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Toronto duo, Gumball participants, head for Yorkville

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Invite 55 of your closest friends, ask them to fire up their exotic cars, and go for a nice long drive.

That seems to have been the operating philosophy of one Maximillion Cooper (and yes, he does spell “Maximillion” that way) when he conceived of the Gumball 3000 rally back in 1999.

He has run one every year since, using a different route each time (of roughly 3,000 miles, hence the name) to such exotic locales as St. Petersburg Russia, Monaco, Marrakesh in Morocco, and the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The latest Gumball will start in New York Friday morning, arrive in Toronto’s tony Yorkville neighbourhood Friday night and leave for Indianapolis Saturday morning where the participants will take in the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.

Cooper has turned this event into a massive branding exercise, generating massive revenues for apparel and luxury goods.

Although the event has often been run across the United States, the organizers say there is no connection to the original Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy dash, invented by American car writer Brock Yates in the 1970s, or to the movies that followed (Cannonball Run 1 and 2, and The Gumball Rally) although clearly the event’s name was inspired therefrom.

The Gumball 3000 isn’t a rally in the competitive sense — there are no prizes for “fastest-wins” as in most professional rallies, or for meeting bogey times, as in the Targa Newfoundland.

Instead, the event is billed as a “road trip adventure.” Entrants essentially go from party to party as they follow the prescribed route.

Through Cooper’s connections in the art, fashion and music scenes, the Gumball has attracted considerable attention from celebrities in those worlds.

The cars are typically fast and exotic, and while speed isn’t supposed to be “the” point, there is allegedly one Gumball candidate for the fastest speeding ticket ever – 242 miles per hour in a Konigsegg CC8S, in Texas in 2003.

There have also been some serious crashes over the years, as you might expect.

The entry is limited to 120 cars. Cooper says he “qualifies” each potential entrant, to make sure they are “interesting.” He says he doesn’t just want 120 rich boring bankers who can afford the 25,000 pound entry fee.

Yes, twenty-five thousand British pounds!

This year, at least one Canadian team has been deemed “interesting,” by Cooper.

Toronto-based custom home builder Mitch Kleinstein has always been a car and off-road truck freak, but never really had the time to get involved in sanctioned motorsport competition.

He heard about the Gumball back in 2010, learned that the route would be coming through Toronto this year, and decided this was his chance.

He contacted his good friend Shane Grosman, a Toronto-based property developer, and an accomplished racer — he is justifiably proud of having been chosen Rookie of the Year in the GM Players Camaro/Firebird racing series (east division) in 1992.

Grosman says the plan evolved fairly quickly.

Kleinstein: “Have you heard of the Gumball 3000?”

Grosman: “Sort of.”

Kleinstein: “Want to do it?”

Gosman: “Sure!”

The duo will run Grosman’s Mercedes-Benz SLS Gullwing Coupe.

Grosman says there isn’t much room inside the car, but it is what they have. I hope they are still good friends when the rally is over!

Organizers are expecting a large crowd when the cars arrive in Yorkville.

After Indianapolis, there will be overnights in Kansas City, Santa Fe and Las Vegas, with the event ending in Los Angeles on May 31.

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