The drivers awoke on Day 7 with mixed emotions – some excited for the day ahead, and others upset that their annual pilgrimage across America would soon be over. The party last night at the ‘Touch’ Nightclub was the drivers’ last chance to dance, drink and have a jolly old time before hitting the road to Miami – they had to make it count. As usual, Team Texas out partied everyone else. The launch the following morning was held on Church Street at 9:30am. Where would the rally be heading today?
The Exotics Rally GT-R and Porsche Carrera took pole position and the drivers readied themselves for another wild day on the road. The rumours from last night suggested that the rally might be heading to Palm Beach or Daytona. When the route cards were handed out, the drivers were overjoyed to learn that they would be taking to the track at the Palm Beach International Raceway.
The drivers turned right off Church Street and hit the freeway. 130 Miles separated Orlando and the Racetrack, and most of the drivers were eager to finally get a chance to hone their skills on the road course and drag strip.
Seth and Tony in the Hudson Jeans GT-R, Team Exotics Rally, took to the front of the pack and left the rest of the Bullrunners behind them. At this point in time, only five or so teams are actually in contention for the Navigator Award. Whoever chose the better route would come out victorious. With the three point leaders, Team CEC, Team Exotics Rally/ Hudson Jeans and Team Jeep/ Speed Energy all taking different routes, it was anyone’s guess who would show up first.
While en route, the drivers saw some more Bullrun fans on the road to the track! This year the fans have been enjoying cruising along with the Bullrunners and the fans we'vve seen over the past week have been phenominal! Thank you guys!
In the end it was Claus, Joaquin, and Todd, who joined the rally a few days ago to help Team CEC with navigation, who showed up first. A very excited Claus Ettensberger got out of his car with a smile from ear to ear. Not a single car had arrived yet. Next to show up with a fury of speed and raw SRT power was Robby Gordon and crew in their pre-production Jeep SRT-8. This Jeep has been hanging with the supercars for seven day snow, and it hasn’t just managed to keep up, it has managed to overtake and prove that you should never underestimate a Jeep! Third into the checkpoint was Seth and Tony in the Hudson Jeans GT-R. Of course the first three to arrive were the three most serious road rally teams out there.
When the rest of the team arrived, Robby Gordon treated the drivers, and the spectators, to a little drift session in the VF Engineering BMW M3. Man, did he put on a good show – and it was all caught on camera too!
While at the track, rumours started spreading of a crash earlier in the day involving a Bullrun vehicle. Thankfully nobody was hurt, and the Bullrun car fell victim to a tire coming off the car. He lost control and rear-ended a civilian vehicle. Bullrun prides itself in safety, and reminds the drivers each morning to drive safely and responsibly. What happened today was an unfortunate incident that reminded everyone to keep themselves in check, on the road or on the track. Safety is paramount to the rally organizers, and should never be compromised.
As the drivers readied themselves for the track, some teams were already preparing their escape route to Miami.
The drivers took to the 11-turn road course and showed their true driving skill. A lot of drivers were impressed at what their fellow Bullrunners could do. The track also hosted Bullrun’s annual Hot Lap Competition. In years past, Nicholas Frankl of Team Twins has won every single Hot Lap Competition. With Nicholas and Annabelle in Europe celebrating their 40th birthdays, the Bullrun Hot Lap Challenge Trophy was anyone’s for the taking. We would find out who won later tonight.
The teams also got a chance to ride tandom in a dragster, which was described by many as an awesome experience.
While David Pearsall was taking is Lamborghini Gallardo around the track, hiss motor blew, meaning his Lambo wouldn't be making it to Miami. Luckily David brought along a Maserati and a Ford F-650 Limo just in case of any eventuality.
When the route cards were handed out, the teams learned that they would be heading to the Fontainebleau Hotel on Miami Beach.
The drivers decided to stay together on the final leg and roll into Miami as a group, one big happy Bullrun family. With the finish line in sight, the drivers began to reflect on the frenzy of a week they just experienced. They all knew that the awards ceremony was only a few hours away, and someone would be crowned the Navigator Award. One final party tonight, and the drivers would then say their good-bye’s... until next year!
First to arrive at the Miami finish line was Team Rogue Status, Jasper and Johan in the Scion xb, who have been entertaining us with a variety of antics the entire trip. Second in was Claus ‘Die Kaiser’ and his wingmen and navigators extraordinaire, Joaquin and Todd. Claus took home the Navigator Award in 2007, but has since been stuck in a spell of second place Navigator Award finishes. Could this be the year where Claus finally reigns king again? Third into the checkpoint were Rob and Matt in the Super Speeders Cobra R, which they have been struggling to keep up in the entire trip. But they made it to the final checkpoint of the rally in the top three. Good job guys.
All that was left now was a celebration of Champaign, high-fives, manly hugs and joyous screams. For a few hours, the drivers relaxed by the pool – then it was time to head down to the W hotel for the awards ceremony.
Andy Duncan and David Green stood up on the stage, smiles beaming, as they welcomed everyone to the end of the rally celebration.
The awards ceremony was tense, but someone was going to win the coveted Navigator Award. WasClaus going to reign king this year, or was someone else going to claim the title?
The Navigator Award is given to the team that has the best overall navigation accross the entire seven days of the rally. Superior routes and deciicion making will land teams ahead of the pack at each checkpoint, and this year there were a number of teams that were in contention:
- 3rd Place Navigator Award: Claus, Joaquin and Todd - Team CEC
- 2nd Place Navigator Award: Robby Gordon and Company - Jeep/ Speed Energy
- 1st Place Navigator Award: Seth and Tony - Team Exotics Rally/ Hudson Jeans
All three of these teams were extreremely close in points, but Seth and Tony's choice to take side roads rather than the main highways on days 6 and 7 secured their spot as the Navigator Champions for 2011!
The Spirit of the Bullrun Award is considered by many to be the most prestegious award on the rally. The award goes to the team that encompases the true spirit of the rally; having fun, making friends, sticking wiith it even in adversity, and doing the rally iin style.
This year the award went to Team People's Power and Gas' own, David Pearsall!
David has done Bullrun for three years now, but this year he not only bought his Maserati GranTurismo, but also his Lamborghini Gallardo and his Ford F-650 Limo - which served as the official Bullrun party vehicle. Despite his Lamborghini breaking down, David continued in style. Everyone on the rally loved David Pearsall, and he truly deserves the Spirit of the Bullrun Award this year!
Hot Lap Award:
- Palm Beach Raceway: Every year Bullrun hosts a Hot Lap Challenge at one of the tracks we visit. The award has always been won by Nicholas Frankl in the past, but in his absence, someone had to claim the award. Of course it only makes sense that Racecar Driver, Robby Gordon wins this award! His time on the track was faster than anyone elses by a mile! Nice job Robby!
- NOLA Motorsports: This year Bullrun visited the NOLA Motorsports Go-Kart track just outside of New Orleans. The drivers buckled themselves in for a morning of Kart racing. Six heats of ten were done, taing the winner of each heat and putting them into the final round. Nick Steinman of Team Royale won the NOLA Motorsports Challenge! Congratulations Nick!
The Bullrun Order of Merit Award (BOM) goes out to the teams that show true dedication, and even though they aren't contending for the Navigator Award, they still have fun, and enjoy the rally to its fullest.
This year two teams claimed the BOM Award:
- Lori and Courtney, Team '65 Mustang, who spent each day of the rally at the back of the pack, but took in the scenery and had a great time. They partied harder, and enjoyed every aspect of the rally.
- The Dudesons, Jukka and HP, in their pink camoflage Hummer H1. The Dudesons were always wearing an array of costumes and playing around with the other drivers. They probably had the most fun on the rally, and we'll never forget them showing up to the start line wearing diapers, and leaving the rally wearing pink Monkkey suits.
Team DTA Rogue Award:
The DTA Rogue Award goes to the team that showcased the true 'Rogue' nature of the rally. The award goes to Bill Sheppard and his son, Bryce, who bought a $120,000 Mercedes for the rally, and faced adversity every which way right from the get-go. They rocked the rally in hardcore style, and despite many unwanted encounters along the way, they stuck with it and were really bad ass the entire way! You guys are Rogue!
CEC Best Car Award:
The CEC Best Car Award goes to the team who brings the rarest, or best performing car on the rally. The award, handed out by Claus Ettensberger, went to Ice-T and Coco, who drive an ultra rare Mercedess SL55R with an SLR style hood, SLR style wheels, and so many performance mods, that the added 'R' means it is a street legal racecar.
This year we saw the youngest Bullrunner ever participate on the rally. Gianna Lopez of Team JebAng! officially tunrned 2-years old on the final day of the rally, and celebrated her second birthday in style upon arrival in Miami. We've never had a 2-year-old participate on the rally before, but she stuck with it like a trooper, and enjoyed it as well!
After the awards, the drivers headed back to the Fontainebleau Hotel to celebrate.
That's it for this year's Bullrun, I hope you enjoyed the coverage on Bullrun.com, and would like to thank Bullrunner, Jeb Lopez, of Team JebAng! for updating me every step of the way. He sent me up-to-the-minute information and photos. Without him, this daily blog wouldn't have been possible. Thank you Jeb! I appreciate all of your help throughout the rally!