After three years of closures, planning, recces, and rerouting, in 2022 the Chinese border finally opened up again allowing HERO-ERA to finalise an exciting route that will challenge the hardiest of competitors in the 8th edition of the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge running from 18 May to 23 June 2024. The route will avoid Russia but still take a mammoth 37 days covering 14000 kms.
Starting in Peking in May 2024 finishing in Paris five weeks later, the 100 entrants will cross 9 countries and 8 time zones as they tackle remote desert, forest, and mountain tracks all against the clock. From the deserts of China to the Mongolian Gobi and onto the hidden wilderness of Kazakhstan, the crews will spend many nights under canvas. Competitors will wait for an ageing Caspian Sea ferry to take them to Azerbaijan, but just when they may think the worst is over, they will hit tough roads through Turkey, Greece and into the French Alps. The European section will keep the pressure on teams to the very end.
Senior Event Planner Chris Elkins, a veteran of five Peking to Paris Motor Challenges explained; “The route will be as compelling as it is demanding, all the way through Asia and Europe. After surviving the rigours of the Gobi Desert, teams will battle the elements again, this time in previously hidden, wild and remote parts of Kazakhstan where some of our camps are absolutely nowhere near any form of civilization.
“We are in effect in a second Mongolia. We found tracks in the Southwest that the local guide said were impassable unless in a 6 X 6 vehicle – we managed to get through in our 4 X4 recce vehicle, so they will form part of the adventure. What’s more, we found roads where there aren’t any on the maps!”
The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge is unique in the motoring world, a true historic vehicle endurance event that follows in the wheel tracks of the 1907 Pioneers. Adhering to its original purpose of testing the automobile and crew, it provides the ultimate challenge of a 14000 kms adventure across the world’s biggest land mass. The 2024 event, the eighth revived by HERO-ERA, will be the most adventurous yet.
As it will have been five years since the last Peking to Paris Motor Challenge, there is still a considerable waiting list for entries, so the next Peking to Paris will follow in 2025.
Tomas de Vargas Machuca, Chairman of HERO-ERA explained the high level of interest; “The ‘P2P’ is a life-changing event for an array of reasons that include everything from the adventure element, the cultural dynamics, driving and mechanical skills and the utter determination to reach Paris by all. These are the aspects of the Motor Challenge that participants are attracted to, as well as the friendships that are forged out of the true camaraderie between competitors who come from all over the world, from allwalks of life, who are looking for the ultimate motor challenge.”
The 2024 route from Peking through the first part of China will take two days of ‘off road’ dirt track driving including a race circuit test and a regularity hill climb. There will be an overnight halt in Hohhot. After crossing the Mongolian border there will be two more days of desert driving before a rest day in Ulaanbaatar, then teams head towards the Chinese border again, this time in the southwest of the country. This will take a more southerly Gobi route last used in P2P 2007, with some long days of remote desert driving and five nights under canvas before going back into China.
Kazakhstan is the next adventurous experience in store, a really remote and vast desert landscape that defies space and time.
Once across the Chinese border into Kazakhstan, crews will take a rest day in Almaty, via a time control at Charyn Canyon, before two long transit days which are needed to soak up some of the huge distances involved!
There will be tests on desert tracks whilst, 70km north of Almaty there will be a brush with civilisation as the event will visit a race circuit complex with a motor museum. From Aralsk on the edge of what was once the Aral Sea, teams will drive in a south-westerly direction towards the Caspian Sea.
Back in the wild again, there will be another two nights camping under the stars before reaching Aktau and the tough tracks that local scouts told the HERO-ERA route planners ‘were impossible to pass in anything less than a 6×6!’ With more challenging tracks not found on any maps, Kazakhstan promises to be a wondrous yet hard endurance test.
Once at the Caspian Sea, even the plan to put the cars on an old freight ferry and fly the crews across, may still be hazardous and far from plain sailing. It is hoped that rally cars and crews will converge in Azerbaijan.
Anticipated help from the Baku City administration should produce some closed road tests before two days driving days across Azerbaijan, then the border crossing into Georgia. The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge will overnight in Tbilisi before heading into Turkey.
By now competitors will have realised that the challenge is far from over, even if they have survived the rigours of the deserts intact. Turkey will throw down another gauntlet with four driving days, including at least two regularities every day, with tests at two kart circuits and a race track.
Some impending relief will come in the form of a rest day in Istanbul, but for some it will just be a ‘fix our cars’ day!
The mental and physical preparation will still be needed for Greece, Italy and France as the pressure continues to the end. There will be two days bouncing over the notorious Greek roads in a mixture of regularities and tests at circuits, then a brief respite on board the ferry from Igoumenitsa to Ancona in Italy.
The tiny province of San Marino will provide overnight sanctuary but then a race circuit and closed road test will shatter the short peace on the next day.
For pure driving pleasure, the contrast of driving days in the Alps – possibly via Turin, will take the cars to the highest point of the challenge in the French Alps. Those with the lofty ambition of winning awards will need to keep their heads at altitude to maintain the average speeds over twisting mountain tracks.
At this point, those whose ambition it is just to finish the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge, may start to believe they are going to make it all the way from the overnight halt in Aix Les Bains to Dijon before the run-in to Paris. Those in the overall and class-winning positions will be listening to the tiniest of noises from their tired cars, nervously hoping that they can just keep going to the finish line. Such is the achievement in prospect.
This epic event takes historic vehicles and their crews halfway around the world, traversing some of the toughest roads the world’s largest landmass has to offer, which is why the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge has the reputation for being the world’s last great motoring adventure.
Crews from all around the world will battle fatigue, the elements, mechanical issues, and the emotional stress of completing such an endeavour against the clock. The event has gained cult status in the motoring world as its reputation for true remote adventure has spread, resulting in the challenge is regularly oversubscribed.