Bullrun: Darth Vader and speeding tickets
VAIL – British actor Will Mellor said he received three speeding tickets in a half hour on Tuesday, and had a short stint in handcuffs in Kansas. He was going 110 mph in his Audi Quattro before he was sent to jail.”It set me back an hour and a half,” he said. “I came in 11th, still.”For many drivers in Bullrun, a coast-to-coast “rally” with a competitive edge, speeding tickets are part of the game.A friend posted bond after Mellor realized he was short on cash.”Don’t ever run with less than 50 grand on you,” fellow driver Richard Rawlings, a tattooed Texan, advised Mellor as they gathered at Crossroads in Vail after the leg was over Tuesday.Speed, evasion, money and celebrity intersect for the rally, which is modeled after the original Cannonball Run coast-to-coast race and the 1981 Burt Reynolds flick that depicted it.One-hundred cars left Times Square in New York on Saturday for the week-long race which finishes in Los Angeles on Friday. Competitors roll in cars like Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsches and Mercedes.”It’s a rally, not a race,” said Andy Duncan, the organizer. “The guys make their own decisions about driving. It depends if they get overzealous or not. But you put a 25-year-old in a Ferrari and what do you expect?”From employing sophisticated jamming equipment to managing fuel use, the drivers go to great lengths to ensure good placement at the finish line.Drivers started arriving at Checkpoint Charlie in Vail at 4:30 after leaving Kansas City, Mo., in the morning. A lunch stop was included at a drag strip in Great Bend, Kan. The drivers don’t know where they’re going until they are about to begin the leg.Dennis Collins, who owns a Jeep dealership in Dallas, opened the door of his Ferrari 550 Maranello – which he bought for $239,000 – and showed two radar detectors, a radar jammer, a laser jammer, a police scanner, and a CB radio. Plus, he had a real-time GPS setup that tells him about any traffic jams or construction detours.But a new speed-detection device employed by a police officer in Michigan caught him this year.”It’s cat and mouse,” Collins said.Collins’ custom-made 46-gallon gas tank allows him to do the whole leg without stopping for gas.Drinking a beer in the Crossroads parking lot while wearing racing boots and pink-striped shorts, Collins said he considered the trip his vacation.”You get to meet great guys,” he said. “I made some of my new best friends.”The rally, in its fourth year, costs $14,000 for participants and includes stays in some of the finest hotels in the country. The drivers were staying in the Sonnenalp Resort Tuesday night. Entry is competitive, with many applying but a select few getting places.”They’re just guys from all over the world who have money or time, or both,” Duncan said.A former investment banker, Duncan said the event is documented for ITV1, a British TV network, and will also appear on the Discovery Channel and ESPN2. Duncan said he was also casting for a Bullrun reality show that will be on MTV next year.Several celebrities take part in the race each year. Actor Hayden Christensen, who played Anakin Skywalker in last year’s “Star Wars: Episode III,” arrived in Vail around 6 in his Ferrari 360 Modena.”It’s some of the most fun you can have if you like fast cars,” Christensen said.Some mechanical problems have set Christensen back this year, including a breakdown in New York that required a long tow-truck ride. This is Christensen’s second year in the rally. He admitted to “a few” speeding tickets this year.”I’m naturally competitive so I want to place well,” he said. “I came here wanting to finish first.”Rumors swirled that Paris Hilton would be arriving for the rally. But by 6:45, Duncan said Hilton would most likely be a no-show. Olympian Carl Lewis arrived later, while other celebs like Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Dennis Rodman and Mario Andretti had competed in other legs of this year’s race but weren’t in Vail.Over a hundred spectators watched the cars come in and chatted with drivers.Mark Sweeny of Vail said he was enjoying the event.”You don’t want to see the same thing every day,” he said. “It’s different. I haven’t owned a car in 20 years but it’s fun looking at them.”
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