Experimental Prototypes to Compete in Revived 1901 Paris-Berlin Road Race

The experimental race cars will highlight alternative forms of energy used to propel vehicles.

byLewin Day|
Racing photo

The 1901 running of the Paris to Berlin road race was a dramatic and frantic affair. Danger and disaster quickly shuttered similar events over the last century, but GT boss Stephane Ratel wants to bring this one back, according to AutoSport.

The aim is to resurrect the event as the opening round of the new GT Experimental Tour, kicking off in 2023. The new series seeks to marry alternative energy vehicles with the world of GT racing. In order to best showcase the vehicles and technology, stages of the event would be set in seven cities along the route from Paris, France to Berlin, Germany.

Road races were a big deal in the early days of motorsport, but racing on public roads at high speeds often led to crashes that injured competitors, spectators and innocent pedestrians alike. Indeed, a contemporary report from Scientific American notes several deaths in the original Paris to Berlin race. Road races quickly fell out of favor for this reason.

The revamped event would be quite unlike the madcap races of the 20th century, however. Instead, it would run more like the rallies of today. Rally stages, hill climbs, small circuits and acceleration runs would all be part of the competition. These would be set up to modern safety standards, avoiding the dangers of the road races of decades past. Road sections between these events, meanwhile, would likely be transit-only, and not competitively timed.

The hope is that quieter electric and hybrid racers could compete at a wide variety of facilities, including those that have shut down due to noise complaints or environmental concerns. Cars will be measured on their efficiency on road sections as well as their speed in competitive events in order to make up the final classification. Each day will feature two competition stages, with the event set to visit Reims, Nancy, Strasbourg, Stuttgart, Nuremberg, Prague, and Dresden. 

While 2023 is still a ways off, a non-competitive demo will run from Geneva to Monaco in the summer of 2022. The hope is to spur interest and prove the basic idea in the lead-up to the real thing. The broader goal is to build towards the idea of the GT-Experimental World Tour, providing a greener alternative to traditional GT racing for amateur drivers. 

The company behind the 24 Hours of Spa and a broad selection of other GT events is in touch with what customer racers love about the sport. Noting that new series like FIA Electric GT aren't quite set to offer the same product as traditional GT racing.

It hopes that manufacturers will enter the new Paris to Berlin race with production-based EV racers and potentially even low-volume concept designs. Porsche's Mission R is a great example of a potential GT-X competitor. The goal is for a field of 18 cars to contest the first event, with a roaming fleet of trucks hauling fast-charging equipment to keep the cars going. 

Given the right field of contenders, the event could see some cracking competition. However, like Formula E, it may take some years to find its feet before it delivers a properly entertaining spectacle. Regardless, we'll be keeping our ear to the ground for more in this space. 

Got a tip? Let the author know lewin@thedrive.com