before and are self-confessed adrenaline junkies whereas the newcomers are a mix of people undertaking this mammoth journey in aid of charities or to cross a dream off their bucket lists.’

And what a thing to to tick off your bucket list the P2P will be. For more details including the full route itinerary, entry list, and the latest updates, visit www.endurorally.com

Words: Rachael Clegg

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