Steve just published his amazing writeup on probably the most unlucky Gumball experience ever. Denied access into France at least 3 times, then travel around the country to find alternative entry points into Continental Europe, in the end decide to go back to London, end-up in Brixton, nearly get car jacked – twice – and when they finally arrived at a Porsche dealership they rejected to look after the $ 400.000 Carrera GT, so they left it in the streets of West-London… The story reads like a small novel!
I am typing right now on a laptop on a boat on the Bosphorus Sea in Turkey, the Blue Mosque as backdrop…Surreal…as is evertying about this adventure. As you will understand soon, we are renaming the car from “The Beast” to “Handbasket”, because we certainly went to hell in it. Months of details and preparation should have mitigated the risk of disaster, or so you would think, but fate had different plans for Team Warrior Heart car “lucky” 13. The definition of “Warrior Heart” is to live life directly, its pains and limitations, its joys and possibilities. The universe decided Gumball was the perfect place to test that out and put our money where our mouths ware. We were supposed to receive a legally accepted front plate “sticker” for the Carrera GT, so Steve didn’t have to drill holes into the front of the car. Inexplicably our provider avoided us for 3 days as we heard “its coming” all the way till we were in queue ready to take off…in the end we were provided with our license plate details on cardboard paper taped to the front of our car. Some last ditch efforts to get the camera recording setup in the car worked…and with moments to spare, the incar LAN was humming like the 605 ponies waiting be unleashed. And…This is when it all started to go wrong… (You will notice lots of “…” in this post as everything is a cliff hanger. It just couldn’t get any weirder!)
Drive out of Pall Mall was AMAZING! Hundreds of thousands of fans lining the streets. Interviews taken, photos snapped. Serious Rock Star stuff. “Please don’t stall” Please don’t stall” was being chanted from the passenger side as we took off along side the Fuel Bentley (yeah Fuel girls!). A ¼ mile of revving the engine (1/8 tank of gas) for screaming spectators. How could this go wrong! It was a beautiful thing. We got to the point where we the jam packed fans gradually gave way to the open city streets and at the first possible place to go in the wrong direction, we promptly obliged. Doubling back “to give our fans one last look at the car”, we hustled in and out of cars to muscle our way back into the pack. Driving through the streets of London with stickered supercars was brilliant. Every mirror check provided a new and beatuful site as a different racer…umm..rallyer darted through traffic. It was a car lovers dream…and to be in the car that some many other Gumballers came over to admire and tauted as their favorite in the whole Gumball felt like an honor (especially with the Veyron, Enzo, F40 and the like as stablemates). Much love to the British police for taking care of us in the London streets. As the story unfolds, you will see what top people they are. After a few spurts on the highway. Got within 55mph of the cars top speed…whetting our appitite for the truly open roads to come. After our bit of fun…and passing pulled over Gumballers (including Michael Howe, our UK ground support team member who was hitching a ride in the back of a Bentley Continental GTC) and seeing a little zannyness (some of which caught on video), We arrive at the channel tunnel customs entrance and needless to say they are not impressed with our license plate. It was a little concerning to us as well since it looked like Steve’s 3 year old son Dominic had drawn it on with a crayon…The experience to come did not do much to improve Franco-American relations.
Leaving the UK: attempt #1: So we get to the front of the line, Chunnel ticket in hand, waiting to be waved through by everyone else. “Pierre”, as we will call him, nonchalenantly walks in front of the car, gives a critical parent winger wave, “no” and essentially tells us bugger off. “Why” we ask. “unly plastic” he says as our rejection hits us. Some really good peoplefrom the British side of the border give us some advice on how to make a compliant plate. We dig through the shopping center attached to customs and have another whack at making a plate that will get us in.
Leaving the UK: attempt #2: Turn the key, fireup the engine, roll back to visit “Pierre”. By now, there’s no line as it is getting late and NOBODY else is there. We are hoping that he wont be there this time…as it is HIS issue. He walks out of his booth and we try not to make eyecontact…like if we don’t see him, he wont see us or something. We were sure this one complied with all the requirements , but “Pierre” still wasn’t impressed..”no. go away.” and this time tell us that we have offended him personally by attempting it a second time. They proceed to make Steve sign documents , which are not explained in English, except to say its says that it says that the car is rejected. 3 sheets of text and that’s all its says? Steve is pretty convinced it stated that he will learn to speak French and name his next child Napoleon. Feeling frustrated and pretty pissed off (the cardboard plates were hacked together by Gumball in the starting line at Pall Mall since our sticker never arrived), in walks this bad-ass looking, Kevlar vest wearing English official with “POLICE” written boldly across his chest. He walks in to talk to the French guy and uses some aggressive diplomacy to smooth the way. No luck, he announces himself to us as British Antiterrorism…gulp! he then instructs us to get back into our car and leads us away in a police escort at high speeds to a designated undisclosed Antiterrorism Police Station. There , together, we form a plan of attack to infiltrate France (in a completely legal way of course :-). Rejected twice at the Chunnel, we suspect that a 3rd attempt there would lead to a world of hurt so we decide to try another crossing…this time by ferry. By this time, the other cars were well into France. Getting intel from WHF team car 23 and Polizei 144, we strategize on routes to get us to the airlift to Turkey. Unfortunately, there’s no way we can make the Amsterdam checkpoint. Now we just have to get to France.
Leaving the UK: attempt #3: 20 minute drive to Dover was uneventful, yet rapid, given that we still have a police escort. Unfortunately “Pierre” has called ahead to Dover and warned them about us. I thought our car was subtle enough to slip by, but I guess all the Gumball stickers gave us away. hehehe The next French customs agent is not nearly as impressed as “Pierre” and tells us that we have now offended the entire Nation of France by attempting to enter France from Dover. Steve is sat in a little room with all the furniture bolted into the floor, told we are “bad” by a French Agent who then leaves. In a while, we are told we can leave them. At this point it is obvious that entering Europe to rejoin our fellow Gumball Rally companions under the GTs own power is gone. Strategy time once again. What does any reasonable person due when faced with such overwhelming odds at almost eleven at night??? Yet again, the answer is obvious, we had Indian food at the local restaurant. (Which on a side note was quite exceptional.)
Leaving the UK: attempt #3b. While we are there both myself and the manager of the restaurant (a charming young Indian fellow) are calling every tow company within 100 miles and offer substantial “bonuses”, in the range of 2,000 to 5,000 GBP, above their usual charges to put our car on a flat bed and move it to the French-Belgium border. Shockingly, no one was interested, and yet again we were foiled… While I was making phone calls and Steve and I were trying to get our first meal (as we missed lunch) a familiar face arrived as a visitor. It was one of the British customs officers we had spoken with earlier. He informs us that in fact…the French are not through with Steve. He is taken to the little room again and is detained and interrogated again…this lasts about 45 minutes. Steve was informed that the French could impound the GT right now and that if he attempted to bring the car in again (he thinks, without the original US plate vs ever again…but is not entirely sure), he will be arrested on the spot and the car impounded. On the positive side: 1) this French agent was not evil like the first one; 2)Steve got a cool stamp in his passport to show he’s been detained; 3)This agent explained in English what all the documents he was making Steve sign said. After Steve was released, we finished dinner which Id had held for him.
Needless to say I’m so upset that, regrettably, I turn off the time lapse camera’s and my original idea for making a short film of all 3000 miles of the Gumball Rally is crushed! Feeling some-what defeated we started driving back to London. I’m half English and half American, but I have enough good sense to know London, but Steve is not so lucky. As we were cruising back to London in our $400,000 automobile I noticed a new sign; we were entering Brixton (think EuroCompton). Not only did we enter Brixton, we entered the worst part of Brixton, and our Co-Pilot navigation unity sent us up all these non-primary roads that were covered in speed bumps.
The next part of the story can only be summarized as sum enormous joke by God to torture both of us (and in particular Steve). The Carrera GT has a very trick clutch that make going from a stop to a start a continual challenge. Somehow this part of Brixton, and I’m not exaggerating the slightest, had more speed bumps then area of the world I have ever witnessed. Yet again, I would not be exaggerating, if I said that we went across at least one hundred fairly high (Mt Everest if you are a Carrera GT) speed bumps over a 30 minute period trying to get our way back to a primary road. Yet as we were on our way back to London and this is when our next sub-adventure began. Three cheers to Co-Pilot, our navigation system, for sending us through a “challenging” area of London on our way to Trafalgar parking lot.
Read more at the Warrior Heart blog!