Gobi desert

Magnificent men in their automobiles: the 1907 Peking-Paris rally

The age of the car was a long time coming. The 19th century belonged to the train and, to a lesser extent, the bicycle. Several prototype automobiles were built during this period, but by the end of the century the technology was still primitive. In 1899 a handicap race held in France pitted walkers, riders, cyclists, motorcyclists and drivers against one another. The horses came first and second. However, in the early years of the 20th century, a series of widely publicised challenges increased popular interest in motoring. The most ambitious was set in 1907 by the French newspaper Le Matin: a non-stop race from Peking to Paris, taking the