2015 Gumball 3000 Rally: Legends, Parties and Harsh Realities

When Maximillion Cooper initially started the Gumball 3000 Rally, I don’t think he grasped how big it would get over the years. The growth of his project was done in incremental steps, small ones, the size a baby would make to be absolutely sincere.
Anastasia Date / Asian Date Camaro for 2015 Gumball 3000 Rally 133 photos
It all started in 1999 and back then it was a humble endeavor to cover 3,000 miles (approx. 4,800 km) on public roads with some close friends. The initial run saw 50 of Max’s friends go from London to Rimini and back, covering the distance that’s mentioned in the name of the event. For the next few years, the start was hosted by London and various stars joined the line-up.

For example, the parties that later on became the stuff of legend, were spiced with various celebrities like Kate Moss, Guy Ritchie and Dannii Minogue at the very first edition. Therefore, we have a sneaky suspicion that Cooper had an idea of how to market his event and how to gain attention.

Over the years more and more people, VIPs, film stars and so on became attracted to the Gumball Rally and it steadily grew in size and eventually moved from London. That’s to say that the starting line was no longer mandatory to be in the capital city of the UK.

That being said, the first time the ‘race’ started outside the UK was in the US, at New York and saw the contestants go all the way to the other coast, in Los Angeles, at the Playboy Mansion to be more precise.

This year we actually traveled to Stockholm to take part in all the madness and see for ourselves if the legends, myths and, most of all, parties could actually live up to our expectations.

The 2015 Gumball 3000 Rally took place from the capital of Sweden to Las Vegas, Nevada this year and crossed through Oslo, Norway, Copenhagen, Denmark and Amsterdam, Holland for the European leg. Then, the cars were flown to the US in a private charter and landed in Reno only to make their way to San Francisco, Los Angeles and to the finish line in Nevada.

As we’ve come to find out, it’s also the biggest one ever put together with 80 participants in properly dressed-up cars and around 50 extra support cars that are joined by media representatives and so on.

How does it all work?

In order to take place in what seems like a good wonderful time at first, you need to pay an entry fee. It’s not always disclosed and an official number is basically never given away by the organizers. However, we found that the fee for this year was £45,000 ($68,800 / €62,600 at today’s exchange rates) and that is supposed to cover the hotel rooms, tolls, dinners and some of the parties organized along the way.

Contrary to what people believe, not everything is paid for and drivers still have to pay for a variety of things, not that it matters since most of them are wealthy.

For example, I got to meet up with extremely fun and outgoing people that have so much money they could actually buy the entire event if they wanted to. However, they were still modest and down to earth guys that you wouldn’t have guessed in a million years possess such great wealth.

On the other hand, there are other people that feel like Gods just because some people give them attention and say hello to them in the hotel lobby. That’s the kind that is very rare though and I was thankful for that.

For most of the time, the contestants are extremely friendly, chatty and want to know as much as possible about you and your car. That’s especially true if you drive something that’s not stock. It’s one of the reasons why most people go for either psychedelic wraps or some out of this world body kits.

A couple of examples that you could spot in this regard on the starting grid of this year were Jon Olsson’s Audi RS6 that had an DTM widebody kit and made around 1,000 HP on race fuel, a Liberty Walk Ferrari 458 and two old-school muscle cars from Teams AnastasiaDate / AsianDate that were our sponsors during this trip.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to ride in a convoy that is made up of plenty of Porsche 911 Turbo S models and Ferrari 458s but at one point, there were so many of them (I actually counted ten 458s) that they just became bland. Nobody was paying attention to them anymore.

On the other hand, having the only old muscle cars in the game was a real crowd pleaser and our team was welcomed with open arms wherever we went.

One big happy family

Another thing I didn’t expect was the huge amount of muscle car fans Scandinavia has. Whether we were in Sweden, Norway or Denmark, we were admired by people of all ages and social status. At one point, we even saw a whole family on the roof of an old Pajero on the side of the road, in the rain, waving the convoy as we passed them. To get a better idea of what we were looking at, you should know that the son was only about 3 years old and he was smiling at us despite the pouring rain outside.

That’s what attracts people to Gumball actually. It’s the fact that it all feels like a great family. Most of the people in it have done it before and they know each other from the previous years. Once the meet up at the starting line, conversations can last for hours and they usually greet with long hugs, just like you would if you’d see your long lost brother after a one-year hiatus.

That feeling of belonging in one place then gets combined with the attention that everyone gets over the course of a week. You don’t even have to be a celebrity because you will become one.

People that know about Gumball will want to take a picture with you, no matter who you are, it’s enough to be part of the event and wear one of those fancy jackets and you’ll get all the attention you can possibly want. My suspicion is that some people actually do it for this sole purpose, so that they can feel how it is like to be a superstar.

And wherever you go, you get the VIP treatment. The parties, the restaurants and even on the road, everyone will treat you like royalty without even knowing who you are. It’s enough to be part of the Gumball family and you’ll be all set.

As far as the parties go, it’s a bit harder to confirm the legends around them. I took part in all of the European leg parties and I can sincerely say that they are not as wild as they seem at first.

Anything 'special' to report?

Sure, there is plenty of booze and since you get to mingle with the locals, picking up girls/guys is not a hard thing to do due to your recent VIP status but other than that, I didn’t get to see anything out of the ordinary at the parties. As for the after parties... well, that’s a completely different story.

That’s where things usually get out of hand; when a sheik or a wealthy businessman invites you over to his house after the club closes, to have a more private time. I can’t get into details because what happens in a man’s house is his own private business. However, you really need to know people to get invited over and that requires at least a veteran status amongst the crowd.

Another upside to the parties are the special guests. You get to party with people like Afrojack, Deadmau5 and Bun B at these private parties and that’s definitely an upside. Then again, you could just buy a VIP ticket to one of their concerts and get a similar treatment, taking pictures with them and shaking hands. Maybe I’m just not that much of a party animal.

At the same time, I was rather disappointed in how things unfolded. Call me naive but I expected the people driving these supercars to be a lot more eccentric. Instead, during my whole trip, I never got to see anyone go wild with his/her car. Most people stuck to speed limits, even though by the first day six people had lost their licenses in Scandinavia. Then again, seeing just how strict Swedes, Norwegians and Danes are about speed limits, that was no surprise.

However, I expected at least some of them to do at least some burnouts on the many closed strips we had at our disposal. Nothing like that happened, at least not in my presence. There was a slight attempt from a Ferrari 458 from Team Betsafe when it entered the Amsterdam Arena but other than that, it was actually a boring proposition in this regard.

What about downsides?

There are even more downsides if you will. The schedule is pretty hectic and covering 3,000 miles (4,800 km) in just 7 to 8 days is not for the faint-hearted. I’ve sincerely never been so exhausted in my life and I only took part in the European Leg.

Each day you get up early in the morning so that you can make it to the starting line in time. Depending on how much you have to travel that particular day, you need to get up at either 6 or 7 AM to have breakfast and then head down to the car. Then you get to drive for five or six hours to the first checkpoint where you have lunch and then continue driving to the next city.

Usually checkpoints are in unique locations, hand-picked by Maximillion to make sure everyone has a good time. For example, we stopped at a small castle in Sweden, at the Koenigsegg factory and were supposed to stop at Brabus as well. Unfortunately, there are so many people to manage and so many things that can go wrong that not all checkpoints can be reached in time.

Then there are delays, traffic, and enthusiastic people wanting to talk to you so you usually get to check in at the hotel late at night, way past the moment you were supposed to. Have dinner at 10 PM and then head back to your room so that you can get ready for the party because every night people in the Gumball 3000 Rally have to party.

If you’re careful enough and want to pace yourself, you’ll probably be heading to the hotel at around 2-3 AM so that you can catch 3 or 4 hours of sleep before heading out again. See why I’m saying it’s tiring? And it’s not just me. After two or three days, everyone I was talking to said the same thing.

Would I do it again?

Heel yes. It’s all worth it though. Let’s say that you don’t sleep for a week straight, right? So what? You’ve got all the time in the world to catch up on your sleep later and most people know that but the Gumball takes place only once a year and it’s worth the effort.

Where else will you get not only to meet people with unique cars but also party with them and bond a relationship that can last over the years? I got to meet the owner of one of the very few Lamborghini LM002 SUVs and a man that actually owned a Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa that was worth a fortune.

I got to learn that the Lambo was not as expensive as some might believe and that the Ferrari was going to get a new engine pretty soon and that it was actually made of a bunch of parts from other models and that it was a real thrill to drive it.

Most of all, I got to ride in a 1969 Camaro Z28 with a 383 cubic inch (6.2-liter) stroked engine that sounded like the hounds of hell when revved. I got to experience what a real old-school muscle car means and how hard it is to drive it compared to modern alternatives but most of all, I got to witness and live the VIP experience that the Gumball 3000 Rally offers and all the effort was worth it.

Would I go for another round? As I said,  Iin a heartbeat. It is now utterly clear to me why you’ll always find people in the Rally that have done it five or six times in a row. This is addictive!
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