In de beginjaren van de automobiel werden de meest onzinnige wedstrijden georganiseerd. 110 jaar geleden startte de in mijn ogen wellicht meest waanzinnige wedstrijd: van New York naar Parijs. En hoe kwam men dan de oceaan over? zal je vragen en dat is het ‘m juist: het was de bedoeling die over te steken tussen Alaska en Siberië over de bevroren Beringzee! Dat bleek uiteraard ondoenbaar en uiteindelijk zal de overtocht gewoon per schip plaats hebben. Na 1969 werd de Amerikaan George Schuster (1873–1972) tot winnaar uitgeroepen, ook al staat hij dus blijkbaar niet op bovenstaande foto van het American Library of Congress. Maar hij was volgens onderstaande tekst van Wikipedia wel de enige die van start tot aankomst in de wagen heeft gezeten.

The “Great Race” was an international competition among teams representing Germany (Protos), Italy (Brixia-Zust), France (three teams: DeDion-Bouton, Moto Bloc, Sizaire-Naudin) and the United States (Thomas Flyer). Schuster’s victory for the American entry still stands nearly a century later. Schuster was also the first person to drive across the United States during the winter in an automobile.
The 22,000 mile course (13,341 miles driven) started February 12, 1908 in Times Square with a crowd of 250,000 watching the start of what would become a 169-day ordeal. The Race began in mid-winter at a time when there were no snowplows, few roads on the around the world route, unreliable maps, and often little food for the competitors.
The original plan was to drive the cars the full distance from New York City to Paris using the frozen Bering Straits to “bridge” the Pacific. This proved impossible, requiring the competitors to cross the Pacific by ship.
The Flyer arrived in Paris July 30, 1908 to win although the German Protos had actually arrive there four days before; race officials decided to penalize the Germans for having shipped their car via rail for part of the route (*) rather than it having traveled the entire land portion of the route under its own power as the organizers had envisioned.
Of the six teams that started the race, only three finished in Paris: the German Protos, the Italian Briax-Zust and the American Thomas Flyer; the French Sizare team had never made it out of New York State.
Schuster was chosen to be part of the Thomas Race Team due to his proven mechanical abilities, which were put to daily use during the Race. Schuster was the only American team member aboard the Flyer from its start in New York City to the finish in Paris.

(*) Een gemakkelijkheidsoplossing waarvoor ook een aantal renners in de tweede editie van de Tour de France opteerden!

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