Real Life “Cannonball Run”: What Does It Take To Win the Gumball 3000?

It happens to everybody: you’re flipping channels one day and stumble across one of the great car movies of the ’60s and ’70s: whether it’s the serious dramas “Vanishing Point” and “Two-Lane Blacktop”, or comedies like “The Cannonball Run” or “The Gumball Rally”, it makes you want to buy a sports car and get into some wacky misadventures across the U.S.

Well, you can: the Gumball 3000, which started in London in 1999, is run yearly on public roads across 3000 miles of beautiful terrain around the world. But if you want to win, you’ll need a bit more than just a fast car and a dream. Like, for example:

Cash, and a lot of it. To enter the Gumball currently costs $50,000 upfront as a fee, and that doesn’t include any other fees you may run into along the way. Such as, for example, speeding tickets: participants tend to move quickly and the police of the various nations they pass through are not generally enthused. There have even been situations where the cars have to be airlifted to their next rallying point.

Time: even if you race to the finish, the “3000” in the title isn’t an idle boast. To complete the race, you’ll need to drive the 3000 miles of course … and that’s going to take quite a while for even the biggest speed demon.

Your passport. The Gumball tends to cross international borders repeatedly, usually at high speeds, usually to the extreme displeasure of the police officers of the country in question. If you get pulled over, you’ll need to demonstrate your citizenship … and possibly explain to the embassy why, precisely, you and a bunch of lunatics are zipping through the border checkpoint at irresponsible speeds. “Because it’s a lot of fun” doesn’t usually pass for an excuse.

Your sense of adventure. The Gumball isn’t about getting to the final rally point first, although that doesn’t stop people from trying. The main award is actually “the Spirit of the Gumball,” awarded to participants who got lost while navigating, went the entire course in an absurd car, or dealt with a lot of repair problems. In short, it really is about the journey, not the destination, so if you don’t enjoy adventure … well, you probably weren’t planning on entering the Gumball anyway.

Your sense of humor. To say the Gumball is less than serious is a bit like saying a Ferrari is a pretty car. While plenty of people enter the Gumball with exotic sports cars and vehicles they’ve tuned for years, there are plenty of participants using cars that range from camper vans to bulletproof limousines to the infamously ugly and tiny Citroen 2CV … all of which, by the way, won the Spirit of the Gumball.

In short, if you’ve got a lot of money to burn and a lot of time to spend wandering the highways of the world, the Gumball is perfect for you. Just don’t try to reenact any of the movie’s stunts. Leave that to the professionals, and the royals who won’t get arrested for doing it.

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