Nelson's Balkan Campaign: Athens to TiranaDavey G. Johnson5/13/07 5:00pmFiled to: Gumball 3000A Sticky MessDeath In MacedoniaGmMacedoniaalbaniaAthensboraCarrera GtChevroletDaimlerchryslerF430FerrariGreecelarissaMercedes-BenzNew ZealandPorscheshiranslr mclarenTiranaVolkswagen4EditPromoteShare to KinjaToggle Conversation toolsGo to permalinkFor once on the Gumball, I woke up in a bed. After a long day's journey into night and Athens, Herr Roy decided he wanted to be as close as possible to the M5 and booked a block of rooms at the Sofitel in Athens, rather than taking his room at the Hilton. A French cameraman was booked into the M5 for the day, riding rear-seat shotgun next to a spare wheel and Ross and Roy's excess baggage. Alex texted me to invite me down for breakfast with Fly and Jarod DeAnda. The morning was quiet and jovial, highlighted by Alex and I engaging in an impromptu game of Star Wars trivia one-upmanship that left Fly and Jarod gobsmacked at the sheer geekery. Then the text came in: the cars were ready to go.Advertisement We bolted for the rooms to pack. Alex had been requested to take Julie D., the on-the-ground French go-to girl to Tirana for a meeting with the Albanian president, who was reportedly hopping mad about the rally's delay. Then word came down that there was only one sheet of paper to get the non-EU cars out of Greece and into Macedonia. Julie was shuffled into another car. I ended up in a Sharan for the second day in a row. Most of the cars had fled the parking lot by the time we figured out how to divide up all of the gear in the Sharans to accomodate the necessary five passengers in each vehicle. I ended up with a snowboard for an armrest.Meanwhile, a lone F430 sat in the parking lot, having been offloaded from the Antonov and parked, but missing its crew. They showed up right as we departed and followed us to the nearest Shell station, where we loaded up on goods and engaged in the first battle of what became known as Crewball 3000, making sure we found and pulled into the first diesel pump available.AdvertisementAt the fuel stop, I got to know the crew, headed by Nelson, a level-headed, no-bullshit Kiwi who'd owned multiple Mitsubishi Evos. We quickly dubbed the rest of the guys in the car Mandela, Ricky and Lord, while I ended up with the appelation of Horatio. Little did we know that a few hours later, our Crewball successes would be rendered as unfortunate as the Battle of Trafalgar was for the famed British Admiral.With the Fezza guys in tow, we promptly got lost on our way to the tollway, but eventually figured out what we thought was roughly the right direction to Tirana. Meanwhile, the Ferrari guys had decided we were complete tools and went their own way. Pulling up a tollboth, we asked the super-pretty attendant with the tiny little diamond stud in her nose and the bright blue eyes how to get to Albania. She told us Exit 8 was the way to go, and we put our faith in that hottest toll attendant in recorded history. She did us proud, and once out of Athens we pushed the Sharan to 1.23 Fly, marvelling at the rolling, well-maintained roads with long sweepers, gradual-but-dramatic elevation changes, and simply brain-melting scenery. We all remarked that it was absolute supercar heaven; the perfect place to wring out an SLR or a Ford GT.