- Flaminia Brigandì
The first automobile raid of 16,000 km in 60 days
Jan. 31, 1907. French newspaper Le Matin issues a challenge: "What we must prove today is that since man has the automobile, he can do anything and go anywhere. Is there anyone who will accept to go, in the coming summer, from Peking to Paris by automobile?". This is not an ordinary race; there are no first or second places. This is a challenge between man and machine, a chance to test one's limits with the goal of telling the story of an out-of-the-ordinary feat.
On June 10 of the same year, five crews showed up in Beijing, including that of Prince Scipione Borghese, driving an Itala 35/45 Hp, accompanied by trusted mechanic/driver Ettore Guizzardi and Corriere della Sera journalist Luigi Barzini, who was in charge of keeping the travel diary for both the Italian newspaper and the English Daily Telegraph.The other cars at the start were two French De Dion Boutons, with teams composed of mechanics from the car factory, a Dutch Spyker and a six-horse Contal three-wheeler. Lightweight, underpowered cars, at first glance the right choice for the type of course to be covered.
The difficulties of the endeavor are evident right from the start: torrential rains come down on the cars causing part of the luggage to be lost, the driver of the Contal tricycle, lost in the Gobi Desert, is forced to retreat, and the high mountains separating China from Mongolia are only passable in places by having the cars dragged by horses and mules.The Itala, together with its driver and two passengers, immediately distinguishes itself by its ability to cope with the pitfalls of the terrain. However, there was no shortage of accidents, due to the rugged characteristics of the road surface, and slowdowns due to lack of fuel. On July 20, forty days after departure, Prince Borghese is in the Urals, on the border between Asia and Europe. After a week the car arrives in Moscow, where it is triumphantly welcomed.In total, the journey takes sixty days for the Italian crew: on August 10, about twenty days ahead of the other participants, the triumphant arrival in Paris marks Scipione Borghese's victory.