For the 16th annual Gumball 3000 rally, the entry fee was £40,000—almost $70,000 USD. That's $30,000 more than today's college graduate's average starting salary. According to CNN, the total value of the 120 cars on this year's Gumball was worth over $100,000,000 USD. Given these numbers, it's safe to say 99.9% of us, including myself, probably aren't on this level, nor could we ever afford to participate in Gumball even if we robbed a bank. So when I got the e-mail saying Super Street has been invited as a media partner to join this year's rally, I felt like popping champagne! Of course, I could only afford the $15 bottle of Korbel, but hell, it was time to celebrate!
The plan for Gumball was to start in Miami followed by a pit stop in Atlanta, then another 900-mile haul to New York City. From there, the cars would get loaded on to a couple Boeing 747s where the rallyers would arrive in Scotland and continue all the way to Ibiza finishing off the 3000-mile tour. An epic journey with over a hundred epic performance and exotic cars... We were only given the green light to partake in the American leg, but I couldn't complain. Gumball has been a dream of mine since I remember watching the crappy quality videos of the rally from my school library's Dell computers.
Leading up to the start, I definitely had high expectations but also my reservations. Was it going to be just a bunch of snobby rich guys? Was I going to feel excluded? Would I be able to keep up or will I end up in jail? I'll admit, at first it was very intimidating to be bumping shoulders with celebrities and millionaires driving cars I'd only see at auto shows, but I was pleased when I arrived in Miami with the staff and other driver's camaraderie and passion for cars. We were all there for the same reason—we all love cars, love to party and we were ready to embark on an unforgettable journey with each other.
I could drag my story on and on but we'll let the photos here and the video online do the talking. What I will leave you with are some of my favorite, and least favorite moments:
- Many people assume Gumball is an all-out race, including myself. But after the first hundred miles, I quickly realized the rally has become more of a cruise. Most cars would generally stay steady at 10-15mph over the speed limit. Of course, when it was nothing but open road ahead of us with zero police on the radar, I didn't have a problem working out the 2J!
- With that being said, I'm often asked how many times I was pulled over... Twice, but never given a ticket! The first incident was just before the first checkpoint in Daytona. I had just reentered the highway after a quick pit stop. I was accelerating fairly quickly onto the highway but never did I go above the limit or smoke the tires; however highway patrol heard the car and saw me hopping on the freeway and pulled me over. After I waited 20 minutes, the officer let me go. The second incident took place in South Carolina. A 458, GT-R and I were lined up to have a little fun but my radar detector started going crazy. As I crested the hill, sure enough, five police cars had already pulled over a group of Gumballers. We slowly passed at 55mph, but one of the police cruisers jumped out and lit me up. To my surprise, I was pulled over for "failure to move over" since I was in the far right lane. Needless to say, the officers had me on the side of the road for almost 40 minutes while they ran my driver's license and took cellphone photos of the car.
- There's a good chance my team and I are banned from Daytona Speedway. During the first checkpoint, we had cleared it with Gumball organizers to perform some drift demonstrations and burnouts. We slipped a few fun burnouts on the oval track followed by a glorious donut around the Daytona Speedway sign. Track security surrounded the Lexus like we had just committed murder. We were asked to leave, and you can imagine they didn't ask nicely...
- While Gumball was one of the most exciting and glamorous events I've participated in, it was also the most exhausting! I drove the entire first day, which took a total of 14 hours from South Beach Miami into Georgia—that's with only a few hours of sleep from the previous night thanks to a private party hosted by Deadmau5. The second day, it took us 16.5 hours to travel through the Carolinas, Virginia, DC, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and finally New York. After being pulled over the second time, I knew I wasn't going to get lucky a third time around so the team had their turn piloting the IS. I took the final leg through Jersey and into Manhattan.
- Would I do gumball again? Hell yeah! Except I would do the full route. The 2015 rally starts in Stockholm and ends in Vegas. Now... which car to take?
Under the roll call of stickers is a beast you first saw at last year's SEMA show, Super Lap Battle and our latest August issue. This isn't just any Lexus IS... It's rockin' a fully built 2JZ engine swap. It's basically an IS on steroids! The car also features all the necessary parts to make it a proper performance machine including Toyo R888 tires, Advan wheels, KW coilovers and Sparco seats. Since it was featured, the Brian Crower-stroked motor received a larger GTX4088R turbo, dual AEM fuel pumps and tuned to make 625whp at 23psi—similar power to the smaller turbo but retuned to handle 91-octane pump gas.
Driving this IS was simply out of this world. It endured the rally like a champ with zero breakdowns or headaches. The acceleration was mind blowing—when boost kicked in, it was game over. The brakes felt balanced and the heavy car slowed down with ease, especially when I heard the radar go off. The sound of the Lexus, simply music to my ears. It sounds like a race car and I didn't mind it was so loud I could barely have conversations in the car. While driving nearly 30 hours in a matter of two days was tiring, the moment when you push the gas pedal, all the fatigue and anxiety go straight out the window!
Sean Russell's Top Moments
Participating in Gumball 3000 ranks top three on the bucket list below commercially orbiting earth and buzzing terra firma in a fighter, afterburners full steam—the latter two still need to happen. The world's best over-the-top rally captivated me back in the early-2000s when YouTube videos surfaced of dual Ducatis killing American freeways, Johnny Knoxville raging in a beat Jag somewhere in Eastern Europe and the ingenuity of high-performance stealth rides—look up Alex Roy and his past Team Polizei Continental GT.
Common misconception is that Gumballers are nothing but deep pocket party hounds with nice cars and an FTP mentality. That's incorrect. Each participant, some more than others, is passionate about performance and the camaraderie that comes with pushing ones self to a limit. It's about creating lifelong memories, relationships and living to the nth degree. Safety is of high concern and each rally is grueling. World-renowned skier Jon Olsson, for example, embodies the charisma, wild rides (search Rebellion R2K) and mental toughness that make up Gumball 3000.
While I was afforded limited mileage behind the wheel this year because of video duties, the U.S. leg offered a fine assortment of unforgettable memories.
1) Shutting down NYC's Vivid strip club with the likes of Bun B amidst story sharing of the 17hr road adventure just experienced.
2) Fully boosting our 2JZ Lexus to a decisive "victory" against an imported and tuned Mercedes A-Class.
3) Holding on as Sam chopped it up for miles with a GT-R, Gallardo, Ferrari FF and 458 to later be rolled for what was a failure to move over warning.
4) Partying in Miami with Deadmau5 hours before rally start.
4) The disgruntled face of a BFE gas station cashier when a speedo-clad Mathew Prichard showed up for refuel and snacks.
5) Teammate Ben Schwartz playing highway Frogger to reel in the G Pen G-Wagon.
6) The cheers of onlookers after the halt of a circle burnout around the Daytona Speedway sign.
7) A surprisingly nice cop taking personal cell pics of our sweet IS build after pulling us over.
8) Putting Atlanta in the rearview with a McLaren P1 shipped in from Saudi Arabia.
9) The Sprinter luggage van that backed into a Ferrari FF right in front of our NYC hotel.
How did we complete the American leg of Gumball 3000 this year with nothing more than a speeding ticket for our support truck? Here's a list of important gear that made our maiden Gumball experience a success.
Waze app. Communal live stream of upcoming road conditions including speed traps.
USB chargers. Power packs and a cigarette lighter chargers give you needed juice when running GPS and posting to social all day.
Liquid. Water and caffeine are your best friends when running 16 hours straight on the road.
Radar and laser protection. Consult state legality but a good radar detector and laser jammer will keep you honest. We used an Adaptiv Technolgies package pulled off Sean's motorcycle.
Walkie-talkies. Quick communication between team vehicles is huge when logging thousands of miles.
Support crew. We were lucky enough to have a two support trucks that were ready if anything were to happen to the car. It also helped having eyes in front and behind to warn us for police or cars we might want to play with.
Energy and adrenaline. On Gumball you're going to average a couple hours of sleep a night, drive 10+ hours, party the night away and wake up early for roll out. It's an insane schedule but if you're crazy enough, you might just be able to hang!
Gordon Ting, for letting us take his Lexus Tuned IS on an incredible journey; Jasper Watts, my copilot for most of the trip and one of the big reasons why were on the Gumball; Philip Chase and Ben Schwartz, the main builders of the car and our support staff on the trip; Andrew Link, always on the spot with these awesome photos; last but not least, Maximillion Cooper and everyone at Gumball
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