May 6, 2002

Gumball 3000: Conclusion
Article and Photos by: Stephen Hooks, APR Owner

What an experience!! That's the easiest way to describe Gumball 3000. Entering this event I really had no idea what was in store for APR's car or for me personally. I knew the brief outline of what the event was to entail, but none of the specifics. I knew we would be driving from New York to LA with stops in between, but had no idea about all the events that were planned for us all along the way. What a week!

I arrived in New York on Tuesday night just in time for bed. Wednesday morning I met my co-drivers for the first time. These were people I had only spoken-to on the telephone. First there was Christian from Germany, a good guy who was bursting at the seams for the Gumball to begin. Next there was Dave our 19-year old Canadian driver who had saved and borrowed to be part of the Gumball. Last but not least was our spunky and charismatic German TV anchor Simone. Greetings were tossed around and we prepared the car for stickers and registration. At registration we received many gifts from the event sponsors and signed our lives away in a huge disclaimer. Then it was off to Club Lotus for the pre-event party.

The next day we had a driver's lunch where we were told only the bare minimum. Max Cooper, the CEO of Gumball, told us not to speed and to obey all traffic laws, but that was the last time I heard of anyone talking like that. (More on that in just a moment).

The launch started at 6:00 p.m. from the car parking deck. All the cars were nicely stickered and ready for the grueling 3200 miles ahead. It's hard to put into words how pumped up you get when you see 165 incredible machines crackle to life. All the drivers were in their cars and ready to go.

As we were "released", we were given our first route that would take us out of NY and towards the NJ turnpike. That's when I realized what I was in store for; I will admit I was shocked at what I saw. Europeans in these amazing cars were taking off down the turnpike like it was the front straight at Indy. We are talking triple digit speeds, passing on the hard shoulders, and other things that were just hard to believe.

There I was as an American thinking to myself, "Oh crap, what have I gotten into here? I mean, the American cops won't put up with this stuff, right?" Well the answer was both yes and no.

Twenty miles into our great journey I looked back into my rear view mirrors only to see a cop coming up from behind. I think I am going to be OK because I am in heavy traffic and am not speeding at that moment. However, he comes up behind me and low and behold the lights come on. "Crap this can't be good!" I'm thinking. Only twenty miles into the event and I am already being pulled over. Long story short he is pulling me over because I am the first Gumballer he can find. He tells me that I must call all the Gumballers to tell them to "slow the F... down". I say yes sir and am back on the way.

From this point on I realized how things would work. The idea was to have fun while driving and somehow keep your nose clean from cops.

We had some great runs with several cars that you normally would never have the chance to run hard with (RS4's, 360's, 550's and so on). It was such a blast! Along the way we met tons of really great people. It was amazing how incredibly friendly most people were. I met many people from diverse backgrounds who all simply loved cars and loved to run their cars hard. That was evident for the rest of the 3200 miles.

The stories were always the best thing every time we made a stop. Most of these stories would sound like complete fabrications, except for the fact that I saw many of this first hand. The F50 was stopped going over 200 mph and let go. Others were stopped for 150 and let go because the cop said they were "cool".

Then there were the Dallas 996 Turbo cars. These guys were first every day! They ran with close air support for spotting cops, and an 18-wheeler full of spare parts. Their lead car was painted in radar-evading paint from the Russian military and they had every electronic countermeasure available. They passed us one time in Arizona like we were standing still and we were really moving at the time.

Now that it is over the event feels like one long, crazy, adrenalin packed day rolled into five. We drove, had parties, drove, had more parties, and somewhere in there slept for a few hours each night. We had roadblocks in some states and police helicopters in many others. The police were always waiting for us but I learned that if you have a large number of people speeding there is very little they can really do. There are simply only so many state troopers per square interstate mile.

Many went to jail in several states but only had little fines to pay to get back on their way. The APR S4 was pulled over only twice: once while I was driving in NJ and the other was a quick trip to jail for my co-driver Christian. He was tagged for 84 in a 70. The cop explained that his boss knew we were coming through his area and wanted his troopers to "bust ass". So $115 fine and 45 minutes later we were back on the road.

Our car was very lucky. There were several times people we were running with were tagged and we were miraculously allowed to pass. Looking back on some of those times I still do not understand what the cops where thinking.

Also, at the beginning many of us commented on the fact that we thought many of the "exotic" cars would not make it under these conditions for 3200 miles. Well, we were totally wrong. The Ferraris and Lambo's and other exotic cars held up just as well as the more common cars that took part in the event. I guess that the Italians are now making reliable as well as fast exotics.

In conclusion I will have to say that it was one of the most interesting, tiring and enjoyable weeks I have ever had. If there is a Gumball next year I would recommend this event to everyone. As the cry went up every morning "Lets Gumball"!!!

  • More photos and videos: http://www.imolas4.com/gumball3000/





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