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History of the Great Race

The Great Auto Race of 1908 was "an epic test of men and machines" sponsored by the New York Times and the Parisian newspaper Le Matin that had six international teams traveling from New York to Paris through places of the world with little to no infrastructure for automobiles at a time when no automobile had driven across the U.S. in winter, much less around the world.

Six cars from Germany, France, Italy and the United States started out the Race, which began in New York City on February 12, 1908. The grueling Race took the teams through Albany, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Valdez Alaska, Japan, Vladivostok, Omsk, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Berlin and Paris covering 22,000 miles in 169 days.

Originally, the plan had been to go entirely overland, which was possible in winter when the Bering Straits were frozen. That plan proved too risky, and the automobiles ended up taking a ship across the Pacific. Once in Asia, the terrain was rough and the teams found the tundra of Siberia particularly difficult to traverse. Only three teams made it through Siberia an on to the finish line in Paris. It was the American-built Thomas Flyer car, driven by George Schuster* that was able to navigate the complete distance in the winning time of 169 days. The original Thomas Flyer that won the race has been restored and is now on exhibit at the National Auto Museum in Reno, Nevada.

The 1908 Race had a lofty goal - to prove the viability of long distance automobile travel at a time when the technology was brand new. The World Race 2011 has a similarly lofty goal - to prove the viability of sustainable and alternative fuels.

The World Race of 2011 will follow in the footsteps of the Thomas Flyer, tracking the Great Auto Race across the planet.

*George Schuster was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame on October 12, 2010.

Read Can History Repeat Itself for a full history from Jeff Mahl, the great grandson of George Schuster Sr., driver of the Thomas Flyer and winner of the 1908 New York to Paris Race. For additional information on the 1908 Race, please visit: www.TheGreatAutoRace.com

More information about the New York to Paris of 1908 can be found in the following places:

See a video promo for The Greatest Auto Race on Earth:

Photos from the original race are courtesy TheGreatAutoRace.com; click to enlarge:

The Thomas Flyer packed with equipment The Thomas Flyer's intrepid crew, Montague Roberts, George Schuster and reporter Skipper Williams
The Berlin arrival of the Thomas Flyer A victory parade for the Flyer and crew in New York City

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