April 26, 2002

Gumball 3000: Update #1
Article and Photos by: Jeremy Master and Zerin Dube

We woke up today with race-bred adrenaline already coursing our veins. After checking out of the hotel we threw our bags in the car and were off to meet the APR team in front of the Plaza hotel. They would be attending a driver's meeting/lunch at Rockefeller Center and we had decided to sync-up beforehand.

APR's team draws from around the world and is composed of Stephen (APR owner), David (19 year old Canadian), Simone (a German reporter from Liechtenstein), and Christopher (from Germany). Their mood was definitely one of expectant excitement about the upcoming drive. Various teams were making last minute checks and planning strategy. One entrant from Long Island was bragged to Simone that he knew the tri-state area so well that he would be through it before others had left the island. And the bravado thus began.

Over the coming hours the garage was nearly in chaos as the Gumball organizers managed last minute arrivals and ensured all vehicles had their stickers. Some cars needed to be dried off before being stickered because it had been raining lightly for most of the morning.

At 5:30 p.m. all drivers were in their cars in the garage waiting for departure. In all of the activity some of the Plaza's customers appeared annoyed by the delay from the lineup of racecars. At the same time there were many bystanders and well wishers lingering in the streets. At about 6:00 p.m. the first car, a red Ferrari F50, left the garage to the delight the crowd that had gathered at the top of the exit ramp. As if on cue, the rain began to let up.

At this point the exodus of racecars began in earnest, many revving their engines with passengers and even drivers holding cameras. We saw Vipers, Porsches, Ferraris, Lamborginis, Aston Martins, Audis, Mercedes, one Bentley, one Noble and several older cars. Numerous drivers were decked out in outlandish attire, making the start of the race truly memorable.

One car, for instance, contained a team with suit jackets fashioned from the British flag, while another guy was wearing a Gumball 3000 flag as a cape. Not long after, two guys in a Porsche emerged with purple wigs; they were soon followed by the driver of a Ducatti wearing a red, white and blue mask that made him look something like Captain America. A brand new Mini Cooper was a very popular sight as it was filled with four Playboy Bunnies.

Maximillian Cooper, the event organizer, was at the table greeting each car as they left the garage. Each driver was handed a card, very similar to a baseball card, outlining the location of the first destination, expected travel time, tolls and a contact for the location.

APR's #149 left in the middle of the pack with Simone hanging exuberantly out the window filming the people on the street. Hoping to get a bit of the Gumball send-off experience for ourselves we immediately jumped into our car and took off at the end of the pack. Pulling out into traffic we turned right onto 5th Avenue, as all the other drivers had done. Dodging taxis, busses and the everyday New York traffic, we made it over to the Lincoln Tunnel and met up with our first Gumballer, a Saleen Mustang.

Once on the Jersey Turnpike we picked up some speed, but soon found out that the police were, by this point, well aware of the Gumball coming through the area. After passing several Ferarris pulled over we stopped about a third of the way down the turnpike and met up with our APR car as well as a Ferrari F355. The gas attendant and several other people that happened to be there fueling soon gathered around the cars in what would become the first of many spontaneous shows of interest in the race.

While Stephen had been at the wheel of the APR car it had already been pulled over once, though not for speeding, but just as a warning not to speed. Several other cars besides the ones we had passed had also been pulled over along the turnpike. Once into Delaware speeds soon increased again and we found ourselves running with a '71 Ferrari Daytona and a new F360 through traffic.

Approaching the tollbooth for a tunnel in Baltimore we noted a red Viper blowing through the EZpass lane. We figured that he didn't have a Maryland EZpass since his plates were from Florida. On the other side of the tunnel the Viper was pulled over -- a big price to pay just to avoid a $1 toll. It was also about this time that a cop was again following APR's car. The cops had definitely figured out the Gumball group was coming through.

Next up was the Baltimore-Washington Parkway down to DC, where we kept our pace near the 55 mph speed limit and ended up in a line of traffic just before our exit in DC. A fellow Gumball racer in a Mercedes S-class rolled in beside us as we crept through the line of traffic.

After about 20 minutes we were moving again and soon made our exit off the highway at Capital Street in downtown DC. We passed RFK stadium and entered a residential neighborhood. The problem at this point was that we had lost the APR car in the traffic and their GPS system wasn't functioning. Luckily I had made an earlier call to a friend to look up our destination in Washington D.C. After about 20 more blocks the neighborhood soon gave way to United States Government buildings as we were in the heart of DC. On the right stood our first destination, Union Station. It was just after 11 PM and the APR car would soon be about car number 100 out of about 200 to arrive.

Outside Union Station all of the cars were lined up and the drivers were able to go into the private eating area set up just inside the station. Outside we met up with four local AudiWorld readers who were there checking out the cars. They knew the area and offered us some timely advice for getting out of downtown. We shared some stories with the other drivers about their trip as more cars continued to stream in. A Skyline and the Mini with Playboy Playmates were big draws.

After about 15 minutes we left and took the 395 tunnel underneath many of the Government buildings in downtown and were soon back on the highway. Leaving DC on 66 West we headed into the hills, soon to find that the cops were waiting every few miles with radar. The Gorrilaz Mercedes SL and an Audi TT passed us just outside the city, but we soon passed them right back again when they were pulled over for speeding. Much of the drive down 81 was spent riding along the with the Bentley and red Audi RS4 that we met at a gas station stop where Simone moved into the driver seat for the APR car.

Each stop along the way we were greeted by interested people who invariably wished us well on the remaining drive. Driving through the night with the RS4 and Bentley decked out in full euro trim and plates was something truly unique for us Americans to witness.

We hit the Tennessee border about 5:00 a.m., which brought with it very welcome 70 mph speed limits and the fact that the night was turning to day. Local traffic itself seemed to be moving along near 80. We passed a silver Ferrari 550 just a little ways into Tennessee and then on an open stretch were rudely greeted from behind by the red Audi RS4 doing about 130. Playing with the RS4 on a stretch with no traffic we were actually able to videotape some passes.

By the time we reached Knoxville it was apparent that the authorities had become aware of the Gumball 3000. A line of 10 troopers passed us headed back in the direction we had just come from! Just past Knoxville a red Ferrari 360 and silver 550 came up from behind and more videos were shot of these as well as the APR S4 winding down the hilly Tennessee roads. The APR S4 along with a red Viper rolled into the Opryland hotel at about 9:30 a.m. on Friday.

Many of the cars were lined up in front of the hotel on display in order of arrival, with the red Ferrari F50 in the first position. A black Porsche 911 was in the lineup with three tickets laid on his dash for display, two of which were for more than 65mph over the legal limit. Drivers were all milling around the entrance area and the lobby inside waiting to check into their rooms. The local public was positively abuzz with cameras, pointing at and inspecting the stickered-up exotics that many were seeing or even hearing about for the first time in their lives.

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