Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Gumball 3000: Behind the Scenes [pt.1]

Words & photos: Peter Griffiths

SSBB contributor Peter Griffiths was working behind the scenes at this year's prestigious Gumball 3000. He has a few tales to tell...


Imagine pure excitement and how it must build up and up until the day the anticipated event arrives, and how it must feel for it actually to become real! Done that? Good. Saves a paragraph. Having been invited to be involved with Gumball 3000 as a part of the crew, it was finally a reality and it wasn't just me who was feeling that way; there were a couple of dozen other volunteer crew milling around HQ exuding a kind of muted excitement, almost as children experience on Christmas Eve. While we were waiting outside, banter ripping around, the coach arrived (a Volvo – such comfort and well-built smugness) and we piled all the gear in that was going to Copenhagen with us.

By way of a slightly kooky twist, a man pulled up in a dirty, yellow, rattly old Reliant Regal estate and asked us, through his non-ironic over-sized frames, whether we were 'a college'. No, er... no. Sorry! We quickly realised explaining what we were doing was futile and he sputtered off up the road after a couple of people had posed for a snap with the plasticky old sitcom prop.

So we hadn't even left the pavement at the office without a story to tell! This was going to be a big week. These are only my daft recollections of what I was lucky enough to get up to, so I can only imagine the stories from the rest of the crew that I didn't hear on our travels. On top of that, if we as crew were having a laugh then what were the participants getting up to?! Well, there are a few videos knocking about...

Anyway, there we are on the coach not enjoying the prospect of a sixteeen hour journey to Copenhagen with broken air conditioning (thanks Volvo). After a short while we were approaching the A4 without even having got onto a dual carriageway, when the coach pulls an emergency stop that caused a few people to bang their faces on the seats in front. Needless to say we were a bit surprised after only half an hour of driving, so after even Dainton from Dirty Sanchez - of all people - put his seatbelt on we pretty much all followed suit for the rest of the journey. We identified the driver at fault and vigilance and nerves were piqued each time he took the wheel.

The ferry from Germany to Denmark was so much sweet relief from the stifling coach, and a chance to meet a few other people from our party as we snacked in daylight after a tiny bit of sleep. We milled around a bit and found Richard Walton, a great photographer teamed up with Daint; he was quiet and maybe a little fragile after about 12 beers, and very excited about his first Gumball. We all piled back on to the coach ready for the short trip to Copenhagen, and moved off towards the exit ramp when I realised Dainton was chuckling mischievously, louder and louder, and said “...where is he?” as he called Rich. “WHERE ARE YOU?!” rang out through the bus - more laughter - “just run out the front down the ramp past all the cars – we're off the boat already! ...'e's missed the bloody coach!”. He'd lost us by the food, and everyone else for that matter, and made his way to the wrong car deck on the ferry, so we were all ready to laugh with him as he jogged past the cars down the ramp – we chalked that up as the First Gumball Moment of 2013.

Friday, and we arrive at the participant's hotel, First Hotel Skt Petri (I know) and unpack the coach in a stinky loading bay underneath, and learn that cyclists rule the roads in Denmark. They're bigger than God and it's a little disconcerting before you get used to it as they are actually allowed to shove you out of their way and hit you! After that interesting experience we found the gifting suite, put our bags down, had a drink and a snack, and started arranging stuff for unpacking. As we were milling around, working on and off, we noticed Hollywood's favourite Michael Cera was being looked after and interviewed in the courtyard of the hotel, which was nice. After a brief wander around the nearby streets to see a bit of the city, where James' incredible sense of direction came into its own, we returned for a few more hours hard work before an afternoon meeting with Gumball organisers Max, Lucy and John.

The meeting ironed out a lot of gaps and answered a lot of questions about people's expectations. Since we'd left London time sort of made less and less sense, and by this time we'd been up (unless you slept an hour or two on the coach) for just over a day. We decided to go and find some food in Gammeltorv square because, frankly, other people will have already found their food and be back at the hotel to fill the gap you leave. This was borne out when Espen and Tim joined us and Tim, who is a Gumball veteran, explained you simply have to make time for it when you can. So we did.

A short trundle back to the hotel and we got stuck into more gifting suite work until about 2am, when we were thanked-very-much for our efforts and we disappeared ourselves to some beds in another hotel. We nipped out for a snack and found Copenhagen to be nicely hectic due to its 24hr drinking laws (not that you must drink for 24 hours solid), but it felt good-natured and like they were only half-way through. Our hotel was great and I had some sort of minor hallucination while sleeping with a heavy touch of fear the likes of which you used to get when you thought you'd seen a ghost. Memorable, to say the least.

Saturday morning and we were up at 5am to start setting up the barriers surrounding the grid at 6am. The streets were booze-glass-strewn and a few drinkers were tumbling out of the bars levelling curious eyes at us in our black and orange uniform. To our surprise we were met by two Gumball 3000 fans with big cameras around their necks waiting for us already. They didn't seem too far put off by our telling them they were literally four to five hours too early and that it would be intensely boring to watch us set up. We set about hefting crowd barriers into place and cable-tying the hoardings up and down, genuinely making sure it looked excellent to the detail. Very quickly we decided it was going to be a hot day, so we passed around the sun cream...

Stay tuned for part 2, when the Gumball 3000 action screams into life!

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