Every year the Gumball 3000 Rally sees an eclectic troop of celebrities razzing unusual cars around the world. As wealthy petrolheads prepare to take over Regent’s Street for an all-day event, Gumball’s London-based founder Maximilian Cooper gives the lowdown on his wacky race
Gumball is a 3000 mile rally over six days which has drawn in some of world’s biggest celebrities… and Dannii Minogue.
‘I started the Gumball 3000 in 1999 and right from that first rally we had celebrities like Jay Kay from Jamiroquai and Dannii Minogue taking part. You’d get Chris Eubank in his giant truck and Jonny Knoxville in his old Cadillac. It was a real “Wacky Races”-style event. Since then we’ve had everyone from Quentin Tarantino and Daryl Hannah to musicians like Snoop Dogg and Blink 182. It’s a good mix.’
It wasn’t hard to get the celebrities involved, but then Cooper’s a Londoner with connections.
‘I was a skateboarder for a decade, so Tony Hawk’s has been a friend since I was 14. Plus I used to race cars, and my co-driver for two seasons was Jason Priestley from “Beverley Hills 90210”. Also, I did a fashion degree at St Martin’s and I was in the same year as McQueen, Stella… all that crew.’
His star-studded rally is less of a race, more of a knees-up on wheels.
‘Every night after we finish driving for the day, we have a party. Last year we had over a million people come out over seven days. It’s like a rolling festival. Don’t worry: we breathalyse all the participants every morning to make sure they can drive!’
The Gumball 3000 is the world leaders’ rally of choice.
‘In 2008 I flew 200 drivers from Vegas to North Korea where we put on a concert with Kim Jong Il. The UN ended up getting involved, too. Also, last May we set up a charitable foundation. I’ve worked quite closely with Nelson Mandela to support the building of a wing of a children’s hospital in South Africa. It was a poignant year. Not that I met Mandela personally, but I was at the Leicester Square premiere of the movie about his life.’
This year’s event will culminate in love.
‘We’ll be driving from Miami to Ibiza, where there’ll be a two-day festival. I’ll be getting married to Eve, the rapper. We started dating after I met her in the Crypt under St Martin’s In The Field church at the launch of the 2010 Gumball 3000. We’ll invite all the Gumball participants to the after-wedding party – some really great characters. I mean last year we had 68 guys who feature in the Forbes 500 take part!’
Cooper’s closing Regent Street for the day, and bringing in the Hoff.
‘David Hasselhoff’s become quite a Gumball regular. He’s done it every year since 2008, when he drove Kit, the original car from “Knight Rider”. He’s just the Hoff, isn’t he? He’s someone I grew up with for two decades. It’s just surreal knowing him as a friend now. He’s this larger than life character who everyone loves to hang around. Plus, at our Regent Street event, David Hasselhoff has promised to get up onstage and do a rendition of his famous “Freedom” song. That’ll be quite unique. I’ve seen him do it before and every time you hear it, it feels like the fall of the Berlin Wall.’
By Alexi Duggins
The Gumball 3000 takes over Regent’s Street on Sun June 8, 12pm-12am.