Road Rallies - Public Motorsport or Driving Fun Frenzy?

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Greek Mythology teaches us that Zeus was the supreme god, the protector and ruler of humankind, the dispenser of good and evil and the god of weather and atmospheric phenomena. If you ask us, the modern times equivalent of Zeus is non other than... Motorsport. This is every automotive aficionado's supreme deity.

However, most of can just sit here on Earth and witness the great feats that take place in automotive races. The blistering start, the dazzling overtaking, the bewildering sound, the sight of glowing brake discs, everything about Motorsport is pure fantasy.

And this is why mortals need to get in touch with this world. Fortunately, there is a pathway that allows everyday drivers to become a part of this supreme car activity. To enter this path, we have to return to the roots of Motorsport.

However, before we start our virtual journey, we have to mention that Motorsport, being the absolute ruler, has multiple faces. Now, as we are writing this story, we are are blinded by rallies, so we shall only refer to them.

Now let’s get things even straighter: we won’t be flying through the woods at over 200 km/h (124 mph) in a World Rally Car racer, as this would require a budget that could give you a heart attack. Like we said, we’ll go back to the first steps of rallying in order to enter this world.

No, we’re not proposing a trip in the time machine. Instead, we are referring to the fact that rallies started out in life as road rallies. Yes, the competitions that gave birth to monsters such as the 80s’ B Group racecars appeared as competitions that took place on public roads.

Of course, it quickly became obvious that this toys for big boys needed a place of their own in order to at least have a slight connection with the “safety first” slogan. Naturally, the events started moving from the road your granny uses for shopping to the one wolves use for chasing their pray, a transition that eventually led to the birth of stage rallying.
Thus, the road rallies remained a series of events dedicated to the not-so-general members of the general public - people who just want to get in a car and see if they can floor it “better” than others.

And this is where things become a bit complicated - we are talking about “complications” in a good way, think about this as you would when contemplating an engine that uses both turbocharging and supercharging.

You, see, there are many kinds of rallying events open to the public, ranging from strict, timed races that are focused an navigation and driving techniques to lifestyle events that are all about attitude.

The first require a technical character, for both the driver and the co-driver, as well as two pairs of well-trained eyes - most of these events take place at night, in order for the contenders to encounter less (read zero) traffic. As for the lifestyle ones, these are all about emotions. Basically, it’s a race between the various ingredients of this cocktail, such as time spent behind the wheel and moments on the dance floors.

We have to mention that organizers of these events make it clear it’s all about the experience, not the times, which sometimes aren’t even recorded. A rally without timekeeping? This seems interesting....

Of course, the first name that comes to mind when thinking about this category of rallying is the Gumball 3,000. The name might ring a bell for movie lovers, who might recall the 1976 Gumball Rally picture, which gave us an interesting perspective on an even more interesting event, a 3000-mile race across the USA.

While the aforementioned trip was all fictional, the actual Gumball rally really puts cars supercars, hypercars and actually any kind of fast machines on the road.

It all started in 1999, when Maximillion Cooper, a guy that seems to have found an interesting personal meaning for the “work hard, play hard” phrase, gathered 55 friends with cars ranging from the banal Ferraris to a borrowed police car, eating up 3,000 miles of European roads at speeds that transformed the group into the kind of “hate them or love them” people.

The spirit of Gumball (pun intended - this is a prize, awarded to the most special contender) is pretty simple: you take a bunch of ridiculously fast vehicles, joined by wacky pieces of motoring, such as an ice cream van, drive them using the “pedal to the metal” rule for 3,000 miles and only make stops to attend some of the wildest parties on Earth.

2002 saw the rally fly to the US. By the time, the whole thing had become more than famous, so it was attended by celebrities such as Damon Hill, Johnny Knoxville and Lord Edward Spencer Churchill. Why did the whole feat use the snowball effect? Well, just naming a few details of the 2002 run should be enough: Start: New York, Finish: Playboy Mansion, Stops: the White House, Las Vegas and others.

Another important year for the Gumball was 2006, when all 120 participating vehicles were flown from Europe to Asia and subsequently to the USA. Unfortunately, next year’s rally came to a bloody end, as one of the participants, who was driving a Techart Porsche 911 Turbo had an accident with a Volkswagen Golf driven by a couple from the Republic of Macedonia, with the unfortunate event leading to the death of the Golf’s passengers.

This year’s event saw participants travel from London to Istanbul in one week, with the stops including high class events, such as the Cannes Film Festival.

As you can imagine, all kind of stunts have been pulled by participants over the years, ranging from Alex Roy’s idea of “camouflaging” his BMW M5 into a police car, in order to trick other participants, to hardcore sexual jokes that were taken from the late-night parties out into the race.

Next year’s edition will run from New York to Los Angeles, being scheduled to take place between May 25 and 31. Oh, and there’s one more thing - the entry fee for this year’s event was of GBP25,000 (EUR29,000 or $40,000).

Don’t worry, you don’t need a bank account with an infinity of “1”s and “0”s, to be able to have this kind of motorized fun. So, how can you enter such a group of “travelers” without spending the equivalent of a brand new hot hatch?

Well, there are always alternatives like the Mongol rally, which brings the same level of fun, but in a totally different way. The idea behind this event is to cover 10,000 miles /16,000 km “unprepared, ill-advised and with no idea of what might happen”. And this is not all. The journey should be undertaken in city cars that are usually driven by grandmothers.

This has to be a perfect recipe for adventure and we are curious to see the actual results, as this year’s event is taking place as you are reading this. The parties? of course they’re included.

The idea is simple: if you love driving and want to turn it into an adventure, it’s really not difficult at all to find hundreds of people like you, get together in a more or less organized form, and storm the roads of the world. There is only one rule: money is no object - you’ll get the same level of intensity, albeit with an extremely different flavor, doing 120 mph going downhill in a second hand Nissan Micra as you would flooring a Nissan GT-R while streetracing a Porsche 911 Turbo - please excuse the cliche, but we're pretty sure the owners of these cars really want to find out which is faster in an empirical way.

As for the partying side of the deal, we’ll quote Louis Armstrong: “a kiss is just a kiss”.
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About the author: Andrei Tutu
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In his quest to bring you the most impressive automotive creations, Andrei relies on learning as a superpower. There's quite a bit of room in the garage that is this aficionado's heart, so factory-condition classics and widebody contraptions with turbos poking through the hood can peacefully coexist.
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