The Greatest Race – 1908 New York to Paris Page Three
After crossing Japan, they were shipped to Vladivostok. By then, only three cars were left, the Thomas Flyer, the Protos and the Züst. The Motobloc that had broken down in Iowa was sent to San Francisco by train and disqualified.
As difficult as the journey had been so far, the worst was yet to come. According to accounts, “The tundra of Siberia and Manchuria was an endless quagmire. The spring thaw made progress difficult. Sometimes forward progress was measured in feet rather than miles.” At one point, the Thomas could only make 15 miles a day. The Protos was leading in Russia, but Schuster in the Thomas Flyer was determined to catch up and overtake it. Finally as he was passing the Protos, the German car got mired in mud up to its hubcaps. Whereupon, Schuster hooked up a chain and pulled the Protos out. Koeppen broke out a bottle of champagne and toasted their fellowship and American sportsmanship.
After leaving Russia, the roads through Europe were somewhat better. According to Schuster, “The final dash began on July 30 from Liege, Belgium to Paris.” The German Protos had arrived in Paris on July 26, but was penalized 30 days and scored second. The Thomas arrived at 8 pm on July 30. Due to the penalty, the Thomas was proclaimed the victor. A tremendous crowd saw the Flyer drive down the Boulevard Poissoniere to the Le Matin office. It had won the longest race in history having traveled 13,341 miles in 169 days. That record still stands more than 100 years later!
The 1908 New York to Paris race was covered by the sponsoring newspaper with daily front-page accounts. The event helped to establish the reliability of automobiles as a viable method of long-distance transportation. In addition, it brought attention to the need for better roads.
A 2008 TV documentary was titled The Greatest Auto Race on Earth and the 1965 motion picture, The Great Race, both based on the 1908 race.