Friday, July 28
San Diego to Beverly Hills, via California Speedway
This is it. The final day. Since destination points are kept secret until the very last minute, everyone believes we will make a mad dash to LA. Wrong. We're first sent to California Speedway in Fontana. With two routes to work with, we go back and forth between the nav and our trusty road atlas for the quickest way around traffic. Like many 'Runners, we end up sitting on the I-15, inching along for what seems like hours. We finally make it to the Speedway for a catered lunch and some track time on the infield road course. The smaller exotics clearly shine on the track, but regardless of its heft, the Brabus is hard on their heels. Did I mention we're seated comfortably and completely relaxed with the A/C pumping? I feel a bit sorry for the poor guys cramped into the Lotus 340R.
Stop 22. Our coast-to-coast adventure climaxes in a 57-mile sprint to the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.
With all the fury of Pamplona's real running bulls, the cacophony of cars rushes to the two nearest freeways heading west. The problem is it's near rush hour, Friday night in Los Angeles, where a snail's pace is usually considered good progress. Most head north to catch the typically less traveled 210. We decide to jump on the I-10 further south, which, though busier, is more direct. The finish will be decided by simple math. You take the high road and we'll take the low road. About 15 minutes in, we slow abruptly to a crawl. Claus places a call to Tove, who took the other route (that should have been our clue). As it turns out, twenty cars or more are already beyond the halfway point. Claus refuses to give in. "No one knows the back roads of Beverly Hills better than me," he says through clenched teeth.
We pull off the freeway and swiftly, albeit cautiously, wind our way to the hotel. "It's normally a 20- or 30-minute drive from the freeway exit to the hotel," he says confidently. "This shortcut will get us there in 10." Zipping down Santa Monica toward Wilshire Boulevard, the hotel drops into sight. Claus makes a final sprint into the parking lot and we arrive within minutes of the leader, just six cars back.
The collective feeling of completing a coast-to-coast race of nearly 4000 miles is overwhelming. In celebration, the lead car begins a series of donuts in the parking lot, eventually engulfing the area in a giant cloud of smoke. The rest of the cars enter the fray and Bullrun finishes in one big, jubilant, smoky, champagne-spraying celebration. The party goes on until the very last car crosses the finish line. Of the 100 entrants that started, fewer than 65 finish, and we end up in the top ten. Not bad for the first time out.
The festivities carry over to the awards ceremony held at yet another popular night spot, this time the remodeled Social Hollywood. To no one's surprise, this year's overall event winner was Tove Christensen in his tuned 996 Turbo, which we later learn was equipped with an extra fuel cell. He will no doubt return next year with even further mods. So shall we.
Brabus CLS55 K8
If Darth Vader drove to work
Bullrun 2006 was, in retrospect, a veritable smorgasbord for car freaks. Examples of virtually every desirable modern car-and some not so modern-could be found here. Some of the more notable entries included a Lotus 340R, not one but two Spyker C8 Spyders, a Ford GT, a Mosler MT900S, a RUF Yellowbird, a 996 GT3 RS, a 1958 Studebaker Commander, and a (reportedly) 1000-bhp Mallett Corvette Z06.
Forget about all of them. Our favorite car is the one we drove: a Brabus-tuned CLS55 entered by Claus Ettensberger Corporation. In factory form, the CLS55 AMG is an inspired machine; the Brabus enhancements make it that much more so. The original CLS flaunts an elegant design, but imbued with the subtle Brabus exterior treatments, its presence becomes downright predatory. Come screaming up on slow-moving left-lane traffic and cars will literally dive out of your way. It's almost like being instantaneously transported to a German autobahn.