Gumball 3000

two-lane blacktop

The Gumball 3000 is an annual British 3,000-mile international road rally which takes place on public roads, with a different route around the world each year. Founded in 1999 by British entrepreneur Maximillion Cooper, it sees an annual entry of 120 cars, which are mostly exotic and powerful sports cars. However, more unusual entries (such as police cars and camper-vans) have been seen.

The Rally is not a serious race in the traditional sense of rally races – there are no prizes for being fastest or official timekeeping of any sort. Organizers emphasize that it is a road trip adventure and not a race. The accolade of ‘Spirit of the Gumball’ Trophy is awarded to the driver(s) each year that embody the fun freedom of spirit and adventure that the event strives for. It is often awarded to the drivers of the vehicle that has perhaps been regarded as an ‘underdog’ (such as the Citroen 2CV, a Ford Transit ice-cream van, or 1963 VW Campervan) – or to the participants that have completed the 3000 miles against all odds, such as fixing their broken vehicle, or getting lost en route.

Often compared to the 1980s ‘Cannonball Run’ films, starring Burt Reynolds, the Gumball 3000 is actually not influenced by these or the stories that gave rise to those movies, but instead draws inspiration from movies such as ‘Two-Lane Blacktop,’ ‘Vanishing Point,’ ‘Bullitt,’ and ‘Le Mans.’ However, there was a 1976 movie called ‘The Gumball Rally’ featuring a 3000-mile race across America with exotic cars and international drivers on public roads that may be the source of the name of the race. The original rally featured 55 of Cooper’s friends, and traveled from London, to Rimini, Italy and back, passing through Paris, with a stop at the Chateau d’Esclimont.

Lapping the Le Mans race circuit, a checkpoint followed at the Mas du Clos Ferrari Museum, before moving on to Monaco Grand Prix circuit in Monaco, the Ferrari Factory in Maranello, the Ambras Palace in Austria, and the Hockenheim Grand Prix Circuit in Germany before returning to London to cross the finish line on Park Lane. The winner drove a 1963 Jaguar E-Type. Other drivers included actors Billy Zane in a 1965 Aston Martin DB5, Jason Priestley in a Lotus Esprit V8, and Dannii Minogue in a Porsche Boxster. Just like in the ‘The Cannonball Run,’ where a police car joins the wacky racers, entrepreneur Justin Etzin and actress Alexandra Aitken drove an original British police car in the rally, borrowed from the British TV show ‘The Bill.’ The couple won the prize for the most original car.

In 2000, the second rally began at Marble Arch in London and continued to Stansted Airport where all the cars and entrants were airlifted to a private airport in Spain. The rally then progressed through Europe via Bilbao, Cannes, Milan, Hotel Bühlerhöhe Castle near Baden-Baden, the Nürburgring GP circuit and Hamburg, before returning to London. Notable entrants included drum and bass legend and James Bond villain, Goldie, in an Aston Martin V8; ‘It-girl’ Tara Palmer-Tomkinson in a Jaguar XK8; Great Train Robber Bruce Reynolds in a Bentley; the indie band Placebo in a Lagonda; the Happy Mondays all crammed into a 2+2 Jaguar; and Maximillion Cooper in the famous Bentley Arnage 1WO.

The third rally, held in 2001, featured 106 cars, including Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O and Chris Pontius, the hosts of Jackass, driving a 1989 Jaguar XJ6; F1 World champion Damon Hill driving a Lamborghini; comedian Vic Reeves in a Mercedes-AMG; Lord Montagu of Beaulieu in a Blower Bentley, entrepreneurs Justin Etzin and Lord Edward Spencer Churchill in a Police Range Rover; and Maximillion Cooper in an original Shelby Cobra. The rally progressed from Hyde Park Corner in London to Berlin, Malbork, Vilnius, Saint Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, and Copenhagen before returning to London. Kim Dotcom finished first in his Mercedes Brabus SV12 Megacar.

The fourth rally was held in 2002, the first to be held outside of Europe. Beginning in New York and finishing at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, the rally passed through a checkpoint at the White House in Washington DC before stopping in Memphis, Tennessee for lunch in Elvis Presley’s Mansion, Graceland. After receiving a Dallas Cowboys welcome in Texas, stops were made at the Cadillac Ranch; Santa Ana, New Mexico; the Grand Canyon; and Las Vegas, Nevada before the final stop at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills where Hugh Hefner and Playmates awarded trophies. Entering the contest were 175 cars, including a 1960s Corvette painted in the Stars and Stripes that received an award for best car, and the 1959 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder similar to one used in the movie ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ that was bought at a cost of over $1 million just to take part in the Gumball. Fashion designer Donna Karan, supermodel Jodie Kidd, models Amy Wesson and Rachel Hunter, entrepreneur Justin Etzin and actor Matthew McConaughey were among the participants.

The fifth rally was held in 2003, with more than 100 cars beginning in San Francisco with a finish line in Miami. The rally passed through Reno, Nevada; Las Vegas; Tucson, Arizona; White Sands, New Mexico; San Antonio, Texas; Houston, Texas; and New Orleans, Louisiana. Featured entrants included Jackass’ Ryan Dunn racing a rental car alongside skateboard legends Tony Hawk and Bam Margera in a Dodge Viper, Bucky Lasek, Motocross World champions Travis Pastrana and Carey Hart, and supermodel Jodie Kidd. Cars included a mix of Ferrari F50s and 360s, Lamborghini Murcielagos, a Koenigsegg CC and Jesse James’ customized VW Eurovan. Alex Roy and Dave Maher won the Gumball Spirit Trophy in his Team Polizei BMW M5, outfitted with German Police equipment. ‘Top Gear’ reported that the Koenigsegg CC8S holds the fastest speeding ticket in the world, which allegedly occurred in Texas. It was supposedly 242 mph in a 75-mph zone.

The sixth rally was held in 2004 in Europe, fielding 192 cars. The rally began at the Eiffel Tower in Paris and transitioned to Biarritz, Madrid, and Marbella before crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Africa. In Marrakech, Morocco, entrants were guests of the King before returning to Spain for the Barcelona Grand Prix and finishing at Cannes for the film festival. Former boxing world champion Chris Eubank drove a truck, while Adrien Brody favored a Porsche, the ‘Ai Ya’ Boys rented a Winnebago RV, and Rob Dyrdek and Big Black drove the rally in a rental car.

The seventh rally originated at Trafalgar Square in 2005, and progressed 3000 miles from London to Brussels, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and onto to Dubrovnik in Croatia. The cars then were transported by ferry to Bari, Italy, followed by a transit of the Targa Florio circuit in Sicily, before heading north to Rome and Florence. The finish line was in Monaco’s Casino Square prior to the F1 Grand Prix. Participants included Daryl Hannah, rock stars and supermodels driving vehicles ranging from the Dukes of Hazzard General Lee to Ferrari Enzos and Mercedes-Benz SLRs.

The 2006 rally was the most ambitious of any Gumball 3000 race, starting in London and finishing in Los Angeles just 8 days later. The organizers flew all 120 cars from Europe to Asia and on to the USA in three Antonov An-124’s and an Icelandair passenger Boeing 757. The rally began in Pall Mall, London, and continued on to Vienna, Budapest, and Belgrade. The drivers then boarded a plane in Serbia and landed in Thailand for the rally’s second leg between Phuket and Bangkok. The final leg occurred in the United States between Salt Lake City to Los Angeles, via Las Vegas, where Snoop Dogg performed live at the Gumball party. Entrants included Jackass stars Ryan Dunn and Bam Margera, driving Margera’s Billy Idol-customized Lamborghini Gallardo; Tony Hawk, Mike Vallely, and Rooftop Escamilla in a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8; blink-182’s Travis Barker drove his Rolls Royce Phantom with Swizz Beatz; Dirty Sanchez used a Japan-Tuning style Nissan 180SX; Dan Joyce, Matthew Pritchard, and ‘Love Actually’ star Martine McCutcheon drove a pink Range Rover; and American television host Matt Johnston drove his custom 2006 Dodge Charger.

The 2007 route was scheduled to travel from London to Istanbul, via Amsterdam, Munich, Tirana, Dubrovnik, and Athens. Over 100 contestants were scheduled to drive through 16 countries in 8 days. The entrance fee for the 2007 rally was GB£28,000 (US$55,060) for first-time drivers. Upon arrival in the Netherlands, the Dutch police met the participants with 14 police cars and 7 unmarked cars. Seven drivers including rapper Xzibit lost their driver’s licenses for speeding 50 km/h over the legal limit and two cars were confiscated. The next day, the German police escorted all vehicles to the Frankfurt airport where the cars and participants were flying to Turkey. The participants were flown to Istanbul, but the Antonov planes carrying their vehicles were diverted to Athens. Later, a traffic accident occurred near the town of Struga, Republic of Macedonia.

The Techart Porsche 911 Turbo of Nick Morley and Matthew McConville hit an oncoming Volkswagen Golf; in court, the prosecution alleged a speed of 161 km/h. According to media reports, they fled in a BMW M6 with Russian plates to a nearby border post, where they were arrested by the police. The 67-year-old driver of the other vehicle, Vladimir Chepunjoski, died on his way to the hospital, and his wife, Margarita, died in hospital. The organizers initially continued the rally despite the incident, but eventually the decision to cancel the remainder of the rally was made. The subsequent court hearing found Morley guilty and convicted of ‘endangering traffic, leading to death’ and was released from custody after receiving a two-year suspended sentence.

The 2008 10th Anniversary Gumball 3000 Rally took place in August. Cars which neutralized their carbon emissions were preferred and proof was required. The entry fee was £60,000 ($120,000US). The start line was in San Francisco, and proceeded through checkpoints in Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, a flight to Nanjing (with drivers stopping over in Pyongyang), Shanghai, and finally Beijing during the 2008 Olympic Games. The 2009 event was a ‘Coast to Coast’ road trip adventure from Los Angeles to Miami.

The rally officially partnered with the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit organization benefiting and raising awareness for the needs of severely injured United States Service men and women. The 2010 event traveled between London and New York, taking in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Boston, Quebec City, Toronto, and Niagara Falls. The event featured professional skateboarder Tony Hawk in the ‘A-Team’ van, as used in the 2010 movie. Other celebrity participants included rapper Xzibit in a Porsche Cayenne and Eve in a Bentley Continental GT. Actor Idris Elba took part in an Aston Martin DB9. Michael Madsen quit the rally after he was stopped by the police for speeding. The 2011 rally went from London to Istanbul in 7 days, via Paris, Barcelona, Cannes Film Festival, The Monaco Grand Prix,Venice, Belgrade, Sofia, and Istanbul.


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