The Gumball 3000 in the one and only Brabus B635 6×6!
By Robb Pritchard
I’m sure many of us fantasise about being able to get up every morning and head off to our dream job… and because we don’t, we’ve all grown up into bitter people rightfully jealous of those that do. But what about the ultimate job for a car lover? What if the 9 to 5 was looking after the largest collection of Maybachs in Europe and your boss’s idea of a business trip was doing in the insane Gumball 3000 from Miami to Ibiza in the monstrous Brabus B635 6×6?
For OffRoad the Planet I went over to Holland to meet 24-year-old Laurens Montijn and get the full glorious story, but if you think you can guess where this tale starts you are wrong because it began with a giant Feris wheel and you would never have imagined that. Apparently there is good money in fairground attractions these days and after years of constructing some of the world’s ultimate wheels Lauren’s employer decided to get involved with another type of world’s ultimate wheels… Maybachs.
Last year the team did the drive from Copenhagen to Monaco in an SLS but for 2014 wanted something that really stood out from the run of the mill Ferraris, and with the Batmobiles and Kombats from the film The Dictator to compete with they needed something special. Really special. The 6×6 filled the bill perfectly. But the ‘standard’ one they bought from Mercedes at a cool $350,000 still wasn’t quite bonkers enough as the Gumball requires a seriously high level of unusualness to make your mark. No one looks twice at a GT-R or a Corvette. Even the Koenigsegg looks too ‘normal supercar-ish’ to stand out like the Escalade disguised as an elephant did last year… The solution was to send it off to the famous performance company Brabus where it was locked away for two weeks and made into a real monster.
The horrendously sluggish 5.5l V8 out of an SLS had not one, but two turbos added to it which upped the output from a measly 544bhp to a more respectful 700. That meant that the four tons of metal could be pulled from 0-100km/h in 7.4 seconds, making it probably the slowest car on the grid! A set of monster truck sized 37 inch Bridgestone tyres were added as well as some nice carbon fibre and something else that the DVLA wouldn’t be too impressed with come MOT time, an array of flashing blue lights. But then it was ready to be sent to the start line in Florida.
As personal liaison manager to the boss Laurens job description is basically to do everything the boss doesn’t want to do, like arranging all of the paperwork to get the cars to America. “It was lots of phonecalls, emails and international bank transfers. Cars on planes… that sort of thing. Not quite like filling in an online form for Hertz. The organisers give you all the info and their shipping partners know what you need which is good, but getting insurance in America was quite hard… A 24 year old with a half a million dollar car with six wheels, two aftermarket turbos… just over to do the Gumball… But when we finally got to the grid all the stress was gone because straight away we knew we had the coolest car on the grid. So all the time and effort was worth it.”
The days in America were long though, 1000 km and 1400 km which in one go is little crazy, so there was perhaps a little impetus for a hundred people in supercars to creep a little over the limit. It seemed that almost every available Florida policeman was out on duty. They were mostly busy with the enthusiastic locals who were speeding and looking at the cars but at one point we got stopped by an officer who claimed we were going about 15 miles an hour over the speed limit. We asked him to keep this confidential so we didn’t have the shame of being caught for such a small violation! With an electronically controlled top speed of 160km/h because of the tyres we were in the slowest car so it was almost embarrassing to be the first to be stopped!
In New York it was a strange experience to see Ferraris and Mercedes on pallets ready to be lifted on to the two 747 cargo planes. We didn’t stay to see how they got our nearly 4 turn one on! On our charter plane the boys from Dirty Sanchez jumped around in swimming trunks while Xzibit and Bun B recorded a music clip. That was something to remember!
Then to the UK. We arrived in Edinburgh which was such a nice town to drive into. We had breakfast there and then drove down to London with a stop in the Manchester stadium. England was great. The crowds were everywhere! We got a police escort a few times and with 100,000 people on the streets it was like the whole city of London had come out to see us. Because the 6×6 is so heavy you need a truck licence to be able to drive it so it was just me and my boss Ron taking turns behind the wheel, so we were properly tired by now.
The next day the traffic in London was just completely crazy. The roads were lined with tens of thousands of people and so we tried to save a bit of time by being a little bit aggressive… which in the Barabus is very easy to do! We had Xzibit following us in his Bentley because his satnav didn’t work. At a set of lights we pulled into a bus lane to get pole position when they went green… but then there was blue lights everywhere! The two cars we’d pulled up next to were unmarked police cars. Then two normal police cars came to join the fun and thoughts of the party in Paris turned to ones about sitting in a police station filling in forms for fines. But instead of tickets, in their hands they had iPhones and were busy taking photos. We lost some team caps and stickers but they let us go! Xzibit was very relieved!
But then it was time for some good fun as the whole convoy went to the Top Gear test track. No reasonably priced cars here on Gumball day! But it was interesting for us to see exactly how the Barabus would perform when it was pushed. Ron put his foot down. It handled surprisingly well but for such a big car it wasn’t so surprising that cornering is not really its strong point… But at the very same time we found that off-roading is! If we cut the corner and then ran wide on the exit we could do quite a good lap time… and also the huge clouds of dust behind looked really spectacular. The track officials didn’t think so though and gave us the red flag angrily. We pulled into the infield for lunch and an interviewer wanted an interesting angle for his story. So he lay in the grass and we drove over him.
At the channel tunnel there was a big queue and it was obviously going to be a long wait so we had an idea. We went to the front of the line, found a minibus and paid them to swap tickets with us. The faces on the other Gumballers as we drove on to an earlier train were hilarious. In Paris we had a nice relaxing evening with an a la carte dinner in the astonishing Napoleon room and for once went to bed on time!
The penultimate day was Paris to Barcelona but even though I was careful checking for speed cameras and police cars I wasn’t looking up. I got a ticket and some points on my license because they were monitoring us from a helicopter! Personally I think that is cheating! But I got a 50% discount on the fine by giving the Spanish police some caps and letting them have a photo session with the car.
Ron really wanted to be the first car in to the finish in Ibiza so we went to ask the ferry operator how the cars got off the ferry. It was like Ron suspected, first on, last off. The other guys looked at as suspiciously as we went on last and backwards… But at the port we just drove straight off it and straight to the finish. Then we found some steps down to the beach to drive down. Maybe the police should have stopped us but they were all busy taking photos.
It was an amazing experience and so far we don’t have any idea what car could possibly be cooler for next year!