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Gumball 3000 Rally: The Fastest Car Race in Europe

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Rally Racing Topics:  Gumball 3000

Gumball 3000 Rally: The Fastest Car Race in Europe

Bronwen Elisabeth Roberts
May 11, 2006

The Gumball 3000 Rally is renowned as the fastest and most hazardous race around Europe. Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porches, and Bentleys hurtle through glamorous places like Cannes, Madrid, Marbella and Casablanca leaving startled locals in their wake. It’s a once a year, six-day, 3000-mile grand spree.

A Road-Trip for Players
This is the playground of playboys, the jet-set, and trust-fund kids who have time and money on their hands, and a deep desire to push things to the ultimate limit. The entry fee is about $70 000 and the bare minimum in expenses will make most millionaires feel the pinch. The real players can spend in the region of $250 000 to $1 million for their cars: vehicles in a support capacity, and crews.

Legendary Parties
For this inordinate amount of money, participants get to exist in a high-octane universe where the whole point is to drive as fast as you can; party hard at five-star hotels and dodgy/chic nightclubs; and be impervious to the threat of death. At each check point there is a sleek new venue with a party to embrace. No one sleeps. The parties are notorious and groupies fly in from various locations just to attend the revelry. It’s a 6-day pleasure dome with players living in a proximic bubble: no one is really accountable for their actions. They play a ‘catch me if you can’ game with the local police and it’s not unusual for one person to get up to 20 speeding tickets per day. But most towns welcome the action and cheer them on from the sidelines. When Gumballers come to town: it’s the party of the year.

The Origins of the Gumball A 1960s coast-to-coast road trip in homage to the late Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, who, three decades earlier, had driven a Cadillac from San Diego to New York in seven days, 11 hours, and 52 minutes. He made a subsequent cross-country trip in 53 hours 30 minutes, but by the late 1970s that time was almost cut in half. More illegitimate road races popped up in the 1970s and 80s, and Hollywood ran with the trend creating films such as The Gumball Rally (1976) and Cannonball run (1981).

A Turbulent History
The first Gumball was a low-key event. Only 55 cars took part and everyone knew one another. The second, with 85 cars, began in London and went to Spain, France, Italy, and Germany. There were two accidents, a $12.000 fine for overtaking a police cruiser, and a $19 000 bar bill. The third Gumball, from London to Russia and back was off the radar. There were 106 carjackings, crashes, and arrests. All these shenanigans generated great publicity on MTV, and lad magazines that like to fuel any kind of testosterone activity. The Gumball was made.

The fifth Gumball 3000 started in San Francisco and finished in Miami. The sixth annual Gumball 3000 from Paris, headed for Cannes via Madrid, Marbella, and Casablanca. The whole operation is disorganized by design. Drivers have no idea where they’re going until they get a route card at the next check point where thousands of people cheer them on; fuelling the testosterone levels, as lawyers, bankers, oilman and millionaires head toward their next speeding ticket and the thrill of being arrested.

The Gumball 3000, 2006
The eighth annual Gumball 3000 Rally was from 29th April to 7th May taking the 120 participants through 3 continents in 8 days. The Event followed a 3 stage, 3000 mile driving route that incorporated Europe, Asia and the United States. Stage 1 Europe - London (UK) to Belgrade (Serbia). Cars and participants then flown to Malaysia. Stage 2 Asia - Malaysia to Bangkok (Thailand). Cars and participants then flown across the pacific to the USA. Stage 3 Salt Lake City - (USA) to Los Angeles (USA) via Las Vegas.

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