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Great Races: From Cannonball to Gumball 3000

The 1971 Cannonball participants. Among them, the great Dan Gurney.
Shortly after putting man on the moon, the United States entered a deep energy crisis caused by the high price of oil. This had an impact on the lives of the Yankees, who had to change some of their customs to be in accordance with the regulations of the Richard Nixon government. One of the measures taken in 1971 was to limit the maximum speed to 55 miles per hour, or 89 km / h.

The decision, while understandable, was not amusing to speed lovers. Outraged, and in protest, journalist Brock Yates set out to cross the country from coast to coast with his Dodge Custom Sportsman van in the shortest possible time. Thus it was that on May 3 he began his journey between New York and Los Angeles and joined the 4.608 kilometers in 40 hours and 51 minutes, quite a feat for the time.

The inspiration for Yates, editor of the specialized magazine Car And Driver, was a very famous pilot who in 1933 united the two coasts on a Graham-Paige in 53 hours and a half. His name was Erwin George Baker and everyone knew him as "Cannonball" ...

Six months after the experience, Yates did it again, although better prepared. He had as a pilot Dan Gurney, winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1967; while the vehicle used was a Ferrari 365 GTB / 4 Daytona. Logically, the time was less: 35 hours and 53 minutes. "At no time did we exceed 280 km / h ...", assured Gurney. This time there were five other competitors who accepted the Yates challenge.

Throughout the 1970s the Cannonball, such the name by which this speed race was baptized, was contested three other times (1973, 1975 and 1979) and with hundreds of participants. The record for this series of tests was achieved in the last edition when Dave Heinz and Dave Yarborough, aboard a Jaguar XJS, reached the finish line in 32 hours and 51 minutes. Several lawsuits against Car And Driver magazine, which had become a promoter of the event, caused it to cease to exist. However, his fame increased when a film called "Los Locos del Cannonball" was released in 1981 starring Burt Reynolds and which reflected the adventurous spirit of the creation of Yates.

In 1984 an attempt was made to re-float the Cannoball with a test called “A Tour of America”, which consisted of running on different circuits in a dozen days. Although the race continues to this day, it has not achieved the fury of its predecessor.

The Gumball 3000 is a 5.000 kilometer adventure.

On the edge of the twentieth century came a worthy successor to the original version: the Gumball 3000, which was rolled out in 1999 with 55 cars that linked London (England) with Rimini (Italy). The race was created by a fashion entrepreneur with a skater and car racer background: the Englishman Maximillion Fife Alexander Cooper, then 27 years old. His idea was simple: make a 5.000-kilometer rally for those people with money who love adrenaline, music and parties ...

“I know it seems like sheer lack of control, but it takes me a lot of work to put the Gumball together every year. Getting the booze, the DJs and the three hundred cute models for the parties is a joke alongside the time it takes me to plan the routes and put together the logistics for the race. That is a year-long job, which in some cases involves even quite harsh diplomatic procedures, "Maximillion once explained, who lives up to his name by having an estimated fortune of 50 million euros.

The Gumball 3000, which in this time already crossed a good part of Europe and the United States and even reached China, has no rules. Actually, there is one that is not very important: respect the speed limits. The fifty participants who sign up each year want to reach their destination as quickly as possible and, obviously, in time for the parties that are organized along the way.

As infractions are the order of the day, competitors have the habit of carrying a lot of cash to face the fines and some even have the precaution of having a muletto car to use it in case the police kidnap the one they were driving to. time of the offense. Needless to say, all cars are equipped with devices that allow them to be aware of the steps of the law or speed cameras, although sometimes it is useless ...

Registration is around 45.000 euros and includes accommodation and a pass for the parties that take place during the eight days of the race. When the competitions are on a continent there are usually no major logistics problems, the issue becomes complicated when there is an ocean involved. In that case, the vehicles fly from one side to the other in a Hercules plane while their owners take the opportunity to have a good time to the beat of a fashionable DJ, of course ...

The musician deadmau5, one of the participants of the Gumball.

The Gumball 3000 not only captures the interest of tycoons, but also personalities from different fields such as the actors Adrien Brody (The Pianist) and David Hasselhoff (The Fantastic Car and Baywatch), the musicians Travis Baker (Blink 182 drummer), David Guetta and Snoop Dogg, model Kate Moss, skateboarder Tony Hawk and businessman Kim Dotcom (creator of Megaupload). Even Formula 1 pilots competed such as the English Damon Hill, who raced in 2001 with a Lamborghini; and Lewis Hamilton, who took part in the first stage of the 2015 edition with a McLaren P1.

Despite its unusual features, the Gumball 3000 is packed with sponsors like Abarth, YouTube, Guess, MTV, and Momo, to name a few. In addition, Maximillion also collects royalties. At the beginning of 2000, he gave them to a video game company to make one inspired by the competition and also to a production company that made a movie, which was released in 2003. It is not a minor fact that his company is valued at more than 200 million euros.

Although this competition is not without controversy, its organizer does not leave anything to chance and after each day it carries out a charity auction in which thousands of euros are collected which are then destined to different NGOs.

Like that Cannonball of the 1970s, which was born as a form of protest, the Gumball 3000 offers a glamorous adventure. Although in both cases the premise remains: always walk at maximum speed.

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Automundo is the blog about news from the automotive industry, motorsport and the culture of the region. Director: Diego Durruty.

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