A two-seater Panhard-Levassor vehicle at the first automotive endurance race on 22nd July 1894.

The world’s first automotive endurance race.

On 22nd of July 1894, only “horseless carriages” travel the route from Paris to Rouen.
  • The world’s first automotive endurance race.

  • A four-seater Panhard-Levassor vehicle with a Daimler engine during the first automotive endurance race between Paris and Rouen in July 1894.

    A gathering of engineers.

    It is 22nd July, 1894, in Paris. Throngs of people line the sides of the road, as far as the eye can see. Whether out of pure curiosity or to support the drivers during this exciting competition – they have all come to witness the world’s first automotive endurance race with “horseless carriages”, as the Parisian organizer “Le Petit Journal” officially announced. However, only 21 of the 102 vehicles registered are present at the start. An air of tension and anticipation surrounds the participants as they impatiently wait for the starting gun. This will be their great day. The day they show the world the technical wonder they have created. A wonder which can withstand even difficult conditions. In addition to the wagons with gasoline engines there are also a number of steam vehicles which are popular in France at the time.

    The visionary.

    The participants face the challenge of travelling 126 km from Paris to Rouen in their vehicles. Gottlieb Daimler and his son, Paul, follow the endurance test on location. Paul Daimler will later record his impressions and experiences during the race. The incredible technical advantage which the visionary, Gottlieb Daimler, has achieved with his light, high-speed gasoline engine quickly becomes clear:

    Another four-seated vehicle from Panhard & Levassor, this time with Dos-à-Dos seats (

    'One looked at the stokers in the heavy steam vehicles, covered in sweat and soot, labouring to feed the engine with combustion material. The drivers of the small, three-wheeler steam vehicles constantly monitoring the pressure and the water levels in the small, artistically designed tubular boilers while regulating the oil heating - and then, in contrast, the drivers of the gasoline and petroleum vehicles sitting quietly at the steering wheel, occasionally pulling a lever and simply driving with pleasure – a completely unique comparison and an unforgettable event in my life.”

    The drive to success: The 3,5 hp, two-cylinder V engine developed by Gottlieb Daimler powers the winning vehicles from Panhard & Levassor and Peugeot.

    Reliable and robust.

    17 of the 21 vehicles competing reach the destination. The Panhard-Levassor and Peugeot brands are declared the joint winners, their vehicles are powered by Daimler’s 3.5 hp two-cylinder V engines. With an average speed of 17 km/h they cannot exceed the speeds achieved by cyclists yet they impress experts and the public with their exceptional driving and transport performance. Although a 20 hp De-Dion-Bouton steam wagon is the first to cross the finish line, the powerful heavy machine violates the competition’s rules. Because of its impressive performance it is honourably awarded second place.

    A four-seater Peugeot vehicle with a Daimler two-cylinder V engine at the first automobile endurance race in 1894.

    “The best or nothing.”

    The world’s first endurance race 120 years ago represents the start of Mercedes-Benz’s successful motorsport history. Vehicles using engines with Daimler’s design continue to win victories in the following years.

    The successful races during the 1890s awaken a lasting passion for motorsport and contribute to the rapid rise and development of automotive manufacturing. 120 years ago the engines already proved their reliability and durability, confirming Gottlieb Daimler’s motto: “The best or nothing.”

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