“Rev it!” screams a man in the crowd.
He gets his wish: a McLaren MP4-12C, covered from nose to tail in fluorescent livery, blips its throttle to the delight of a few hundred people gathered in New York City’s historic South Street Seaport.
I came here to get a glimpse of the Gumball 3000, an annual celebration of wealth, exotic machinery, and a casual disrespect for traffic laws whose ragtag list of sponsors includes Uber, YouTube, MTV, Krispy Kreme, and Grenco Science, makers of the G Pen marijuana vaporizer. It’s a rally on public roads — think Cannonball Run, but real — and this year, participants are driving from Miami to the Mediterranean island of Ibiza, stopping briefly in New York to hop a plane across the Atlantic (yes, cars too).
The Gumball, which raises money for charitable youth organizations, has a reputation for attracting celebrities. Hip hop artist Xzibit lost his license driving it in 2007. This year, Eve is involved. So is David Hasselhoff.
Every few minutes, a participating car would arrive, each more ridiculous than the one before it: I saw a completely chromed Aston Martin, Porsches of all shapes, sizes, and colors, and a Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé covered in what appeared to be velvet. Each arrival was met with cheers and jeers (onlookers were quick to punish workaday sedans and SUVs). Occasionally, Water Street would fill with the billowing smoke of a satisfying burnout. Sanitation workers in a garbage truck stopped to signal their approval; a fire engine swung by and gave us some siren. Shirtless teenagers in a late-model Honda Accord, champagne in color, managed to get their tires to chirp as they tore by. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of an ultra-rare McLaren P1 or Batman’s Tumbler — yes, some rich guy entered the Tumbler in a rally race — but both were no-shows. Rumors spread in the crowd that the movie prop had broken down before reaching the city. (Shocker.)
The highlight of the evening was the arrival of acclaimed DJ and producer Joel Zimmerman — better known by his stage name, Deadmau5 — who is driving the Gumball this year in his Ferrari 458 Italia alongside Tory Belleci of MythBusters fame. But this isn’t just any 458: it’s the "Purrari," so named because Deadmau5 has wrapped it in a life-size vinyl print of Nyan Cat. As they parked, Nyan Cat’s insufferable theme song blared from the car’s speakers; Zimmerman and Belleci say they listened to it on loop along the entire drive. That would break a normal human’s spirit, but I’d be hard pressed to call these gentlemen normal humans.
I asked Zimmerman how he was balancing the rally — a major time commitment — with the release of his new album, while(1 2), which comes out in just a matter of days. "I’m not," he admits, noting that work on album production finished quite some time ago. For the moment, he’s focused entirely on beating a pack of six-figure cars to Ibiza.
Drivers pay £40,000 (about $67,000) for the privilege of entering the Gumball 3000, which means you and I won’t be doing it. But considering that it’s one of the precious few events where you can see two celebrities step out of a Ferrari that's literally covered in an internet meme, it was well worth looking on from afar.
Photography by Sean O'Kane and Evan Rodgers; video by John Lagomarsino and Ryan Manning
- A variety of competitors await transport to JFK, where they'll be loaded on an aircraft and taken to Scotland.
- A pair of Mercedes-Benz SLS models pull into the staging area, surrounded by onlookers.
- It's hard to avoid taking a picture of a chromed Aston Martin.
- A participant hangs out of her Porsche 911's sunroof as she arrives at the checkpoint.
- Onlookers get ready for the next driver to arrive.
- A crowd of several hundred took over South Street Seaport as Gumball teams poured in.
- An Audi RS7 arrives, ready for its transatlantic voyage.
- The most ostentatious arrival was by a velvet-covered Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé, which deployed smoke bombs as it parked.
- The driver of a Bentley Continental GT gets instructions from Gumball 3000 staff.
- One of the more unique entrants travels along Water Street in Lower Manhattan.
- Two participants hang out in a Mercedes-Benz SLS.
- No international road rally would be complete without a few smoky burnouts.
- For reasons unknown, Spider-Man was hanging out of a Ferrari F430 as it arrived...
- ...but he wasn't happy for long.
- Big-name Gumball 3000 sponsors this year include YouTube, Uber, and — strangely enough — Krispy Kreme donuts.
- A small but devoted crowd of Deadmau5 enthusiasts gathered for the musician's arrival.
- After checking in, cars were taken around back for their trip to JFK.
- Not every Gumball 3000 entrant is driving an exotic coupe: a few SUVs showed up as well.
- A Nissan GT-R fit for Tron arrives.
- A Ford GT — not something you see everyday — was one of the more popular arrivals of the evening.
- Members of one team were taking their Tron theme very, very seriously.
- If you were looking for understated cars, you were in the wrong place.
- Deadmau5 arrives.
- Deadmau5 parks the "Purrari," a Ferrari 458 Italia that's been wrapped with a Nyan Cat.
- Deadmau5 and co-driver Tory Belleci (of MythBusters fame) share a fist bump upon their arrival.
- Belleci takes a quick selfie in the staging area.
- Considering the amount of driving they've been doing, the pair were in a great mood.
- It's unclear what Belleci said to trigger this reaction.
- Deadmau5 reacts when he finds out we're with The Verge. Turns out he's a fan.
- The Purrari in its natural habitat.
- Yes, even the logos have been changed...
- ...along with a matching Ontario vanity plate.
- Deadmau5 interacts with fans.
- Verge social media manager Sam Sheffer (pictured right) hands Deadmau5 a logo tee, which he put in his car. Hopefully, he's wearing it somewhere in Europe right now.