Alex Roys Bullrun 2005 Wrap-up, Day 7

DAY 7: San Francisco - Hearst Castle - Los Angeles Finish Line, July 29th

The Final Battle & The Price of Hubris

Tensions are always high on a rally's final day — laggards want to demonstrate that the fortunes spent on their cars weren't wasted, and the leading drivers give no quarter in their desire to enter the Hall of Legendary Rally Heroes.

Richard Rawlings, having given up trying to revive his 1931 Ford Model A Hot Rod, was now driving his backup car, a 2003 BMW 750iL. Since parking was so scarce in front of the W Hotel, he rose at 6AM to park the car in metered Pole Position across the street. Richard X & Marek Harrison (Aston Martin DB9) parked right behind him, as did the Collins Brothers (Ferrari 550).

Alex Roys Bullrun 2005 Wrap-up, Day 7

Team Polizei was shut out of the legal, metered spots, so we went around the block and backed into the pedestrian crossing — right in front of Rawlings.

We were confident of victory. Our police scanner had 97% of the California Highway Patrol frequencies programmed in, long since verified over three rallies, and we leaving near the front. I was certain the first checkpoint would be on the Pacific Coast Highway, approximately halfway to the finish line. The PCH is one of the best drives in America, and I'd already done it several times in lesser cars, so there seemed little chance anyone could defeat us. I estimated we were tied for 1st place with the DB9 team, and was ready to push a little harder in order to beat them. (Not that this mattered, of course, since this is a rally, not a race.)

We were handed the route card — Hearst Castle Pier — and bolted west 2 blocks toward I-280 South. We were followed by the DB9 and the Collins Brothers, but we lost them in traffic as we proceeded south on the 101 toward Gilroy. Although we spotted several police traps and at least one police helicopter, we evaded them easily.

The GPS had plotted the shortest route to Hearst Castle, so in Prunedale we turned off the 101 and headed southwest toward Seaside, Carmel and the PCH. Traffic was moderate and passing difficult on the two-lane road south of Carmel, so we set an aggressive pace in an attempt to put as much distance as possible between us and the following cars. This had saved us the prior day, and led our competitors into heavy police trouble near Lake Tahoe.

Alex Roys Bullrun 2005 Wrap-up, Day 7

We'd completely lost sight of the other Bullrunners within a half-hour of leaving San Francisco, so I settled into a safe and comfortable 6/10ths pace (80mph) as we enjoyed Route 1 — PCH south. It seemed inconceivable anyone could catch us, and certainly not one car had passed us.

Team Polizei then received a phone call from the Collins Brothers — instead of taking the PCH they had opted to take the inland route, following the DB9 on 101 South all the way to Route 46 (near Templeton), a point only 15 miles from the checkpoint.

Team Polizei was doomed.

We had utterly failed to foresee this alternative. Taking Route 101 90% of the way (instead of the PCH) meant average cruising speeds of 140+mph, far higher than the PCH's safe limit of 90+mph. It was far too late for us to cross over, which meant that the only way to catch up, if at all, was to press to 11/10ths on the PCH.

The Polizei CL600, although the fastest accelerating car (in a straight line) on the rally, is quite heavy and handles poorly, even with the Active Suspension on its Sport setting. High-speed bumps and deep depressions led to the aftermarket 19" tires rubbing in the wheel wells, especially on the rear left side where our intrepid cameraman sat.

We had to try. Losing the stage to the DB9 would be honorable. Losing to the Collins Brothers in the Ferrari F550 would be honorable. Losing to Rawlings in his BMW 750iL was inconceivable.

An hour after the the Collins Brothers's phone call we finally saw the first signs for Hearst Castle — Rawlings' black BMW was just a quarter-mile ahead of us, making the left turn into the parking lot! We'd succeeded in pushing the envelope of rally physics, time and fate to make up for our longer route and slower cruising speeds.

Rawlings spotted us and barreled up the ramp. We followed. With both cars horns blaring we raced down rows of parked cars and pedestrians looking for the Bullrun signage. A green Park Police SUV pulled up to admonish us. I stopped to apologize, but Rawlings sped away. We lost 3 minutes, during which time the Ranger suggested the checkpoint was across the street on the Pier, just as the Official Bullrun Card had said, which we had failed to re-read.

We raced across the street just as Rawlings was pulling out and heading toward the finish. The Bullrun checkpoint official then told us we were a mere 22 minutes behind the lead car...the DB9. Although 22 minutes doesn't seem like much, it IS when the leading car is pushing hard. The only way to catch up is if the lead car encounters traffic, and the following car has a clear road and intercepts before hitting the "Rolling Traffic Wall."

We surmised that the DB9, the Collins Brothers and Rawlings had all returned to 101 South via the Mountain Route 46 East, so we reprogrammed the GPS, realizing that picking "Shortest Route" vs. "Fastest Route" that morning had been the critical error.

We were also desperately low on fuel, and as we pulled into the nearest gas station we spotted Rawlings pulling out. Suddenly we also spotted Hayden Christensen and co-pilot Troy Hanson heading northbound on 1, meaning that we were the only car to have taken PCH the whole. On the positive side, despite cruising speeds 40% lower than those who took 101, we were still in 4th place — a tribute to how hard we pressed on the PCH.

We refueled and sped on 46 East back toward 101 South. Police scanner traffic warned of moderate police activity ahead, so we cruised at 7/10ths (120+mph) and searched for the lead cars. Alas, they were nowhere to be found. We pushed as far as Santa Barbara, where rush hour traffic became very heavy and the Collins Brothers called to say they were no more than 3-4 miles ahead of us. It would be almost impossible to catch up in such conditions, nor were there any alternative routes, so we suffered in silence as traffic slowed to 30-40mph.

Just south of Sea Cliff we spotted Tove Christensen (Hayden's gentleman brother) and friend Peter right behind us in the Black 2005 Saleen Mustang GT. They'd been right behind the lead cars throughout the entire, but had suffered due to the car's terrible fuel efficiency.

Alex Roys Bullrun 2005 Wrap-up, Day 7


Actor Hayden Christensen (right) and Troy Hanson, co-pilot and Rolex Grand American Series racer.

For the next hour we battled like blind men knife-fighting in a pit. Traffic was so thick we passed each other dozens of times in vain efforts to gain advantage. We used shoulders, exit ramps, on-ramps and service roads, but neither could break through the solid traffic wall.

Once we entered the LA environs we finally pulled alongside to discuss how we could escape the rush-hour hell of 101. The final checkpoint was the Roosevelt Hotel (once again), and we knew the DB9, the Collins Brothers & Rawlings were still on 101, so we were desperate to pass them by some other means.

Tove recommended Ventura Boulevard and crossing via Coldwater or Laurel Canyon. Police scanner traffic warned of two(!) helicopters on the lookout for two black sports cars eastbound on 101, so getting off was the ideal choice.

We exited on Ventura and our GPS suggested Laurel Canyon was faster, so we placed the green German police lights on the roof and used the parking lane to gain time. We lost Tove and Peter almost immediately and so were forced to rely on the GPS rather than his native-LA traffic knowledge. We could hear the police helicopters overhead and hoped he hadn't been caught already. Laurel Canyon was quick enough that we regained confidence of an 11th hour pass and 1st place arrival.

We arrived at the Roosevelt, no other cars in sight, and our hearts sank as we spotted Richard X and Marek Harrison's DB9 parked alongside the Collins Brothers Ferrari F550. Rawlings was MIA.

Team Polizei had finished the final stage in 3rd place, and all because of a navigational error in programming the GPS.

On the positive side, our trusty cameraman Olly had arranged for Wolfgang, Team Polizei's legendary Taxidermy "Schutzhund," to be delivered to the finish line and placed inside of Rawlings' defunct 1931 Ford Model A Hot Rod. Our honor was somewhat restored.

Amazingly, many Bullrun fans and staff actually believed Wolfgang was a live dog who had "spotted something."

We congratulated Richard and Marek on joining the Legendary Hall of Rally Heroes, already populated by the Collins Brothers, Rawlings and Team Polizei, then I cursed Rawlings for his failure to show up for our little ceremony.

Rawlings arrived a few minutes later, having been trapped in traffic and seen us pass an hour earlier. Hayden & Troy (Lamborghini Murcielago) and Tove & Peter (Saleen Mustang) arrived within the hour, having both been delayed by heavy police activity.

The Bullrun USA concluded with a massive party at the 40 Deuce Cabaret Club, where awards were given out. (Official results can be seen at TeamPolizei.com.)

Richard & Marek (DB9) squeaked past Team Polizei for a 1st place victory, and we graciously accepted 2nd place overall.

The 2005 Bullrun USA ended with only two minor accidents: Dennis Rodman damaged the left side of his Lamborghini Gallardo, and the Bikini Bandits crashed the 1969 Mustang Convertible lent to them by Rawlings.

Peter Malmstrom arrived in LA later that night after spending the day in Lake Tahoe trying to recover the Ferrari F40 the local Police had impounded the day before. We were glad to have befriended him and his fiancee Landi.

We look forward to next year, when Team Polizei will bring a 3rd GPS system and exact revenge, all in the name of the law.


2005 Bullrun USA Day 7 and Overall results:

Hearst Castle
1st: Richard X & Marek Harrison (Aston Martin DB9)
2nd: Dennis & Michael Collins (Ferrari 550)
3rd: Richard & Sue Rawlings (El Diablo Toro)
4th: Alex Roy & Alli Joseph (Team Polizei Mercedes CL600)

Los Angeles
1st: Richard X & Marek Harrison (Aston Martin DB9)
2nd: Dennis & Michael Collins (Ferrari 550)
3rd: Alex Roy & Alli Joseph (Team Polizei Mercedes CL600)
4th: Unknown

Bullrun 2005 USA Rally Overall Results
1st: Richard X & Marek Harrison (Aston Martin DB9)
2nd: Alex Roy & Alli Joseph (Team Polizei Mercedes CL600)
3rd: Dennis & Michael Collins (Ferrari 550)

Related:
Alex Roy s Bullrun 2005 Wrap-up, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6 [internal]