Once a year, a frenzied multinational convoy of jaw-dropping exotic cars blasts across a good chunk of the planet at triple-digit speeds. Ignoring sleep, traffic laws, and mortality, this wild band of adrenaline junkies, gearheads, plutocrats, and celebrities unites for a weeklong hell-for-leather road trip known as the Gumball 3000, in a shared pursuit of close kinship and organized chaos. We joined their ranks for this year’s 16th annual rally—from Miami to Ibiza—speeding and partying our way through two continents and five countries in just seven days.
It’s 4 a.m. at the Carpe Diem Lounge Club in Barcelona. Gumballers at $10,000 VIP tables guzzle $1,500 magnums of Dom Pérignon from crystal goblets. Sexy Spanish cocktail waitresses hoist fresh bottles over their heads, as sparklers in the corks spew fire and the servers’ tiny shorts flash toned and tanned derrieres. A Swedish driver ignites a 50 euro bill off the Champagne sparkler and uses it to light his cigarette. Local women beg club security to let them past the velvet rope into this noisy, sweaty, sleep-deprived fraternity of excess—to work their charms on world-famous musicians, Arab oligarchs, investment bankers, millionaire playboys, gearhead heirs, and countless other avenues to the good life in horny male form.
Photographed by Oskar Bakke / Gumball
“Gomboll!” yell the local girls, trying to turn heads too busy knocking back rivers of Champagne to notice.
Yesterday, on the way to Paris, we sacrificed a ’66 Shelby Cobra to the Gumball gods—its front end severed as if it had met a guillotine. Word in the club is that a dozen drivers lost their licenses on today’s 645-mile drive. The rapper Xzibit grabs the DJ’s mike and announces, “I lost my license today, and Deadmau5 lost his license, too. So we can’t drive to Ibiza tomorrow.” A loud chorus of boos drowns out the music. Some of us will go missing tonight, squandering five-star ocean-view suites to wake up with empty wallets in strange alleyways or bedrooms in distant barrios. It’s six days into the rally, and none of us has slept more than three hours a night in the past seven. Our bodies are ravaged, but adrenaline, booze, energy drinks, and whatever else is on hand keep us going. A Gumballer must always push on…by any means necessary.
“Gumball is a term Andy Warhol used,” says Maximillion Cooper, CEO and creator of the Gumball 3000. “Pop culture is like a gumball: You chew it up and spit it out. I’m not a musician, and I’m not an artist; this is how I make a mark on pop culture.”
Photographed by Stinson Carter
The 42-year-old Cooper created the rally in 1999 at the confluence of a fading modeling career, a middling car-racing career, a robust London social life, and a nostalgia for ’70s movies about men, preferably Steve McQueen, driving fast cars in exotic locales. The term playboy is often used to describe Cooper in media bio shorthand, but it sells short a father of four who, in addition to the modeling and car-racing past, has a law degree and a diploma from the prestigious Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design, where he studied alongside Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen.
“I was a model for five years,” says Cooper. “Having a bit of money gave me a chance to have a go at car racing.” While admittedly “not very good,” Cooper got into the Formula 1 scene enough to observe that sponsors were spending exorbitant sums throwing lackluster parties for their teams. He saw an opportunity to bring his social acumen to the car world. How exactly he would do that would take time to unfold.
“The first year, we only had 50 people, and I wrote all the invitations out by hand,” says Cooper.
Photographed by Stinson Carter
What started out as a four-day tour among friends has since spawned a global lifestyle brand, a clothing line, and an energy drink. Warner Bros. even has a big-budget Gumball movie in the works. Despite the incredible growth of Gumball over the past 16 years, “the ingredients haven’t changed,” says Cooper. “Keeping Gumball notorious is important. Keeping our edge.”
MIAMI, REGISTRATION DAY
A gaudy rainbow of supercars clogs the valet at the W South Beach hotel. They’re plastered with sponsorship decals from air brake to hood vent—Christie’s, Betsafe, Battery Energy Drink, AnastasiaDate, Miller Fortune, and enough others to lose count. Deadmau5’s “Purrari,” a bright blue Ferrari 458 wrapped in a pixilated cat design, draws the most gawkers. A close second is a pristine ’64 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe owned by a Saudi prince. Inside the hotel, there’s a line out the door of a conference room for access bracelets: black and pink for media, pink and purple for sponsors, and black and tan for VIPs. After the bracelets is a buffet of swag tables from this year’s sponsors: T-shirts, sweatshirts, vaporizers, iPhone cases, baseball caps, backpacks, umbrellas. The Nicolas Feuillatte bar distributes flutes of Champagne, and a barber gives pre-rally cuts to those wearing the proper bracelets.
It’s a United Nations of monied men and a few women: namely, Swedes, Brits, North and South Americans, Saudis, Emiratis, Dutchmen, Russians, and Finns. From the honeymooning couple from New Jersey to the pro skier from Sweden, they’re all united by a love of fast cars, a prodigious disposable income, and a willingness to commit their nerves, wallets, and livers to seven days of insanity at nearly $70,000 per car—not including the cost of transportation to and from the rally, the tab for shipping the cars to Miami and home from Ibiza, and the exorbitant bottle-service bills at the nightly parties. “When you start renting planes and shutting down cities, the fees don’t cover it,” says Cooper. “The sponsors make it happen.”
Photographed by Richard P. Walton
Our seat is with one of this year’s backers, Team AnastasiaDate: an online dating service that pairs Western men with Eastern European women. In lieu of a table in the swag room, AnastasiaDate has brought two Russian models to drive a 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder: 23-year-old Alisa and 26-year-old Margarita. Outside the hotel, the duo poses for photographers in matching skintight jumpsuits against the hood of the lavender-and-white Lambo. Alisa is a brunette with pillowy lips and bright blue eyes. She and her codriver chatter quietly in impregnable Russian asides, punctuated by dramatic photo poses. “Thank you! I love Gumball” is about the only linguistic glimpse Alisa offers of her soul. But who needs language when you’re a hot babe in a polyester onesie? Margarita is the older and savvier of the two—a dishwater blonde with mischievous eyes who knows exactly what parts of her jumpsuit guys are staring at—even when they’re doing it behind sunglasses.
After registration, the AnastasiaDate PR team takes Alisa and Margarita to the parking lot of the Miami Beach Convention Center for driving lessons. These gals weren’t selected for their racing skills, and though the Lambo is an automatic, it also has 560 horsepower, a V-10 engine that can hit 201 mph, and a steering wheel on the right-hand side. Whenever anyone cringes during the herky-jerky ride, the girls yell, “Zees ees how vee drive een Moscow!”
THE CHECKERED FLAG DROPS
At breakfast the next morning in the W’s ballroom, Maximillion Cooper delivers a pep talk flanked by three local cops.
“Welcome back to my Gumball family,” he says. Although inside, he’s wearing his ever-present tortoiseshell shades, which we’ll all get used to if we’re not already.
Photographed by Richard P. Walton
“This trip has a real added value to me because I’m getting married in Eye-beeth-ah three days after the rally finishes,” says Cooper, in the globe-trotting way someone might say “Mee-lah-no” instead of “Milan.”
“Where is my lovely fiancée, Eve?” he asks the room. The rapper and actress stands up from her table to whoops and cheers from the crowd.
“A lot of you new guys have seen some crazy YouTube driving clips and whatever, but that’s not what we’re about,” says Cooper. “The key thing for me is that you get to Eye-beeth-ah safely.”
This is a sensitive point, often underscored by the phrase “It’s not a race; it’s a rally.” But it’s usually said with a wink and a nudge. It isn’t a race in the formal sense, but “rally” doesn’t exactly imply going the speed limit—which most of these cars can hit in first gear.
Photographed by Richard P. Walton
Captain Richard Clements of the Miami Beach Police takes over the mike and says, “We appreciate how well you behaved yourselves during the 24 hours you were here. We’re gonna have our motor units out there along your way out of town, so if for some reason you forget, they’re going to remind you. And when you see the sign that says ‘Miami City Limits,’ you’re gonna see us waving goodbye in your rearview mirrors.”
After breakfast it’s a mad dash to the entry grid: 120 wildly expensive sports cars lined up based on how much each team raised for the Gumball Foundation: a charitable arm that seems to function like a carbon offset credit for decadence.
It’s a hot, glaring day in South Beach. Sunburned tourists who are just stumbling onto the race join local fans that had their calendars marked for months, the ear-splitting rumbles of the engines luring everyone like moths to a flame.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming to the starting grid of the 2014 Gumball 3000—are you readaaaay?” yells rapper Xzibit, before dropping the flag.
Teams are introduced one by one before burning rubber and vanishing down the A1A through a gauntlet of outstretched smartphones. Crowd enthusiasm fluctuates wildly: “Give it up for Deadmau5!” draws a cacophony of screams, while “Make some noise for car 42 from Belgium” doesn’t elicit a decibel. The announcer constantly reminds the crowd, “Hashtag Gumball 3000 for all those photos!” (There isn’t a moment of this rally that doesn’t instantly show up on Instagram.)
Every car gives a salute of some kind. A Dodge Challenger painted like the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard, owned by an American carnival-ride maker named Dick Chance, plays a slightly off-key Dixieland tune. A 6x6 Mercedes-Benz Brabus Super G turns on police lights and a siren. Matthew Pritchard of Dirty Sanchez, MTV UK’s version of Jackass, rides atop a Brabus sedan, wearing a blue Speedo and gripping the open frame of the moonroof as the tires spin away a half inch of tread on 20 feet of Collins Avenue. The Russian girls from AnastasiaDate lower their jumpsuit zippers and blow kisses.
And we’re off! Almost—one of the members of our PR entourage left the Lambo’s gas cap at a station the night before. So our first checkpoint is a dealership to buy a new one. Four hundred and fifty dollars later, we’re on our way to Atlanta.
Our first overnight is at the W Hotel there. The cars are stored at Centennial Park, the former Olympics site. At the rooftop pool bar of the hotel, I collect drivers’ war stories of Bible Belt law enforcement. Gumballers take the police seriously, and many spend five-figure sums on the latest radar detectors and laser jammers. One team even brought along its very own FBI special agent to handle police diplomacy. Nevertheless, many were pulled over four times apiece on day one, some paying as much as $4,000 in tickets and fees to avoid arrest.
“It’s not a race; it’s a rally,” the drivers would tell the cops.
Photographed by Adam Stanzak / Gumball
“That ain’t what Facebook and Instagram are saying,” the cops replied. “Tell your friends we’re lookin’ for y’all.”
Garreth Wood is half of the rally’s only Scottish team. A pub tycoon by trade, Wood is the son of the second-richest man in Scotland and the husband of a former Miss Scotland. His black-velvet-covered Rolls-Royce Phantom was pulled over three times in Georgia, and he and his codriver were taken into custody in the town of Lenox. Both men were wearing kilts.
“Please don’t put me in jail in a skirt, man,” says Wood.
“Bubba’s gonna say you got a real pretty mouth,” says the sheriff. “Pay the fine and let me get a picture in your car and you can go.”
“I needed a baby wipe and a tetanus shot after he sat in my car,” says Wood. The fine was around $2,000, but it kept him out of jail in his “skirt.”
On the way out of town, Wood and his codriver stop at a gas station to buy some glue. The velvet was peeling on the Phantom. The female clerk gives them a once-over, glances at the Rolls outside, and says, “I got glue at home if y’all wanna come over.”
“What kinda glue are you talking about?” asks Wood.
“Whatever kind ya need,” she says, with a twinkle in her eyes.
Gumball PR and the W staff give me a suite fit for a Hangover sequel: three bathrooms, a dining room, a bar, a living room, and two bedrooms. It is the nicest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in, and I get to sleep there for less than three hours. That, in a nutshell, is Gumball.
By day two, there’s a consensus that the less time the Russians spend in the Lambo, the greater the chance all three will arrive in Ibiza in one piece. So Alisa and Margarita sit in the van and smoke grape-scented e-cigarettes and monitor their Instagram feed. I finally get some serious time in the Lambo—driven not by a Russian model but by a Mohawked 27-year-old man from Los Angeles who calls himself Caleb, a.k.a. Stuntman. It is Caleb’s fourth rally, and like many Angelenos, he doesn’t give an easy answer about what he does for a living. He’s working with Team AnastasiaDate this week, but has several jobs, including selling exotic cars and brand marketing. When I ask what the appeal of Gumball 3000 is, he says,
“If you want the Black Card of Rolodexes, you do the Gumball 3000.”
After a grueling 16-hour drive from Atlanta to Manhattan, we make it to the downtown W around 1 a.m. Deadmau5’s touring van backed into the hood of a Ferrari, and a crowd has gathered. I run into the hotel to catch the elevator to the lobby, and then Margarita’s suitcase tips over and smacks the alarm button. Seven of us are trapped inside: two hotel employees, two Russian models, and three journalists—like something out of a Wes Anderson film. We pry open the door to get a glimpse of the lobby, and Margarita begs onlookers through the four-inch gap, “Please give us alcohol.” Eventually the FDNY is called in, and it takes six firefighters 30 minutes to get us out.
Photographed by Richard P. Walton
Waiting for the buses to take us to JFK the next day, I get a roundup of the American leg from the FBI agent.
“I don’t use my power to get people out of trouble,” he says. “But if the cops happen to see my badge…”
The cops did “happen to see” his badge a couple of times—saving at least two Gumballers from arrest.
“This Austrian guy was bragging about his $13,000 radar detector when we got pulled over for going 108 in a 70. He acted so surprised when the cop said how fast we were going, but he was going 160 right before. The cop said, ‘Common sense says you can go 10 or 15 over. But 30 or 40 over, and racing?’”
“We weren’t racing,” said the FBI agent.
“Sure you weren’t. In your stickered-up, NASCAR-looking car. Suurrrre you weren’t racing.”
He shares an anecdote about the 6x6 Brabus Super G with the blue police lights and a siren, owned by a Dutch Ferris wheel manufacturer: “They were passing people on the shoulder in South Carolina. For miles, the cops are getting calls about a tank, something huge with blue lights, passing people on the shoulder. When the cops finally pulled them over, they said, ‘We’re going to a charity event! This is the Kids with Cancer Truck,’ and the cops just let ’em go!”
“Whatever happens on the plane stays on the plane,” says Xzibit, as we board shuttles at JFK that take us directly across the tarmac to the jet’s loading stairs.
The Dutch flight attendants on our chartered 737 look like models playing dress-up. The flight has the energy of a junior-high field trip gone horribly wrong. Passengers stand in the aisles during takeoff. Pritchard—the Welsh version of Steve-O—crawls down the entire length of the plane across the headrests wearing only his tiny blue Speedo.
“The last time we took a plane on Gumball, I grabbed a skateboard and skated down the aisle when we took off,” says 40-year-old Karta Healy, a Gumball legend sitting beside me. Healy has done all 16 rallies—the only person to do that aside from Cooper himself. He walks with a limp from a knee replacement, and is missing a finger and two toes—all injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident on the rally in Morocco, in 2005. He and the guys in his row smoke weed from a vaporizer between smoking actual cigarettes, until the stern voice of the Dutch captain comes over the PA and tells them to stop smoking.
Healy’s father founded Kettle Chips. He spent his childhood partly in India as a Sikh, and then back stateside as a Scientologist. Now he lives in London and works in automotive and industrial design. He looks like Vincent Gallo; has a quick, staccato voice; and laughs with quick ha-ha’s between words.
Photographed by Richard P. Walton
Someone makes an announcement about an open bar in the back, and everyone bum-rushes the galley. The flight attendants use their carts as barricades against marauding Gumballers. They can’t pop Heinekens or pour whiskeys fast enough for the clamoring mob, which is grabbing drinks by the half dozen.
“Thank you for flying Gumball Airlines, motherfucker,” says rapper Bun B. “This is your captain Bun B speaking. They’re trying to do food and drink service, but apparently some of the assholes in the back didn’t get the memo. Could you kindly sit the fuck down?” Big, bearded, brash, and loud—Bun B engages everyone from Cooper down to the chase-car guy hauling a camera in a no-bullshit banter that makes the rally seem refreshingly egalitarian when he’s narrating it.
Cooper comes on the PA and announces a midflight Gumball charity auction for pole position at next year’s rally. Bun B grabs the mike and says, “This is some real shit, people. Don’t fuck around and bitch this. I’d like to start the bidding for Pritchard’s blue panties at two quid. Anyone?”
Somewhere over the Atlantic, Deadmau5 buys the top spot at the 2015 rally for $125,000. There are no bidders for Pritchard’s Speedo.
SCOTLAND THE BRAVE
At 7:30 a.m., we apologize to the flight attendants and step out into a beautiful morning at Glasgow-Prestwick airport. A lone bagpiper in full Scottish clan regalia supplies our soundtrack. After we clear customs and head outside, we hear them: Behind a 14-foot-high fence topped with razor wire are hundreds of screaming fans.
On a nearby expanse of asphalt, the two Kalitta Air 747s that transported the Gumball rides sit side by side. The cars are neatly parked in rows in the shadows of their wings. Drivers rush to a folding table in an empty hangar to get their keys. Soon engines start coughing to life with air-splitting crackles and throaty rumbles.
The AnastasiaDate support van is MIA, so I wedge myself into the back of a Fiat 500 Abarth with Karta Healy and codriver Johnny Morales. Morales has long hair tucked into a black beanie, one foot on the dashboard, and one hand dangling a cigarette out the window. Like Healy, he’s a vet of the early Gumball years whose scruffy edge suggests a time when Gumball was more cool-kid car rally than multimillionaire’s club.
“I’ve been here since the beginning,” says Healy. “It was crazier, and less organized. And the VIP thing didn’t exist back then.”
Within minutes, he’s doing E-brake 360s for fans lining the tops of the hills overlooking a runway that has been shut down for us to drag-race on.
Photographed by Richard P. Walton
Cars blast off down the runway in pairs. A fire truck is on hand in case something goes horribly wrong, but at these speeds there’s not much they could do but douse the corpses. As it stands, there has been only one fatal crash in Gumball history: In 2007, two Brits in a Porsche 911 collided with a Volkswagen Golf in Macedonia. Both passengers in the Volkswagen died, and Cooper canceled the remainder of the rally.
Karta makes three Abarths line up—Max’s bachelor-party crew—and we all race, pedal-to-floor and rpm in the red. To our left is Cooper and his fiancée, Eve.
“Come on, little Abarth! Come on, little Abarth, go!” Karta yells at the dash, watching the speedometer climb past 112 mph.
The Abarth’s iconic shape is to Italy what the Mini is to England and the Beetle to Germany. Thanks to the influence of Fiat heir Lapo Elkann, they don’t seem like clown cars in person. Elkann is a consultant for Ferrari, and you can feel a distant kinship in the Abarth engine’s roar.
The road out of the airport is walled on both sides with cheering Scots, three and four bodies deep along every inch of the road. Karta rolls down his window and kids come running, expecting stickers and T-shirts. He lights a cigarette and says, “Don’t smoke, kids!” as he exhales.
Edinburgh welcomes us like soldiers returning home from war—thousands have swarmed into the city center. There’s a breakfast pit stop in a museum restaurant for haggis and Scottish salmon and eggs. Back at the grid, I meet up with a slick Italian named Dario from Abarth HQ in Turin. Abarth is one of this year’s major sponsors. He hands me the keys to a 595 Competizione. No paperwork to sign, no license check, just “Here’s the key, the tank is full, no problem.”
Getting out of town is like trying to drive down Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, but a lot friendlier. A plump teenage girl asks if she can ride with me to London, and a young boy runs up and blurts, “Good luck!”
The Competizione is peppy as hell and a blast to drive. Putting 160 horses in a car that small is excessive in the best possible way. But lack of sleep on “Gumball Airlines” finally catches up to me during the monotony of Middle England. The majesty of Scotland kept me wide awake, then a pair of Tag Heuer driving glasses with “antifatigue” lenses put in a good effort, then a can of Red Bull bought me some time. But now I’m nodding off at the wheel, and I remember something Karta told me on the plane: “The lack of sleep is a big part of the experience. Sleep deprivation reduces everyone and brings us together.”
I hand over the wheel to a car blogger for 6SpeedOnline who ditched the AnastasiaDate van to ride with me. He decides to put the Abarth through its paces and see how fast it’ll go, so I get no sleep in the passenger seat.
In London I spend two hours trying to find a road that isn’t blocked off to reach the grid, where 500,000-plus fans have turned out for a welcome party. I eventually give up and stash the car in a garage.
The next morning, I ride shotgun in an Abarth 695 Biposto, “the world’s smallest supercar,” with Mr. Gumball, Max Cooper. He’s still riding high from the previous night’s turnout of half a million people for the Gumball street party. “I read somewhere this morning that only three things can shut down Central London: the prince, the queen, and Gumball 3000.”
The day’s first checkpoint is the Top Gear test track, for legalized redlining. Max isn’t driving the next leg, so I don’t have a ride to the Chunnel. Panic sets in as the cars thin out. I flag down a Renault Mégane RS 275 Trophy, driven by two Parisian tattoo artists, Jey Noname and Leo a.k.a. Walter Hego. They drew their team number and all their sponsorship logos by hand in white on the matte black car. I nod off in the back while they crank hip-hop and fist-bump, chasing the ’64 Daytona all the way to the Chunnel.
It’s there where I hop in an Audi Q7 Turbo Diesel chase car with three cameramen from Team Galag (owned by the Saudi prince). We’re an hour into France doing 130 mph when a McLaren 650S Spider zooms past us like we’re doing 55.
“That guy is such a tool-slash-baller!” yells our driver, Drake Mumford—an American automotive photographer who, at 18 years old, is the youngest person on the rally. We spend the next hour chasing the McLaren. Drake drives with one hand on the wheel and the other on his camera. A British cameraman has half his body out the sunroof with a videocam on his shoulder, while another one beside me calmly edits footage on his laptop.
At the seated dinner in an ornate ballroom of the Westin-Vendôme in Paris, I finally meet David Hasselhoff—a frequent face on the rally who is doing the London to Barcelona leg in a Nissan GT-R tricked out to look like KITT, the talking black Trans Am from his ’80s TV show, Knight Rider. He’s extremely chummy, and tells me he got stuck in the Chunnel with a tour bus filled with Dutch immigrants. “They all got out of the bus and surrounded my car,” he says. “Very nice people…but I was stuck on a train, in a car, underwater, surrounded by a hundred Sudanese people from Holland. It was ridiculous.”
At the postdinner Gumball charity auction run by Christie’s auctioneer Lock Kresler, Deadmau5 buys the Hoff’s donated Baywatch jacket and autographed orange floatie for $45,000.
DAINTON AND PRITCHARD VS. JOURNALIST
The next morning on the banks of the Seine, I catch up with the AnastasiaDate crew at the grid. They’ve had my suitcase since Edinburgh, and I change clothes for the first time in four days in the back of their van. The Russians are off posing for YouTube cameramen while the rest of the pack is blasting toward Barcelona.
Dainton and Pritchard pull up in a diesel VW Transporter with mag wheels and a carbon-fiber hood. Lee Dainton (40) and Matthew Pritchard (43) are Welsh pro skateboarders who owe their fame to the hit MTV UK extreme prank and stunt show Dirty Sanchez. They’re shooting footage for a documentary and happy to have an extra passenger to terrorize. Pritchard hunches over the steering wheel with a gumball 3000 tattoo on the back of his thick neck. He’s covered in tattoos, and wears a red British officer’s jacket—open, with no shirt—to show them off. He looks like he hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep since the ’90s, yet he’s still handsome in a steely-eyed, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers kind of way. Dainton’s in shotgun, and I’m in the back with their photographer, realizing that the seat belts don’t work. This isn’t a good day to go without one.
Photographed by Richard P. Walton
This is their third rally, and I ask their photographer—an easygoing, heavily tatted Welshman named Richard Walton—what he thinks the appeal is.
“These people have everything, but you can’t buy fame. Gumball lets ’em buy a bit of fame,” says Walton.
An hour outside Paris, Pritchard pushes the Transporter into low triple digits. There are no windows in the back of the van, so we don’t realize we’re being pulled over by a French motorcycle cop until he appears outside the passenger window in a full-blown Gallic fury. Pritchard gets out of the car.
“Français?” asks the cop.
“English,” grunts Pritchard.
“You vere going over zee speed leemeet!”
No shit. Pritchard hands the gendarme his license and then sticks his head back in the van.
“Anybody got any euros?” We all shake our heads. “Here’s my fuckin’ card. Ye’ have to drive into the town and get 90 euros while I wait with the French guy.”
By the time we get back with the Euros, the cop is gone and Pritchard is hanging out with four guys driving two Ferrari 458s with Team Wolfpack. Wolfpack has all their cars done up like light cycles from Tron, and wear matching glowing leather jackets. They’re lobbying for the Spirit of Gumball award, and, to that end, they paid Pritchard’s speeding ticket.
Back on the road, the Wolfpack Ferrari comes up alongside us. Pritchard swerves to spook them. The photographer opens the sliding door—shit starts flying everywhere—leans outside the van, and starts filming as Dainton high-fives the passenger in the Ferrari at 130 mph.
Somewhere in Southern France the photographer and I fall asleep in the backseat, and wake up to the loud peal of screeching brakes.
“We’re gonna craaash!” yells Pritchard.
We go airborne and slam into the front seats, but the crash never comes. Dainton and Pritchard just start howling and hold up an iPhone to show off a slow-mo video playback of us flying across the van with terror on our faces.
“Goin’ in the movie, that!” says Dainton.
Falling asleep in public is a surefire way to be fucked with on the Gumball 3000, and given the rarity of horizontal shut-eye, there’s almost no avoiding it. So you wake up on Gumball Airlines with a dinner roll on your head, or turn on your phone after a nap on a ferry to find that a dozen pictures of you on Instagram—mouth agape and drooling—already have a hundred likes.
Getting to the Barcelona W Hotel is like driving through an Arab Spring: screaming young men yanking door latches, pounding sheet metal, trying to mount the hood.
“Welcome to Barce-fucking-lona!” yells Pritchard. “Last time we came, Dainton woke up in an alley, got robbed in his sleep, and probably done up the bum as well. So we can only hope the same thing happens tonight.”
That night, Dainton disappears again, and theirs is one of seven cars to miss the ferry to Ibiza.
The next morning, I rejoin Team AnastasiaDate for the final leg. On the way to the ferry, we pass the oldest car in the rally, a ’63 Jaguar MK2, broken down on the shoulder. After nearly 3,000 miles, the engine blew up 60 miles short of the finish line. Spanish cops pull over every single Gumball vehicle at every tollbooth. Not just for speeding tickets but for document checks, Breathalyzers…any excuse will do. We get pulled over three times in an hour.
It’s a frantic race against the clock to get everyone on the ferry. The captain blows the horn while Gumballers sprint up the gangway with luggage. Once on board, I finally get a captive audience with some A-list Gumballers I’ve been chasing since Miami to ask them why they keep coming back.
“I do it for the brotherhood,” says Bun B, who is on his fifth rally.
“When it comes to things that are fun for me, it’s few and far between,” says Xzibit. “I’m an adrenaline junkie, and my family won’t let me jump out of airplanes, so I guess Gumball is the next best thing.”
“I like cars, but I’m not a super-gearhead or anything,” says Tony Hawk. “That’s not really the draw for me. I like the adventure of it and seeing new places.”
Off the ferry, I hop onto Team Battery Energy Drink’s charter bus to the finish line, where Hawk does aerials on a half-pipe while Deadmau5 deejays as the sun sets on Ibiza.
I share a cab with the Russians up to Destino—a minimalist-chic resort on a hilltop overlooking the island. At check-in, I run into the drivers of a Ford GT (named Delores) whom I partied with in Barcelona. Delores cracked an oil pan on the Parisian cobblestones, and they’ve been chartering jets for every leg since. In the Gumball, the important part is that you finish, not how.
After a five-course poolside dinner come the Gumball Awards: Best Car, Best Team, and the most-coveted Spirit of Gumball award. Best Car goes to the 1963 Jaguar MK2; Best Team goes to Team Wolfpack; and the Spirit of Gumball goes to Deadmau5. “They’re first-time Gumballers, but they’ve embraced the rally in the way I intended it since day one,” says Cooper. “They hit every checkpoint, every party, and they got in
a bit of trouble but not too much trouble.”
Deadmau5 hoists his trophy—a full-size Gumball machine—with his codriver: MythBusters star Tory Belleci.
“I’ve done this circuit many times on tour, but not like this, that’s for sure,” says Deadmau5. “And I’m thankful that I’ve been accepted into the Gumball family. Cheers to Max and his crazy Gumball idea!”
Steve Aoki spins at the closing party at Pacha, the hottest nightclub in Ibiza. There are lasers, fog, flashing lights, massage girls, go-go dancers, lollipops, and stone-faced men guarding VIP tables. It’s a sensory overload haunted by the ghosts of a million ecstasy trips. Max and Eve hold court in the VIP section, on a balcony above the slick of sweat and fog machine mist on the dance floor.
Margarita and Alisa come clacking in on five-inch stilettos—dresses clinging to their bodies tighter than scales on fish. Margarita helps herself to a non-Gumballer’s bottle of vodka.“Eef I vant bottle serveese…I veel haf bottle serveese!” she says. I head outside for a beer and meet up with Karta Healy at the patio bar. When sunrise reminds me I’ve got a plane to catch, Karta shakes my hand with his four-fingered paw and says, “We’ll be in touch…Remember, Gumball is forever.”
Photos by Richard P. Walton