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Bullrun Rally 2012

Intrepid drivers cover 3,500 miles with over $7,000 in traffic tickets for a first-place finish

by Graham Hiemstra in Culture on 16 July 2012

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More than just an excuse to take your super-car from the track to the open road, the Bullrun Rally is an eight-day adventure putting driving abilities, navigational skills and overall gravitas to the test. Started in 2004 with a cross-country, "Cannonball Run"-style inaugural race stretching from LA to Miami, the grueling competition winds across the US each year carving a unique route held secret until the race is actually underway. As the rules go, anyone with a car and the $20,000 entrance fee can enter—but while the buy-in covers luxurious accommodations, meals and even luggage transfer, without a quick wit and superior sense of direction teams aren't likely to get far.

Now in its eighth year, the rally route has once again evolved to what has been dubbed the West Coast Loop for 2012. Covering more than 3,500 miles, this year's Bullrun Rally set off in LA on 22 June, leading 100 cars north through Oregon, back down into Nevada and ending in LA again.

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Reaching the final check point of the 2012 rally on 29 June, Tony King and Seth Rose became the first team to win back-to-back rallies as well as the first team to win twice with the same members. Pushing a heavily modified 800hp 2009 Nissan GT-R at speeds upward of 200mph, The team fought inclement driving conditions, rogue police and excessively aggressive drivers on this year's route up and down the California coast. Contrary to the more widely publicized car rallies that flaunt extravagant parties, flamboyant rides and inexperienced drivers, Bullrun celebrates honest competition through expert navigation with a general sense of camaraderie for what Rose feels is just "one hell of a good time."

First introduced to Bullrun in 2009 by sheer happenstance, King (founder and creative director of digital agency King and Partners) responded to a forum post on Rose's NYC-based Exotics Rally website regarding the last-minute opportunity to run that year's rally. The "blind date" as Rose jokingly recalls led the two strangers on a three day trial that planted the seed for success. After getting their feet wet in 2009, the two returned in 2010 for a fourth-place finish, followed by consecutive wins in 2011 and 2012.

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While Rose drove, King navigated the car, suped up with top-of-the-line tech—streaming wi-fi, multiple iPads, go-pro cameras, radar detectors, binoculars. As King puts it, "Seth is the monkey behind the wheel and I'm the monkey behind the computer." The rally commenced each morning at 8am, with teams given a single checkpoint card directing them on the day's route. Sometimes a specific address was given, other times it was as vague as a scenic description. For one of the more cheeky, memorable checkpoints King found himself riding a jetski to the center of Lake Tahoe in order to physically check in and receive a tip towards the next stop.

"If your foot's not knocked to the floor you're not going to succeed," explains Rose, who received eight traffic violations—including a $6,200 ticket in Oregon—during the 2012 rally. Although speed is obviously a key component, Rose credits their success to a combination of three things—"Navigation skills first, second being the vehicle and equipment that's inside it, and driver capability. Navigation has to be the most important role though," he says. "We just navigated better," adds King.

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According to King, the two "don't have a choice" when it comes to returning next year to defend their title. Rose tells CH they plan to upgrade their car to something slightly more comfortable, and might even bring along their "girls" for next year's rally. For more on the scenic landscapes, evidence of hairy situations and general car porn see the slideshow.

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