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ORAC
23rd Apr 2003, 21:51
LA Times - Money, Speed Fuel Vroom Mates' Cross-Country Excesses (http://www.latimes.com/la-me-gumball23apr23,1,1956473.story)

They drove them like they stole them.

A coast-to-coast rally started with the smell of money and burning rubber as more than 140 Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bentleys and other exotic cars peeled out of the parking lot of San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel last week. Within minutes, dozens of 911 calls flooded into California Highway Patrol dispatchers from frightened commuters reporting crazed drivers.

When the first competitors reached the finish line of the Gumball Rally in Miami on Tuesday night, they had racked up more than 500 traffic citations and countless stories of excessive speed. The rally is billed as a leisurely six-day drive across the continent. Organizers have repeatedly insisted that the annual event is not a race. However, they've also said it can't be helped if some participants find speed limits too confining for their dream machines as they scream across the countryside. Drivers in the race said at least one participant had accumulated $10,000 in fines and bail postings before reaching Louisiana. Another entrant had been cited for going nearly four times the speed limit 210 mph in his 655-horsepower Koenigsegg in Texas, said racer Brian Kelley of Chicago.

And with the race running through several party towns like Las Vegas and New Orleans, participants said the nighttime celebrations were also on the excessive side. "Here's how it goes every night," said racer Bo Bridges, 28, a Hermosa Beach photographer. "They go to the bars until they close, then they clean out the mini-bars, and then they find the nudie bars. Whatever's open, they find it."

The race got off to a roaring start Thursday. "We had reports of BMWs and Porsches going 100 mph on the Oakland Bay Bridge," said Sgt. Wayne Ziese of the California Highway Patrol. "It's dangerous stuff. The speed limit is 50 mph on the bridge, and they were going twice that." Other cars were seen weaving in and out of traffic on Interstate 80 and using the shoulder to get around traffic. The CHP cited five drivers and impounded five cars: three BMWs, a Mercedes and a Porsche. The CHP also received a report that a Ferrari had spun out in the snow trying to cross Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada.

Ziese said the CHP did not know about the race until the cars hit the streets. Organizers attempted to keep the route secret until the race began. Police in several other states reported they were caught off guard.

In Las Vegas, several motorists called the Nevada Highway Patrol to report two Lamborghinis racing two Porsches on a local highway.

The Arizona Highway Patrol issued 25 to 35 tickets to people in the rally, with several citations being handed out soon after the cars crossed Hoover Dam into the state.

In Alabama on Tuesday, a state trooper pulled over a speeding Porsche and then stood on the side of the road helplessly as other exotic cars blew past, said Dorris Teague, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Public Safety.

"If you have trouble hearing me, it's because there's a police helicopter hovering over us," said Kelley, 25, as he sped through Alabama in his Audi S4 on Tuesday. Kelley was pulled over two blocks from the starting line in San Francisco for going 55 mph in a 25 mph zone.

Far from slowing them down, the tickets are a badge of honor for some racers, who have taped them to their car windows.

Kelley said two women were pulled over in Texas for speeding in a Ferrari 575 Maranello. When state troopers approached the car, they found the women were topless. The officers, according to Kelley's account, then called for backup and posed for photos with the competitors before allowing them to leave. Officials with the Texas Highway Patrol could not confirm the story, but did say that driving topless in Texas is legal.

The rally has been around in one form or another since the 1960s and was made famous in two films that have become cult favorites of car enthusiasts, "The Gumball Rally" in 1976 and "The Cannonball Run" in 1981. The race was revived in 1999 by a wealthy Briton named Maximillian Cooper, who has said he wanted to put together a soiree for 50 of his friends. This year, 148 racers are competing. For the most part, the rally attracts wealthy Europeans willing to pay the entry fee of $16,500, plus another $15,000 to $20,000 to have their cars ferried by plane to North America provided that Cooper accepts their application to enter the event.

Bridges, the Hermosa Beach man, is driving the slowest vehicle in the field, a Volkswagen Eurovan sponsored by the beverage company Yoo-hoo. He described the race as a 3,000-mile high-speed party. "Most of these guys are from Europe," said Bridges. "They get tagged at 150 mph, they go to jail and get their mug shots, then post bail. They don't care. They're laughing about it in the hotel that night."

Between San Francisco and Pensacola, Fla., Bridges was pulled over four times and received one ticket for going "about 120" mph in the Nevada desert. He voiced concern that the van begins shaking violently at speeds over 90.

Bridges said he began the race with five co-drivers, but had lost them all by Florida. A husband-and-wife team were left behind in Reno after they got into a protracted argument. Another "annoying" co-driver was involuntarily dropped off at a checkpoint in the New Mexico desert. The last two teammates were apparently victims of having too much of everything on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

Many car enthusiasts around the world tried to follow the Gumball Rally over the Internet, but accounts were hard to find apparently because participants found better things to do at night than sit in front of computers and file dispatches.

The racers were well-behaved in San Francisco before the Gumball started last week. "There were an exceptional amount of good-looking people in the group," said Samara Diapoulos, the Fairmont Hotel's spokeswoman.

Six days later, employees at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Miami prepared for the racers to pull past the finish line.

Late Tuesday, the race appeared to be ending as it began: Two contestants in Porsches were thrown out of the Miami hotel for doing doughnuts in the parking lot.

The rally will end on a sour note for valets at the hotel. They were told by management that Gumballers would park their own vehicles.

LordGrumpy
24th Apr 2003, 04:54
Well I'd like to join them, but The Metro's going to the breakers yard!

T_richard
24th Apr 2003, 11:36
Wouldn't it be cool to be in that race?:O

Konkordski
24th Apr 2003, 17:59
Nah - just a small pen!s compensation event for rich [email protected]

eal401
24th Apr 2003, 20:33
My sentiments exactly Konkordski!

The faster the car, the smaller the brain.....not to mention other body parts!

Lukeafb1
24th Apr 2003, 20:46
Sorry Eal401, wrong on both counts!

Did the last one and [email protected]@ered the Lambo's suspension.:ok:

ComJam
25th Apr 2003, 05:25
Konkordski

Get a decent job, buy a decent car and join the rest of us who enjoy owning something a bit special ;)

Cheers

BMW M3 Evolution, thanks for asking :)

Ozzy
25th Apr 2003, 05:30
Was in New Orleans when the race came roaring up Bourbon Street; what an effing brilliant spectacle. They were being followed by a Humvee H2 - looked like it belonged to a radio station. A bloke was hanging out the window filming the ride with a commercial quality video cam. What a racket tho'!!

Ozzy

Dogma
20th May 2003, 19:52
Konkordski, eal401,

You should have worked harder at school!

SL55 AMG:E

Kwasi_Mensa
20th May 2003, 20:33
Konkordski, Eal401; a classic example of envy. Talking about body parts, have a look at the stunners owing big body parts that usually swarm these events. Seems they don't have any problems with the contenders anatomy?

X5 :ok: