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Gumball 3000: The world’s most extravagant car rally heads to the desert

The Gumball 3000 is one of the world’s most exclusive, ostentatious, and extravagant car rallies – a road trip for celebrities and the wealthy that also raises money for youth charities.

Founded by British businessman and former racecar driver Maximillion Cooper, the event shares its name with “The Gumball Rally,” a 1976 comedy film about an illicit US coast-to-coast race. It’s been hosted in over 50 countries, touching locations as varied as New York, Ibiza, Bucharest, Mykonos, Istanbul, Shanghai, and Osaka. 

The inaugural run was held in 1999, starting from London, and was attended by celebrities including model Kate Moss and singer Kylie Minogue. “It was a vision back then,” says Cooper, who was able to leverage his high-profile contacts from both the fashion and racing worlds, and in subsequent years attract the likes of F1 driver Lewis Hamilton, actors Adrien Brody and Matthew McConaughey, musicians Xzibit and Usher and skateboarding legend Tony Hawk.

For its 23rd edition, the event landed in Dubai – its first time in the Middle East. “We’ve talked about it for probably the last decade,” says Cooper. “The region is opening up, welcoming lots of different sports and music and cultural events and it’s nice to be part of that.”

A new route

The cars, including Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and a Bugatti Divo, set off from Burj Park, with the starting flag waved by Cooper’s wife, the Grammy-winning rapper Eve. The route will take drivers through Oman, before winding back to the UAE, finishing on November 18 in time for the Formula One race weekend in Abu Dhabi.

Drivers raise money for the Gumball 3000 Foundation, which distributes it to projects that give underprivileged youth greater educational and recreational opportunities. Having driven this route a few times himself, Cooper believes he’s introducing many Gumball drivers to the wider region.

“To take wealthy, influential, well-traveled people to new places is great,” he says. Among the drivers are British YouTuber Yung Filly, and Moroccan-American rapper French Montana, who performed at the launch party on November 12, and is due to perform again on November 19, once the rally is over.

Women behind the wheel

Hanan Mazouzi Sobati is one of the few women behind the wheel at the event. As the founder of the Arabian Gazelles, the first all-women supercar owner’s club in Dubai, Sobati will drive an Alfa Romeo Stelvio for The Purple Team, which includes nine drivers from across the UAE and Oman. 

A seasoned rally driver, she’s accustomed to events that measure driver times at specified checkpoints. Gumball 3000, however, is completely different. “It’s more of a fun tour of really getting to meet and to bond over six days of driving with enthusiasts from all over the world,” she says. 

For Cooper, that’s exactly what the event is all about. “Every year brings together an amazing group of people,” he says. “It’s constantly growing that network.”

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