Celebrity road rally rolls through BIA

Posted May 04, 2010, at 5:12 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The notorious Gumball 3000 Rally — reminiscent of Burt Reynolds’ Cannonball Run — roared through the Queen City on Tuesday as 120 teams of drivers in Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsches, Aston Martins and other exotic cars started the first U.S.-leg of their 3,000-mile international derby race.

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The wealthy drivers, who have to fork over $50,000 per two-person team to get into the rally, say it’s more like an incredible road trip than a race.

“It’s not a race, it’s a group of guys having fun,” said San Diego resident Dr. Michael Moreno, nicknamed “Doc,” while at a pit stop at the Irving station on Odlin Road.

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“It’s an adventure,” added Moreno, who was accompanied by friend and lawyer Michael Kelly, also of San Diego.

The duo’s Ferrari F-430 and another glamorous-looking older couple’s Aston Martin Vanquish attracted a crowd at the gas pumps, with many gawkers snapping photos of the cars with their cell phone cameras. The teams filled their sleek machines with gas and took off toward Boston at about 1:30 p.m.

“Our goal is to get to Boston before they get off the plane,” Kelly said of the majority of rally teams, who were scheduled to arrive on a chartered flight at Bangor International Airport after 3 p.m.

All 120 of the cars in the event, easily worth more than $12 million in total, were transported separately in chartered 747s to BIA and were offloaded Tuesday morning for the 12th annual Gumball 3000 Rally.

The drivers already in Bangor took off from Europe early Tuesday morning in their own private planes, leaving other participants in the dust, Kelly said.

The Gumball 3000 Rally was founded in 1998 by skateboarder and London-native Maximillion Cooper. He has so successfully marketed the Gumball 3000 brand that in 2007 it was valued at $200 million by Forbes magazine, according to the rally’s website.

This year, the rally includes skateboarder Tony Hawk, rapper Eve, rap star and “Pimp My Ride” host Xzibit, Idris Elba from HBO’s “The Wire,” among other celebrities and dozens of participants who enjoy an affluent lifestyle.

Hawk announced on his Twitter page that he was going to travel in the A-Team van.

The rally last year went from Los Angeles to Miami and in previous years has traveled to locations all over the world.

This year, drivers started in London on May 1 and were to travel 3,000 miles before finishing in New York City in seven days and nights. They have already made it to Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm, where the cars were flown to BIA. The teams will head toward Quebec City and Toronto after Boston and are sched-uled to zoom into Times Square in New York on May 7.

In Bangor on Tuesday, two local women, who said simultaneously that “our husbands are big fans,” stood at the end of the airport with their children watching the action as the exotic and powerful sports cars were unloaded.

“They’ve been following them for weeks,” said Bangor resident Marci Parizo of her husband, Pete, and Ruth Clark’s husband, Matt. “They’ve been making Excel spreadsheets and tracking them with GPS.”

“They’ve tracked them through Europe,” said Clark.

Parizo, who had in tow her sons, Landen, 3, and Sullivan, 11-months, stood with Clark, who brought along daughter, Quinn, 3, and son, Linus, 1. Both were constantly on the phone with their husbands, giving updates.

“We’re the contact,” Parizo said. “He checks Tony Hawk’s Twitter page hourly,” she said of her husband.

Both men were working, but planned to drop everything once the drivers began to get into their cars, they said.

As he was getting the jump start on his fellow rally participants a little later, Michael Kelly said he first heard about the rally while watching late-night TV.

“I was watching ‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno’ about seven years ago and saw a celebrity who said it was crazy fun,” Kelly offered while standing in the Irving parking lot. Though he applied the next year, he didn’t complete the needed paperwork to get his car overseas in time to qualify.

“Five years ago, I was prepared,” said Kelly, who has done it every year since. “You have to be [ready]. They only let 120 people do it.”

Over the last five years, the two friends have had a number of memorable moments, Kelly said.

The most memorable moment happened in Serbia.

“We got my car up to 200 miles per hour on the highway,” he said, adding that he was in an area where there was no speed limit. Rally participants are expected to respect road rules wherever they are.

“Doc” said he lets Kelly do all the driving.

“Every year we do the rally, and it takes us around the world,” he said.

Bangor Daily News writers Aimee Thibodeau and Dawn Gagnon contributed to this report.

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