Long-Distance Drive Paris-Beijing 2006 / Day 1 - Tour Start in the Shadow of the Eiffel Tower
• 80 drivers from 20 countries on their way to St. Petersburg
• First day's leg over 663 kilometres to Stuttgart
• Weather: changeable, 15-20 degrees Celsius
Stuttgart, 21.10.2006 - The official starting shot for the E-Class long distance drive from Paris to Peking was fired off today in Paris. The first day's drive took the 36 diesel saloons over the first of a total of eight state borders on the way to Stuttgart. The day ended at the new Mercedes-Benz Museum in the capital of Baden Württemberg after around seven hours driving time and a total of 663 kilometres.
At 9.30 a.m. this morning, Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of DaimlerChrysler AG and Head of Mercedes Car Group, personally signalled the start of the race for the car fleet with the flag. Numerous friends, fans and spectators were gathered at the Champs de Mars below the Eiffel Tower, in order to see the international team start on the first of a total of 25 daily driving stretches. The 36 Mercedes-Benz E-Class saloons sporting a variety of country flags also included two taxis, which will accompany the race during the whole way to Beijing. For the two Paris taxi drivers, Guy Lebreton and Serge Tognoni, who have chauffeured guests through the French capital for nearly 60 years, the 3550 kilometre drive to the destination of the first leg in St. Petersburg will be by far the longest tour of their professional careers. During the midday stop in Nancy, the taxi meter already showed a price of 579 Euro after the nearly 400 kilometre drive. "My longest drive was from Paris to Madrid and cost 1500 US dollars", reminisced Guy Lebreton. "The passenger, a Colombian, was obviously in a great hurry."
In contrast, the 80 participants from 20 countries comprising the peloton for the first leg to Russia, went into the day in a relaxed mood after their long drive to the starting line. The record for the longest distance travelled to the race was claimed by four journalists from Japan with their 13-hour flight from Tokyo. "I am very happy to be here", said Sei Murakami, Editor of the technical magazine "Engine". "The route goes through so many extraordinary and historic locations, I am a very lucky man!"
Unique Venue for Intercultural Exchange
The start of the race was preceded by an evening celebration at "Automobile Club de France", the oldest automobile club in the world. One of the founding members of the club, created in 1895, was French automobile pioneer Albert de Dion, who was also among the initiators of the long-distance race Beijing-Paris in 1907. During cocktails in the historic library of the club at Place de la Concorde in Paris, the 80 participants received their car keys from two particularly ambitious drivers: Mercedes-Benz DTM pilots, Susie Stoddart and Bruno Spengler, who just last weekend won the first DTM race on the legendary course of Le Mans.
"In contrast to a car race, our long-distance drive from Paris to Beijing is not about speed", told Dr. Dieter Zetsche the participants as another reminder of the true purpose of "E-Class Experience", which is to achieve a possibly low consumption of diesel fuel during the individual legs and over the entire distance. "At the same time, this drive is an exciting journey of discovery of other cultures. You will hear foreign languages, discover new things, and perhaps even find new friends. Insofar, the diesel marathon provides a unique venue for intercultural exchange, which DaimlerChrysler actively promotes as a global company with more than 380,000 employees worldwide."
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