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Gumball 3000

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Story by Kari Kylo

Brian Jessel BMW customer Mark Fipke and co-pilot Corne Stigter embark on an eight-day aroundthe-world tour in their BMW M5

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While I sat across the table drinking coffee in Brian Jessel BMW’s M Café, chatting with Mark Fipke and his wife Marja about Mark’s incredible adventure in the notorious Gumball 3000, I couldn’t help get excited as he told the story of his eight incredible days driving his M5 around the world.

On Sunday, April 30, Mark and his brother-in-law, Corne Stigter from Holland, started their journey of a lifetime in London, England. They knew their itinerary, but they were unaware of the many unique events that were going to take place along the way. The race involved 120 super cars, 3,000 miles, three continents, amazing scenery, great parties and, best of all, lots of camaraderie. Maxi million Cooper, the host and proud founder of the Gumball 3000, kicked off the eighth consecutive year before a crowd of thousands, and over the roar of more than 100 vehicles, including Mark Fipke’s 2006 BMW M5 from Brian Jessel BMW.

The Gumball 3000 concept originated with the 1981 movie, The Cannonball Run, starring Burt Reynolds. The plot centred on an illegal cross-country car race featuring Ferrari-driving priests, martial arts expert Jackie Chan, and Roger Moore doing a parody of his 007 character. Since 1999, Copper has been organizing annual Gumball races and they have become world renown. From their London start at 4 p.m., Fipke and Stigter crossed to France using the Chunnel autotrain, and then drove on to Belgium where they were graciously welcomed as thousands of fans lined the streets taking pictures and asking for autographs.

“I have never experienced anything like it before. I felt like a rock star,” laughed Fipke. At approximately 1 a.m., dinner was served at the glamorous Blois Chateau in Belgium. Post-dinner, engines roared again and they were off through Germany and into Vienna, Austria, for breakfast which officially was the start of Day Two. With full bellies and weary eyes, the pair made their way to beautiful Budapest. When they arrived, they totaled 28 hours of straight driving. While in Budapest all of the participants were treated to an exclusive performance from “The Prodigy” and then partied late into the night. Seven a.m. on Day Three arrived quickly as everyone got organized to depart for Serbia. Fipke said that the most fanatical fans of anywhere were from Serbia.

“They cheered us on, waved flags, took pictures and even the police were extremely accommodating.” Once in Belgrade, everyone loaded their vehicles onto three enormous Antonov transport planes and away they flew to Phuket, Thailand. Factoring in the seven-hour time difference and 14-hour flight on an Icelandic Air 757, Day Four was upon them. With minimal elbow room during their flight, the resourceful Gumballers filled their time telling tall tales and consuming numer ous cocktails.

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Upon arrival in Thailand, the drained travelers made their way through customs and then were chauffeured to their resort where a true Thai-style, full-moon beach party awaited them. A good night’s sleep, once again, wasn’t much of an option. Day Five greeted a few tired comrades, but they gamely donned their driving gloves and set off for Bangkok. After many a gas station stop, a trip through a bat cave and one unfortunate accident for a Lamborghini, everyone made it safely to The Oriental Hotel and another night of a laughs, entertainment and tomfoolery.

After a hearty breakfast on Day Six, everyone began to make their way to the airport for their journey to Salt Lake City. “We were all supposed to have a police escort through the streets of Bangkok, but after the officer ran the first red light, the rest of us had to navigate our own way to the airport. Bangkok is not a place you want to get lost in. It was definitely interesting as we found our way,” said Fipke.

With a 15-hour difference in time, everyone arrived in Salt Lake at noon Friday, which was still Day Six. Finally, there were a few hours to relax before the final push to the finish line. Day Seven began with an exhilarating drive around the Miller Park Raceway, and then it was on to the Bonneville Salt Flats. No records were broken, but there was definitely fun to be had. Arriving in Las Vegas at the Hard Rock Hotel, the Gumballers enjoyed a private performance by Snoop Dogg and then it was off to Body English Night Club for the after-party.

Like New York, Las Vegas is “the city that doesn’t sleep,” and neither did they. Leaving town on Day Eight was followed by a roll through Death Valley: outside temperature 45° Celsius! Mark said that the term dehydration took on new meaning. Arriving in L.A. was an achievement for all the drivers! Eight unbelievable days over three continents and 3,000 miles resulted in new friends and stories for a life time! Not many people in the world have achieved this milestone.

The Beverly Hilton welcomed everyone with the checkered flag, helicopters flying overhead and many, many spectators. After a quick shower, a final blowout celebration at the fabled Playboy Mansion awaited them. A few awards were handed out, such as the coveted “Spirit of the Gumball” trophy, which is actually a gumball machine complete with gum. Fipke told me about the team that won this one. It went to the four guys who had a mishap with their Phantom in Serbia, hitched through Thailand and had another Phantom waiting for them in Salt Lake! That definitely takes a lot of spirit, among other things.

Everyone who participated received a bronze bust of Burt Reynolds fancied after his portrayal of J.J. McClure in the movie. After completing my interview with Mark and Marja Fipke, I concluded that he absolutely, without a doubt, did experience the trip of a lifetime! As he was leaving Brian Jessel BMW, his eyes sparkled as he stepped into his eye-catching M5, still colourfully stickered up with decals the team collected during the Gumball 3000.

“I can’t seem to take the decals off quite yet,” admitted Fipke. “The journey was incredible. I made some lifelong friends, and visited places I probably never would have otherwise. The M5 also handled so well. It was definitely the best car for an event like this. Hopefully, I will experience the adrenaline rush of the Gumball 3000 again in the very near future!” I can see why the fans went crazy when the Gumballers roared through their towns in their performance cars. The event represents passion, freedom of adventure, love for life, and unadulterated exhilaration! Thanks to everything I have learned through Fipke and Stigter’s experiences, I have a bunch of surprises up my sleeve for Brian Jessel BMW’s next “Ultimate Rally” coming up in 2007! It may be

difficult to top the Playboy Mansion, but I am up for the adventure and the challenge! For more information on The Gumball 3000, visit the website at

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