April 28, 2002

Gumball 3000: Update #2
Article and Photos by: Jeremy Master and Zerin Dube

Our day today started out a little slow; many people were still more than a little tired from the long overnight drive the day before. The Gumball racecars, having put in fair duty the day before, were all on glorious display in front of the Opryland Hotel as people started emerging to ready for the day to come.

As with every previous stop, people were just generally milling around and telling stories about the previous day. Supposedly the yellow Diablo (which had been purchased in NY just prior to the race) was clocked at 174 mph in a 65 mph zone the day before. David from the APR team mentioned that the green Corvette never even made it to Nashville, leaving us all wondering if he had been taken off to jail, had mechanical problems, or possibly even wrecked.

We soon located the area designated as the day's starting line and unsurprisingly cars began rushing to place themselves in good take-off positions. Because the starting line was at the end of a half circle drive and let out into another private street belonging to the hotel, there was ample opportunity for burnout action as the racers departed around 8:00 a.m. One-by-one as each car put on a display of horsepower and were waved out by a small crowd that had formed along the start driveway

One of the more quiet departures was that of a white limo that had been charted with a driver. Talk about making a long trip in style and comfort.

Reports from car #127 near the front were that they were one of the first ones pulled over (at gunpoint, no less) just outside of Nashville. As had happened previously, cops seemed to know the route and could be seen every few miles through the rest of Tennessee.

At various points along the road leaving Nashville there were actually groups of people waiting on the sides of the road or on bridges to support the drivers as they passed. Following the APR car #149 we made the drive to Memphis along with the blue Mini containing the Playboy Bunnies. Our destination in Memphis, as it turned out, was Graceland.

Coming down Elvis Presley Blvd., we made a right turn to the delight of 100 or more flag-waving supporters in a crowd. After parking in the lot the Gumball drivers enjoyed a catered lunch, appropriately, inside the Elvis Presley car museum.

Speaking with Stephen from APR at that point he noted how they had driven along with the blue RS4 and how he was generally in awe of the power it had relative to APR's own car (no slouch at 450 HP).

Most drivers were anxious to get back on the road, APR's team included. At this point, however, they were minus Simone who had hitched a ride in the blue Morgan.

Exiting the museum the cars were directed through Graceland in order to pickup their timestamp and a card telling them the next destination.

We were among the group of cars streaming out of Tennessee and towards Arkansas where we quickly encountered a line of cops waiting with armed radars. One of the first cars pulled over in Arkansas, unfortunately, was our car with Zerin behind the wheel (along with an M5 that we were following at the time). Under the circumstances Zerin's license was taken from him at this point, although he was not put in jail as the cop said would ordinarily happen.

Most drivers ended up taking the first half of Arkansas either at or very near the speed limit. Even so, we still saw a few cars pulled over on this stretch. At one point we even saw the BMW M coupe off the road in a ditch; no obvious damage could be seen however.

Past Little Rock speeds began increasing again as the cops thinned out over the next 100 miles or so. Then, as the cars neared the town of Hope, they were greeted with a group of cops who had been notified of "a large group of cars doing speeds over 100". Their boss had specifically told them to "kick some butt" and they had stationed themselves along the highway in their best hiding spots. Many of the Gumballers were once again taken by surprise and caught.

The biggest difference with being stopped at this point was that the driver was immediately taken to the police station to pay his/her fine in full, while the teammates had no choice but to follow in the racecar. The APR team was one of the first through this ordeal when Christian was tagged doing 84 in a 70.

At the police station the cops actually joked with the APR team that they had been the first non-Porsche they had pulled over. After a few pictures with the cops, the APR team was back out for the race. This unplanned detour to the police station cost them a good deal of time, but as they left town they saw both a yellow Corvette Z06 and the lone Ferrari F50 being driven in the opposite direction back towards the police station. We heard later that the F50 was clocked doing something near 180 mph!

One of the ironies of being stopped in Arkansas was that the cops were not really aware of the event. They simply knew that there were large numbers of cars doing excessive speeds on the highways throughout the state. We heard that if they would have known that the Gumball was to raise money for the NYPD and NYFD they probably would have been more lenient. One cop suggested that the organizers call ahead and inform each state before they enter what was going on and they might get hassled less. Who knows though, really.

Apparently Texas didn't get notified because just across the border the Gumballers were greeted by two troopers sitting in the median waiting for the first car who dared to speed past. Luckily the cops seemed scarcer after just a few miles so the speeds in both APR's S4 and a dark blue Ferrari 512m they were traveling with at that point increased. The APR S4 would end up staying with the same Ferrari all the way into Dallas.

Word had gotten out to the race enthusiasts because we encountered even more people in Texas waiting for the arrival of the Gumball cars. About 50 miles into Texas the APR crew met up with 2 AudiWorld readers driving S4's who had driven out from Dallas in order to drive back in with the group. One of the more notable sights along the way was a speed limit sign that had a huge "Gumball 3000" sticker placed over the number 70 on the sign. It was very reminiscent of the Cannonball Run movie where people pulled over to spray paint black X's over the speed limit signs.

A black Porsche 911 soon joined the group of 4 S4's and the 512m, and not long after the Mercury Mountaineer carrying the Playboy Bunnies blew past us. We later saw the Mountaineer on the side of the road pulled over for speeding. The crew of S4's rolled into Dallas, proceeded to the Crescent Court Hotel, and were rewarded with the news that they had arrived in position 27 (a great improvement over the previous day's second half finish). More cars began arriving with a Ferrari F360s dominating the early arrivals.

There was quite a stir at the hotel when cop car rolled in with its lights flashing followed by a red F360. The cop got out of his car in the middle of the courtyard and a huge crowd formed around him. As it turned out the drivers of the Ferrari had been pulled over by the cop a ways back and then asked him for directions to the hotel. The cop obliged with an escort to the hotel!

As drivers and spectators milled about we soon learned how things were being handled for a lot of the European drivers. The problem was that many of the just-shipped-over European cars do not appear in US police databases. Similarly, the police do not have access to European license plate or driver's license information. As a result, in most cases the cops would simply write them a ticket and have them pay their fine on the spot. Most drivers reported extremely friendly and curious cops along the way. The biggest drawback was that some cars would end up being stopped on the side of the road for 30-minutes or more, as the cops would strike up a conversation.

That evening in Dallas the drivers dressed up in tuxedos to attend a black tie dinner held for them at the hotel.

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