The Gumball 3000 is annual gruelling and very British race that spans 3,000 miles across the world’s borders as the often free-spirited participants strive to negotiate international language barriers and traditional customs to get their chosen mode of transport from start to finish. The Gumball rally takes place on public roads with the route varying each year.
There is no official time keeping and nor are there any prizes, so why do it? The answer to that is simply for the hell of it and basically, because it’s there. The organisers try to put the emphasis on the event being a road trip rather than a race – where completing the Gumball is reward in itself.
The Gumball began in 1999 and was the brainchild of the perfectly named Maximillian Cooper. Despite sounding like a character from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Cooper is actually a shrewd entrepreneur who has previously had careers as a racing driver and a skateboarder respectively. Cooper oversees Gumball 3000 Events, Gumball 3000 Music and Gumball 3000 Films all under the banner of Gumball 3000 Ltd, of which he is CEO and Creative Director. The organisation is clearly far more civilised than the event itself, which should come as no surprise really for an event that has managed to stay on track for 15 years.
The most interesting of the brand offshoots is Gumball 3000 Films, which was originally set up in 2003 as a vehicle for the production of the documentary film, Gumball 3000 The Movie. A movie that has played no small part in building the legend of Gumball and satisfying an ever more curious public.
The inspiration and feel of Gumball 3000 is pure romance, with many having compared the Gumball to the film, Cannonball Run, a film that seems to manage to somehow combine the ethos of Wacky Races as well as The Dukes Of Hazard – despite (or maybe thanks to) starring Burt Reynolds.
While as far as I know, Gumball 3000 has never quite had the equivalent of Cannonball Run’s Safety Enforcement Unit officer, Arthur J Foyt, attempting to stop the race while it is still in progress, it does have a sort of similar organised chaos about it.
The first rally in 1999 was basically 55 of Cooper’s friends rallying from London to Rimini in Italy via Paris and back again. Although the Gumball scene forever more would be set by this race, with competitors ranging from Billy Zane in an Aston Martin DB5 to Danni Minogue in a Porsche Boxter. And just to make sure the race was never going to ever be taken too seriously, Justin Etzin and Alexandra Aitken drove a borrowed police car from the tv series The Bill…
2000 saw the Gumball really take off, if you’ll pardon the pun. With increased awareness and more money, the race commenced from Marble Arch in London via Stansted Airport where all the vehicles were airlifted to Spain. This year’s bizarre cast consisted of Goldie (musician and Bond villain), Tara Palmer-Tomkinson and Bruce Reynolds (infamous for being part of the great train robbery in 1963) plus the band Placebo in a Lagonda and Happy Mondays in a Jaguar. You couldn’t make it up really.
The third Gumball race in 2001 had a team from Jackass competing, comprising of Johnny Knoxville, Chris Pontius and Steve-O driving a 1989 Jaguar XJ6. The trip was made into a documentary called Jackass: Gumball 3000 Rally Special and also featured Maximillian Cooper as himself as well as Ruby Wax. In typical gung-ho fashion, the team only managed to find the XJ6 just 7 hours before the start of the race and insurance was only completed 15 minutes before they set off.
In 2004 the race crossed into Africa via Spain (just 8 miles separate Spain from Africa) where, in Morocco, the participants were guests of the king and the final leg was in Cannes for the film festival. It was becoming clear that the race would become bigger with each year that passed.
With the ever changing climate and attitude to powerful sports cars, the tenth Gumball in 2008 put the emphasis on green vehicles with participants being asked to provide proof of carbon-neutral emissions.
This year is the 15th anniversary Gumball rally, and will start on 15th May in Copenhagen, Denmark with a high profile finish scheduled at the Grand Prix in Monaco. It’s refreshing to see that, despite the higher year-on-year profile, the spirit remains the same. If you download the official conditions of the Gumball 3000 you will see that the terms clearly state that the rally is “..NOT a race or competition” and “you must NOT compete in any manner with other participants.”
If this has got your petrol flowing in anticipation – and why wouldn’t it, be prepared to stump up £30,000 per vehicle with 2 persons, although this does include hotel bookings for all your overnight stays.
Logo image from finest.se, Jackass from gtspirit.com