There is no race to Mars. I suspect there never will be a race to Mars.
Since there have been a few unmanned probes and rovers landing on Mars the next big feat is to land a human on Mars. Not now but around 2025 there will be an actual race of sorts more political though.
This thread actually shows how this experiment will eventually have robots land on Mars before humans.
Japan taking humanoid robots to moon by 2015
NASA has Robonaut 2 [the prototype humanoid robot] which goes up to the I.S.S. on November 1, 2010.
Surely Mars Direct
TV series pilot will discuss the already landing humanoid robots on Mars.