IF YOU have time on your hands, a very expensive car and a few thousand quid in your back pocket, then how about joining a line-up of like-minded folk for a high-speed romp along the motorways of Europe? That’s right, just pay your £28,000 entry fee, kit your car out with police radar detectors and make the front number plate unreadable, in case you come to the attention of the authorities as you reach speeds in excess of 200 km/h on the public road. And God help anyone who might dare get in your way.
Yes, it’s rally season again, when the well-heeled throw caution (and consideration for others) to the wind as they charge across national borders in pursuit of having an excellent time. This year’s Gumball 3000 was one of the first events in the summer calendar, and saw Aston Martins, Rolls Royces and even a pink Ferrari growl their way out of London for the south coast.
So, do we have any sympathy for the two British drivers and the Austrian who were arrested on the A16 autoroute in France a few days ago? I don’t think so. All were involved in the ‘Gumball 3000’ car rally that was in France at the time.
The first Briton, driving a Rolls Royce at 222 km/h, was arrested on Thursday near Oroër, in Oise, after testing positive for cocaine. This was established using field impairment tests and a saliva test. The Austrian also tested positive for drugs, and was still in custody Friday morning in the local platoon of the highway police in Beauvais. His vehicle was confiscated.
An hour later, on the same stretch of autoroute, a British driver of a Mercedes was clocked at a speed of 219 km/h. Another British motorist was also arrested, having been detected driving at a speed of more than 190 km/h. His vehicle, a Jaguar, was immediately confiscated and impounded.
It was in the Gumball 3000 in 2007 that two innocent people (who happened to be in the way of a Gumball participant) died after being involved in a crash. Yet the reckless behaviour continues and is still seen as a great way to celebrate motoring.
Gendarmerie spokesperson, Colonel Gérard Escolano, commented on the action: “These three racers were all participants in the Gumball 3000,” he said. “This rally was established by an Englishman in 1999 and reserved for wealthy drivers of sports cars. It is held once a year.
“We cannot ban this rally because it is not an official sporting event. For us, it is tourists who pass through France. But as soon as we were informed of their arrival on our territory, we implemented a monitoring device that staked all their possible routes to ensure that they could not make free on our roads, and to ensure maximum safety for other motorists.”
The French Gendarmerie have been proactive in sharing their intelligence with colleagues in other countries, and have also asked for any useful advance information to be passed back to them, as the Gumball participants continue on their planned route through Europe. Now you really would think the police have better things to do with their time, wouldn’t you. But while events such as this continue, law enforcers have no choice but to devote substantial resources to the task of minimising the completely unnecessary risks created by the Gumballers.