87-year-old driver wins Peking to Paris rally for third time

After 8,500 miles, 12 countries, 36 days on the road, 1907 winner’s great nephew waves the checkered flag

After 8,500 miles, the 7th Peking to Paris Motor Challenge ended with 87-year-old Gerry Crown and teammate Matt Bryson posting their third victory, though by a margin of just two minutes. 

The 36-day slog through 12 countries ended with the checkered flag waved by Prince Constantino Paolo Borghese, great nephew of Prince Scipione Borghese, winner of the first Peking to Paris auto rally in 1907.

“Our third win in the Leyland was the toughest yet but it was also very enjoyable,” said Crown, adding that, “What we really needed though was a few more 87-year old’s in the field to keep me company.”

In addition to the third victory of Crown’s 1974 Leyland P76, Mitch Goss and Christopher Rolph completed what is believed to be the longest drive ever by a steam-powered car, a 1910 White MM Pullman, and Graham and Marina Goodwin won the Vintage (pre-war) class in their 1925 Bentley Super Sports.

87-year-old Australian Gerry Crown (left) and his navigator Matt Bryson celebrate their victory in the 2019 Pekins to Paris Motor Challenge

“It means so much to win in a Bentley in Bentley’s 100th year,” said Graham Goodwin. “The event was stressful but thankfully we had a bit of good luck which everyone needs.”

Meanwhile, Anton Gonnissen and Herman Gelan Jr. laid to rest the ghost of Auguste Pons by completing the distance in their 1907 Contal Mototri.

 “Regardless of their place in the standings, all who have reached their journeys end at Place Vendome, Paris, have achieved something great,” said the event organizers, the Endurance Rally Association. “Traveling halfway around the world, in vintage and classic cars, traversing some of the toughest roads the world’s largest landmass has to offer is no small feat. 

“All crews battled fatigue, the weather, mechanical issues and the emotional stress of completing such an epic endeavor against the clock.”

Bill Holroyd was a rookie entrant and spoke of the challenge: “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.”

His wife, Julie, agreed. 

“Even the vets are saying this is a tough one,” she said, “exciting but scary, the scenery has been magnificent, and the camping was great!”

Anton Gonnissen and Herman Gelan Jr. ride a 1907 Contal Mototri that entered but didn’t finish the first Peking to Parks event in 1907

The organizers noted that one of the highlights of the rally occurred when Gonnissen and Gelan crossed the finish line in the 1907 Contal Motori, a 3-wheeler that finally finished 112 years after it started in the first Peking to Paris rally. 

“This was the journey of a lifetime,” Gonnissen said. “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.”

Sitting at the front of the Contal in its “suicide” seat was Gelan, who thus had a unique view of the route. 

“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,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the performance of the 1910 White MM Pullman is believed to be a record drive for a steam-powered vehicle.

“We set a world distance record for steam-powered cars but had to have three engine rebuilds on the way,” Gross said. “We also almost ran out of fire extinguishers. But, with the help of our great support crew, we made it.”

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2 Comments

  • Dr Samuel Fassig
    July 8, 2019, 8:36 PM

    Nicely done. will be back to buy in the future

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  • Ryan Corman
    July 9, 2019, 7:01 PM

    Brilliant, especially for the Bentley and the enduring old Aussie dude… Um, where do those guys buy pants to hold, well… you know. Would love to see a Type 35 Bugatti do this, or a period correct hopped up Model T Ford… or a Rolls-Royce with the "Lawrence of Arabia" mods… alas, the restrictions.
    Still, simply heroic. Kudos, people.

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