Over the next few weeks, we are going to take you from the genesis of the endurance road trip to the modern international road rally. Each day we will share a bite sized history lesson about the development of this motorsport. We hope that you’ll join us for this absolutely fascinating ride.
Yesterday we revealed the 1980’s U.S. Express – and the Ferrari that crossed the USA in 32 hours 7 minutes. The record had been set and the media, not to mention police, were eating it up. While a few new rallies occurred afterwards, the peak had seemingly passed. After 15 years of silent engines, a charismatic 26-year-old Englishman took up the rally reigns.
Maximillion Cooper, born in 1972, grew up in an artistic and musical household. At 18 he learned to race and quickly worked his way up from Formula Ford into a McLaren GT car. In short order he became involved with action-sports, music, academia, and fashion. By his mid-20’s he knew a broad range of eclectic and influential people, and wanted to leverage that in to something he was passionate about: the purchase of a racing team.
Cooper, like most 25-year-olds, was broke but inspirational and at 25, nearly pulled off a $100 million deal for a Formula 1 team. $100,000,000. F1 entails racing two cars about 17 races a year, all over the world and is the highest class of single seater auto racing sanctioned by the FIA. Only the best of the best with the most financial backing can afford to participate. You would have had Team McLaren, Team Mercedes, Team BMW, Team Ferrari…and Team Gumball. Cooper relished in the fact that Gumball would have been extreme underdogs and outsiders in every way.
He leveraged his “Gumball” Formula 1 team to the final negotiating stages. His concept of creating the most rock ‘n’ roll racing team was all but complete when, at the last second, Lucky Strike cigarettes swooped in and made a better offer. Legends are made from audacity like that.
While the deal fizzled, Cooper realized his strength in bringing together well-connected friends and showing them a great time. In his one bedroom Notting Hill flat, with no computer and one telephone, he devised a 3,000 mile route all over Europe.
The first Gumball 3000 Rally occurred in April 1999. 55 cars, most with no more than two people to a car, had no idea what they were in for. The entrance fee was a minimal “…pound a mile.” 110 people participated.
Getting all of the personalities together in one room was challenging. Cooper managed to entice most participants by offering “party after party” when in reality it was more like party, drive, drive, get lost, drive, and break down. Even his E-Type Jaguar suffered such a delay! This was all deemed acceptable, as there were no prizes for being fastest or official timekeeping of any sort. Organizers emphasized that it was to be a road trip adventure and not a race.
The Gumball 3000 drew inspiration from movies such as Two-Lane Blacktop, Vanishing Point, Bullitt, and Le Mans. All true driving films putting man and machine on an equal platform. The term “Gumball” is actually traced back to 80’s pop culture and Andy Warhol’s suggestion that the decades culture was chewed up then spit right back out. Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, The Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, and the U.S. Express all served as the building blocks for Gumball 3000 success.
The 1999 rally began in London, went on to Paris, stopped at Chateau d’Esclimont, lapped the Le Mans race circuit, visited the Ferrari Museum at Mas du Clos, stopped by the Monaco Grand Prix, and reached its furthest point in Rimini, Italy. The rally then spun around and sprinted to the Modena Ferrari Factory, Ambras Palace in Austria, lapped the Hockenheim Grand Prix circuit in Germany, and crossed the finish line on Park Lane in London. 3000 miles were accomplished in only six days.
It was a spectacle in all sense of the word; from the kick-off party at the Bluebird Club attended by London’s A-list, to the original British police car, borrowed from the British TV show The Bill, that was driven on the rally. Whimsical cars and super cars were piloted by friends from all walks of life.
The 1999 Gumball 3000 set a new standard of rally excellence. Thanks to these men and women bake dust rained throughout Europe for an entire week.
The rally opened the door for anyone who loves fast cars to see them close-up and personal. It gave us all the opportunity to experience the sights and sounds of some of the best examples of motoring design and engineering from around the world. The 1999 Gumball 3000 embodied the flair and panache of a rally driver’s pioneering spirit.
Tomorrow, we will discuss how the Gumball 3000 was never meant to be an annual event, and how the 2000 Gumball 3000 shattered those assumptions.
- Wikipedia - Maximillion Cooper: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximillion_Cooper
- Wikipedia - 1999 Gumball 3000 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gumball_3000#1999
- Gumball3000.com 1999: http://www.gumball3000.com/history/1999
- About Gumball 3000: http://www.gumball3000.com/info/about
- Frank 151 Chapter 40 Gumball 3000: http://www.frank151.com/book/chapter_40_gumball_3000
- Two Lane Blacktop: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000WC39FO?ie=UTF8&tag=maseffdea-20&linkCode=shr&camp=213733&creative=393185&creativeASIN=B000WC39FO&qid=1336768405&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1
- Vanishing Point: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00013RC8O?ie=UTF8&tag=maseffdea-20&linkCode=shr&camp=213733&creative=393185&creativeASIN=B00013RC8O&qid=1336768463&ref_=sr_1_1&s=movies-tv&sr=1-1
- Bullitt: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00407PNY2?ie=UTF8&tag=maseffdea-20&linkCode=shr&camp=213733&creative=393177&creativeASIN=B00407PNY2&qid=1336768537&ref_=sr_1_2&s=movies-tv&sr=1-2
- Le Mans: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004R6JG7Q?ie=UTF8&tag=maseffdea-20&linkCode=shr&camp=213733&creative=393185&creativeASIN=B004R6JG7Q&qid=1336768575&ref_=sr_1_2&s=movies-tv&sr=1-2