By Dave Sweetman
Most everyone has read about or seen the movies about the Gumball rallies. Slightly crazy people who have cool cars and the need to chase each other around the world in the hopes of 1) Winning a trophy; 2) Not crashing; and 3) Not going to jail. I have personally witnessed participants doing all of the above.
It should be understood that in the case of the Gumball 3000 events, the idea is to be a rally and not a race. The perfect scores between timed checkpoints over several days make the entrants vie for the prizes and bragging rights. Some drivers, however, forget a few of the rules and have been known to show off a bit. Sometimes it costs them points; others lose money to the local magistrate for speeding.
I was fortunate to have been a chase truck for the Gumball 3000, and I can honestly say that I never broke any speed limit laws. My job was to help out those whose car became disabled or who ran afoul of the law. I had several instances of both, and as a transporter I made a few friends along the way.
During one leg of the trip a few years ago, the Gumball 3000 ran from New York City to Los Angeles, via Nashville, Dallas, Santa Fe and Las Vegas. Featuring night stops in these great cities in very nice hotels that became party central, the rally drivers drove hard during the day and rocked out at night. I was always on my best behavior and got my proper rest.
You do believe me, don’t you?
One rally driver told me he got 11 tickets the first day. Hardly anything I’d want to brag about, but he was sure it was some kind of badge of honor. Another got captured doing big double-digit numbers in Virginia, and the trooper enlisted truckers to do a rolling roadblock to get the offending driver stopped.
Cruising up U.S. 287 in Texas between Fort Worth and Amarillo, some of the late departures were making up for lost time. As I approached one of the small towns, the speed limit drops quickly to 35 mph.
In my mirror, I could see a half-dozen Gumballers coming up fast. I could also see several police cars in the dip in the median ahead, waiting in ambush. I used my left turn signal, straddled the dotted line and tapped my brakes to get the attention of the approaching rally drivers. The Ferrari slowed, as did the turbo Bentley and Viper.
An AMG Mercedes didn’t get the hint and thought I was messing with him. He passed me on the left shoulder and flipped me the finger through the sunroof – just as he entered the radar of the waiting trooper.
Later, in New Mexico, truck drivers informed me on the CB radio that several of my rally friends were having a problem up ahead. One of the entrants was a chauffeur-driven stretch limo, sponsored by Playboy and equipped with several Playmates.
Sure enough, the limo was on the side of the road. Me, being the helpful sort, rolled up behind the limo. Walking to the front, I was told by several state troopers that they had the situation under control. True enough, as they were taking turns with a digital camera snapping each other’s pictures with the Playboy Playmates.
In Arizona, I got a call about a Ferrari with a flat tire between Winslow and Flagstaff. Rolling up behind the disabled car, I assessed the damage. As the car had no spare, I loaded it into my trailer, secured it and welcomed the driver to ride with me to Las Vegas.
Along the way, I called my Ferrari HQ service manager friend who put me in touch with a tire dealer and the car owner made a deal. The rally driver was from England and said he had more fun riding in the “40-tonne lorry” than he had all day in the car. Even funnier, he made it to the checkpoint on time and didn’t lose any points.
I made a new friend for the American trucker, plus he got front door service to the tire dealer. I made a healthy tip and dinner at the hotel in Vegas.
This year, Gumball 3000 started in England and went all over Europe; the cars and drivers were then flown to New York, where the rally continued up into Canada and back to New York City. I was again fortunate to get to see many of the cars, as well as transport them back home to the owners.
Should you care to witness some of the Gumball action, visit www.gumball3000.com.
Happy trails. LL