Alumnus races in support of Aston Medical School

Peking to Paris challenge

3 June 2016

One Car, Two Men, 13,695 km

An Aston alumnus is to embark on an epic journey, driving 13,695 km from Peking to Paris in a 1936 Buick to raise vital funds in support of Aston University’s new Medical School.

Described as ‘the most extraordinary journey possible in a motor car’, Neil Lawson-May, who graduated from Aston University in 1982, will be racing against 110 other cars for 36 days along a route that will see drivers’ skills pushed to the limit as they drive into the most adventurous region of Mongolia, Russia and the Republic of Belarus, before snaking through Europe with closed-road mountain climbs in the Alps. The 2016 Peking to Paris Motor Challenge starts from the Great Wall of China outside Beijing on Sunday, June 12th and finishes 36 days later with a drive into Paris to cross the finish line in Place Vendome on Sunday, July 17th. 

Neil describes his ambition to take part in the adventure as a “rush of blood to the head” moment after reading an article about the upcoming rally. He immediately roped in his neighbour, Richard to be his co-driver, and set about sourcing a 1936 Buick car which is now called Rhubarb and Custard. A mechanics course and a couple of practice rallies later and the pair are ready to tackle this enormous challenge. And he will be keeping a blog to detail his experience along the way and this can be visited at:

Neil is keen to use his participation in the Peking to Paris rally to support the Aston Medical School (AMS), which opens in 2017. He is personally supporting Birmingham’s next generation of doctors and aims to raise a further £13,695 - £1 for every km he travels - through a Just Giving page he has set up:

The Peking to Paris Rally is a recreation of a motor race originally held in 1907, between Peking (now Beijing) and Paris. The idea for the race came from a challenge published in the Paris newspaper Le Matin on 31 January 1907, reading: "What needs to be proved today is that as long as a man has a car, he can do anything and go anywhere. Is there anyone who will undertake to travel this summer from Peking to Paris by automobile?" The race started from the French Embassy in Peking on 10th June and the winner, Prince Scipione Borghese arrived in Paris on 10th August 1907.

An Aston Managerial & Administrative Studies graduate, Neil Lawson-May already supports 20 students a year on Aston University’s ‘Languages for All’ programme, an initiative which provides free language tuition to all first year students, alongside their studies. Neil is currently the Chief Executive of Palatium Investment Management.