Where do babies come from? What came first, the chicken or the egg? Where has this 4BallR idea come from?
Just a few things that my son has asked recently, the inquisitive little bastard. For one of the answers, I sent him to his mother, and for another, YouPorn. The last question, the greatest of all, I told him to grab a pew and get comfortable, for here is the story of the 4BallR.
I have always been a huge fan of the Gumball 3000. This stems for my love of cars, adventure and the early Gumball film starring Gary Busey. The Cannonball Run, featuring Burt Reynolds, is also a particular favourite of mine. That whole concept, Hollywood style, converted into a real-world event like the Gumball Rally or the Cannonball Run, makes me very happy indeed. Since those early days watching the films, to the later ones where I would watch the start of the Gumball 3000 whenever it began in London and of course, watched the films and TV shows of the rallies themselves, I've always wanted to participate in something like the Gumball. As a fresh-faced teenager with a newly-acquired licence and a Fiat Cinquencento with red seatbelts, I even asked Maximillion himself on a chance meeting at a car show many moons ago. It was made clear to me that if I had the finances, I had the grid-position (Thankfully, he never asked what I drove).
I didn't have the finances. And that was back when entry cost £10k. Now you get flown around the world in 8 days without the need for Passepartout and a grid-place costs north of £50k. Clearly, it seemed, my short-lived dreams of Gumball-participation were over.
Having grown up a little bit, and having less-interest in all-night clubbing, loose women and Sheiks in Rolls Royces, realising that the dream was now a dead one, wasn't a huge loss. The bits that really hurt were that I still wanted to take part in an event as a large group, feel that sense of adventure and the drive through different countries, however similar and close. Still, in the wake of the Gumball Rally, at the other-end of the spectrum, many smaller, cheaper rallies emerged.
This, it seemed, was my ticket to nirvana. Not wanting to go alone, I interested my wife in the idea of participating in one, and we hit the internet in order to fulfil my destiny. Problems however started to creep up and foil my plans once more. These smaller or 'banger' rallies wanted participants to purchase a car for around £300 and spearhead it into Europe for a few days. The fun, it seemed, was not knowing if you would actually make it to the end before your banger blew a gasket. The reality of sitting in a smoking Volvo 240GLE at Dover with shattered dreams sprung to mind. And what if my mechanical knowledge was up to scratch, and the old girl actually made it? Well, then I would be tackling these superb roads advertised on the website in.. well, a 240GLE. I'm sure there is fun to be had in throwing one about on the Stelvio Pass, but pass is exactly what I did. I didn't want to purchase a banger. Thats another £300 on top of the £200 to enter the damn rally in the first place. And then there are the toll costs. And the over-night accommodation. Christ, before you knew it the total cost was that of a small family holiday in Cornwall.
My wife quite rightly interjected. Spending £800 on a 3 day European jaunt in a shit car was a solid no no. Her terms for entry dictated that it had to be cheap.
"What, like no accommodation?"
Exactly. Women are like that. Unforgiving, unrelenting. She wanted a toll-free, accommodation-free, banger-free event with no hidden costs. Good luck.
We searched, we hunted, we failed. No rally or event out there on the internet matched our criteria. She walked off. I glanced across at my Gumball 3000 DVD collection with a sadness. To be honest, I'm surprised they still even exist in my house, for everything resembling a 'digital versatile disc' was boxed and shipped off to our local Barnardos long ago. Thankfully, the Gumball collection and my Band Of Brothers boxset survived the cull. But I digress.
She returned back into the room. I was a little worried that she might have spotted the remaining discs, but she had an idea for me, instead.
"Why don't we just plan our own driving trip?"
Light-bulb moment? Not exactly. In her scenario, her criteria had been met. Sure, we could go for a drive around the UK together in our car, but my lusting for some group action was being overlooked somewhat. Explaining that I wanted some group action with strangers and the she alone would be unable to fulfil my urge, once again saw her leaving the room. Perhaps one could have phrased and explained my needs a little better, but that’s hindsight for you.
She returned, thankfully without divorce papers, but sadly without a bowl full of keys.
The lightbulb moment struck me, instead. Let's make it an open event. Let's get loads of people involved, just like other rallies do. Let's put it out there, and invite other cars to join us in a UK event.
"What about the cost of accommodation?" She asked.
My response? I could tell that she wanted it slowly and methodically, but that's not my game. My solution came hard and fast and I never even felt tired immediately after.
"Fuck it, we'll camp".
Sounded reasonable. She suggested 30 cars. I suggested 120. She suggested a weekend. I suggested a week. She suggested a mental asylum. I suggested an high-ranking award.
Clearly the spark would require some tinder, but when my ideas were written out, she was onboard and swiped right. Did I need approval from the wife? No. But as is the case more often than not, having someone sensible onboard helps keep me grounded and keeps ideas sensible and remotely feasible. With her approval came the confirmation that this was indeed something that could theoretically happen. The 4BallR was born.
With any birth comes the need for careful nurturing, sacrifice and bloody hard work, and that's what I immediately started to do and have done ever since. I had to keep this 'thing' alive. I had to be on call at all hours, allowing the event to suckle from my teat of ideas and grow stronger with each feed. My dream was alive and growing daily, I would soon be sitting alongside Susan Flannery in a Porsche. Or in reality, my wife in an MGF.
And here we are, just under a year to go until we drop the flag at the Ace Cafe in London, heading off on four days of pure driving adventure. That was the story of how this whole thing came about. It's probably worth me throwing in at this point that during the writing of this little piece, my wife was breastfeeding our newborn son. Don't worry, it had no influence on this post in any way.