Wacky Races

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In 1907 some twit of a newspaper editor in France wrote an article on how awesome it would be if they had an automobile race across the Eurasian continent, which was a totally stupid idea given the fact that very few roads, as we now consider them, existed at the time and that at the time automobiles were still considered the toys of the rich.  However, despite all of this forty teams paid the entry fee for the non-existent race, forcing the newspaper editor to come up with a route on the fly.  Using nothing but maps from a local library, it was decided that the race would follow telegraph lines running from Beijing, China to Paris, France, a route of some 9,300 miles.  Though forty teams signed up, only five actually arrived in China.  These included a bored Italian prince in a modified luxury car, two cars furnished by the French auto maker De Dion, and one discount French auto made by a company called Contal which would go bankrupt the following year.  The final car was a Dutch Spyker driven by a conman by the name of Charles Godard.  

By 1907, Godard had been in and out of prison numerous times for obtaining money using less than ethical methods.  When he first heard about the race he was earning money via the Wall of Death, which if you have never heard of is well worth looking up.  Deciding that a race across two continents was a better way to make a living then riding a motorcycle in circles on a vertical wall, he quickly made his way to Amsterdam.  There, being a charming fellow, he convinced the head of the Spyker auto company to give him a car, a shit ton of spare tires, and the entry fee for the race.  Not having any money, he then sold the spares to buy a boat ticket to China.  In Beijing, the other teams were buying up fuel and supplies and having it carried by camel to create supply caches along the route.  Again lacking money, Godard scammed some out of the local Dutch consul with the promise that a letter of credit, which never existed, would soon arrive.  However, even this was only enough to cover his expenses for a fifth of the journey, so he made a deal with the Contal team to carry their bedding and spare tires for the use of some of their fuel.  

The race began on June 10 with the Italian prince racing far ahead of the other competitors thanks to him having more money than god.  The others mostly stayed together, because you know, they were driving across the fucking Gobi desert.  Within eight days the Contral broke down, because it was a piece of shit car, and Godard, figuring they wouldn't need them anymore, claimed their supplies as his own.  Godard himself nearly met the same fate when he ran out of gas 120 miles short of the next checkpoint.  Luckily he managed to charm the local khan to drag the Stryker to the checkpoint with camels, where after refueling, he drove for 23 hours straight to catch up with the De Dion cars 385 miles ahead.  This was just the beginning of Godard's problems.  

As the racers moved into Siberia the Stryker began to show worrying signs of wear with Godard doing what repairs he could with items like a pound of raw bacon and wooden spigots.  To keep the car moving across the Russian steppes he hired horses to drag it along.  Finally unable to nurse anymore out of the car, Godard was forced to stop only halfway across Siberia.  Seeing no other alternative, Godard loaded his car on a westward bound train, a move that led the De Dion teams to declare him a cheat.  However, Godard only took the Stryker 1,500 miles to where the nearest repairs could be made, and then had it hauled back to begin the race again from the point where he had stopped.  Now far behind, Godard began driving twenty-four stints, broken only by four hour stops for sleep.  He caught the De Dion teams in the Russian city of Kazan, having covered some 3,500 miles of rough terrain in 14 days, a distance that had taken the De Dion teams 30 days to traverse.  Together they all moved on towards Paris.  

Of course by that time none of it really mattered.  The Italian prince had arrived in Paris on August 10, the same day Godard arrived in Kazan, claiming the first place prize which was a magnum of champagne.  The other racers would arrive three weeks later, though Godard would not be amongst them.  When Godard arrived in Germany he was promptly arrested for the whole bank fraud thing with the Dutch consul in Beijing.  The Stryker company sent a representative to drive their car the last leg to Paris.  However, Godard escaped from prison and attempted to steal the car back twelve miles from the finish line.  This attempt sadly failed due to a veritable swarm of police, though he did manage to talk his way out of prison around a month later.  Say what you want about Godard, but he was one charming mother fucker.  Thus ended the Peking to Paris, one of the greatest automobile races of all time.