Car racing is an expensive hobby. In fact, it really isn’t a hobby anymore. It’s big business, with high stakes, corporate sponsors, and huge prize money. Everyone has heard of Formula One, Indy 500, and NASCAR, of course. Like any extreme sport of such fame, there is a lot the average person does not know, such as which type of race cars compete in which types of races (open wheel, open cockpit, stock cars, etc.). Still, these are races everyone has heard of and the results make the news all over the world.
There’s another car race (really, it’s called a rally, but the speeds are so high it might as well be called a race), which fewer have heard about – the Gumball 3000. And if you have a lot of money hanging around (entry fees range from $70,000 - $100,000), and a really hot car (we’re talking Ferrari and others in its class), you, too, can participate in this event (or just watch live coverage like I will).
It is not called the “world’s most lavish rally” for nothing. In addition to the costs for individual entrants (or teams sometimes), there are gala parties, lots of celebrities, and the thrill of sightseeing at sometimes 100 mph.
Based on the famous and short-lived Cannonball Run in the U.S., where racers sped their way from New York City to California, a movie titled “The Gumball Rally” was produced in 1976. The plot was simple enough – a wealthy businessman dreamed up a coast-to-coast race just like the Cannonball Run, without any rules.
The movie was a relatively good one for the times, and it was funny. It fell into obscurity.
Maximillian Cooper, a British designer and racecar enthusiast decided to host a rally. He invited 50 or so friends to participate in a 3000-mile trek across Europe with parties at each stop. The entry fee was $8,700 and each participant had to bring his own “super car.” That event from London to Italy and back again. Other celebrities joined the parties at each top and so it received quite a bit of publicity. And so it began.
By 2001 there were 106 entries, probably the most famous being Johnny Knoxville and other cast members from the movie “Jackass.” He drove a 1989 Jaguar X16, and his crew filmed lots of the race for MTV. That was a huge hit, and BBC also covered the race. Cooper himself drove a Shelby Cobra. Other notable cars were a 1929 Blower Bentley and a Mercedes Brabus Sv12 Megacar. The Gumball had assumed its place among car events.
Probably the most well-known “Gumballer” is Alex Roy. He and his team craft cars to look like police cars, and they pull over other drivers just to slow them down. He has accumulated over 200 traffic tickets, mostly for speeding and has become somewhat of a “folk hero” among the driving world.
The 2002 rally had a route that included the United States. Drivers began in New York City and meandered through the country, stopping in Washington, D.C., Graceland, and Las Vegas, and finally ending at Hugh Heffner’s Playboy mansion in California for the final gala bash. Among American celebrities in that rally were Matthew McConaughey and Rachel Hunter. Award for the best car was a 60’s Corvette, all done up in the stars and stripes.
From 2003-2006, the Gumball held international acclaim and huge popularity. Close to 200 cars were entered by 2004, and the parties got larger and more outrageous. Cooper of course continued to organize the events and the routes, including another through the U.S. and the rest in Europe. More celebrities joined, including Travis Barker, Daryl Hannah, Adrien Brody, and Tony Hawk. Performances at parties began to include bigger names, such as Snoop Dogg. Again insisting that it was not a race but a rally, drivers continued to accumulate speeding tickets and even had their cars confiscated. In the 2003 rally, the driver of a Koenigsegg CC85 get a speeding ticket for going 242 mph in a 75 mph zone on a highway in Texas. This ticket holds the record for speeding so far.
Cooper designed a route from London to Istanbul in 2007. True to form, the drivers proved that they were not interested in obeying speed limits, and they began to rack up tickets as usual. Two cars were confiscated in the Netherlands, and it got worse. Seven drivers had licenses revoked, including rapper Xzibit, and 70 cars were ticketed by police in Germany. And that’s pretty hard to do in Germany where law enforcement tends to be far more lenient regarding speeding. Then tragedy struck.
A car driven by Matthew McConville and Nick Morley, a Tech Art Porsche 911 turbo, hit a VW Golf, and a husband and wife were both killed. That one, of course, ended up in court with the driver being accused of driving at speeds in excess of 100 mph. Despite this horrific event, the rally continued, but, because of lack of enthusiasm and negative publicity was cancelled a few days later.
In 2008, the rally made a comeback to celebrate its 10th anniversary, with the most elaborate route and the most expensive entry fee. Cooper wanted a huge event, and he got it. For a $120,000 entry fee, drivers began in the U.S., going from there to China and finishing at the Beijing Olympics. One notable stop was in North Korea where the entrants caught the “Mass Games,” North Korea’s answer to the Olympics. Celebrity entrants included Joel McHale, David Hasselhoff, and John Mayer.
With more publicity and more celebrity participation, the cars that have been entered have become wilder in design.
Tony Hawk and his A-team entered several versions of the Batmobile, including a car called the Tumbler and the InCENArator (a car that actually began as a Corvette but that was certainly unrecognizable as that, when it had been re-designed into a sci-fi icon). Cooper himself, in 2010 drove a Morgan Aeromax. And, at the 2010 rally, Cooper set up a “car park” in Times Square, so that the public could view the cars up close and personal. In 2013, Josh Cartu, Canadian entrepreneur and owner of several software and media projects and companies, joined the rally. Always being a facing aficionado, he had previously been invited to join a racing team and train under Amato Ferrari. Cartu participated in both the 2013 and 2014 rallies and will return again in 2016, with his famous Team Wolfpack which received the “Best Team” award in the 2014 rally.
Rally 2014 began in Miami Florida and ended its U.S. leg in New York City. Then it was over to Stockholm to tour Europe and finish in Ibiza. The cost had been reduced, only a mere $70,000 to enter, with an option to take only the U.S. leg of the journey for $20,000. The Batman Tumbler returned, along with a Purrari 458 with a cat theme driven by Tory Belleci of Myth Busters.
Gumball 2015 had its opening day in Stockholm last May, with 100 cars entered. They drove from Stockholm to Oslo, to Copenhagen and then to Amsterdam. From there, entrants boarded Gumball planes for the U.S. Their cars were flown on Gumball Air (yes, there is a fleet of private planes for this) to Reno, Nevada, for a drive to San Francisco and then to Los Angeles. The final leg was Los Angeles to Las Vegas where the party of all parties was held.
The 2016 rally will begin in Dublin and travel across Ireland, Northern Ireland, The UK, France, Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and finally end in Istanbul. It is scheduled to begin on April 30.
If you have the entry fee, around $100,000, feel free to submit your entry. The entry process is not too difficult. Here is all you need to do:
- Access the Gumball website (www.gumball3000.com)
- Fill out the application form – your personal information, full details about the car you will be driving
- State your reason for entering and any charity you are supporting by your entry.
- Pay your entry fee.
- You do have to have a teammate
- You are responsible for getting yourself and your car to the start point.
- You are responsible for making sure that you have the legal right to drive in every country on the route, that you have valid insurance for driving in foreign countries. Most domestic insurance companies will provide a rider for the event, although it will be costly. But what’s a few thousand more when you’ve already paid that entry fee? Most countries allow temporary registrations of foreign vehicles, but you will need to get these and show proof.