IF YOU love your cars and you’re into good company and beautiful scenery, there are few better ways to spend a day out than taking part in an organised drive day.
There are a handful of companies offering the opportunity to drive super cars through picturesque Australian countryside with pitstops for gourmet refreshments and fine dining somewhere lovely.
They’re not cheap, however, involving a spend upwards of $1300 per person, which is not unfair considering what’s involved, including costly insurance premiums.
Madam Wheels recently took part in a particularly impressive event open to the public with the Bullrush Rally’s
inaugural Victorian drive day.
Fittingly, the event started on a sunny Sunday at Coombe Yarra Valley, at Coldstream, about an hour’s drive from Melbourne.
I say “fittingly” because the property was formerly home to famed opera singer Dame Nellie Melba who was a car fan herself and reportedly the first woman to get a drivers’ licence in Australia.
The Victorian event attracted about 80 cars, including a C63 Mercedes-Benz, Porsche GT3S, Ferrari 488GTB and Rolls-Royce Ghost. A well-specced white
Lamborghini Performante stole the thunder, though a P-plate-wearing yellow Lotus was lovely to see, too.
Our route took us through the misty beauty of the Black Spur and its snow-frosted tree ferns to Marysville, then back through rich rainforests and wine country to Yarra Glen.
One of the standout features of the Bullrush Drive Days are that participants bring their own cars, enabling them to get their
wheels out of the city and experience them more fully on the the open road. A friend can ride shotgun for company, but organisers discourage
having too many people on board by way of keeping the community real.
The days are also free, apart from the cost of lunch if you choose to stay for it, which you should because it’s one of the highlights of the day.
It gives those there the opportunity to mingle with some seriously impressive and down-to-earth corporate talent who just happen to be car nuts.
Not just anyone can get on board the Bullrush Drive Days, however, with a vetting process conducted in advance via a web-based application. The key ingredient to gaining entree will be the
calibre of your car and whether it’s high-end enough to make the cut. We’ll get into exactly what that means later.
The 20 or so Bullrush Drive Days currently on offer out of Sydney, Brisbane and now Melbourne are designed to
keep the dream alive for past participants in the annual five-day Bullrush Rally as well as to showcase the Bullrush culture to prospects.
Kicking off in Sydney about a-year-and-a-half ago, the first drive day attracted 35 cars.
Today, Sydney’s eight events are considered light-on if there are less than 120 cars in tow.
Founder Marko Seider started the Bullrush Rally in 2015 with a road trip from Surfers Paradise to Melbourne, including over-night stays in the Hunter Valley, Sydney and Canberra.
His aim was to bring together like-minded people in pursuit of adventure and unforgettable experiences.
Seider’s inspiration was the exclusive Gumball 3000 rally out of London which celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier this month. That event is notorious for the super and hyper cars it attracts, along with high-profile personalities and its over-the-top events and parties. Not surprisingly, it involves massive, city-blocking crowds and global media attention along the way.
Only true enthusiasts with serious backing apply to make the Gumball 3000 grid. The buy-in for this year’s event from
London to Tokyo was something like $US100,000, with vehicles transported by plane between continents.
Seider first encountered the Gumball 3000 in 1999 and thought it was “the wildest thing” he’d ever seen.
But it wasn’t until he returned from working in the LA music industry in 2014 that he finally decided to bring it to fruition.
It took eight months’ of planning before it hit the road with 25 cars.
“Things have been flat to the floor ever since,” he says.
In typically understated Australian style, the Bullrush Rally is a more modest affair than the Gumball, involving a $8795 spend for a team of two or $5495 for a single, which pretty well covers everything during the trip. Some proceeds are distributed to various charities, with this year’s focus on depression and suicide prevention.
Despite its more humble approach, the Bullrush Rally is no less anticipated by those who have bought in from the outset and swear they’ll
continue to do so every year. One such disciple is Melbourne-based James Smith, CEO of Smith Brothers Media.
His two cars, a black Ferrari 360 Spyder and C63 AMG Mercedes-Benz, happened to be in the
workshop for this drive day, so he and girlfriend Connie hired a Porsche 911
so they could take part anyway.
Over lunch at our end-point for the day, Balgownie Estate, at Yarra Glen, Smith’s enthusiasm was infectious as he
recounted some of the experiences and people he’d met on the past three tours.
His best mate flew in from the UK to take part in the first one with him, with Smith vinyl-wrapping his car and kitting the
pair out with self-designed Bullrush Rally T-shirts and caps.
He talked of the unique, money-can’t-buy experiences which Seider works hard to
include as part of the rally, the most outrageous of which involved closing down
the airport at Casino, in the Northern Rivers area of NSW, to enable quarter- and half-mile drag races on the tarmac.
Seider even convinced a local pilot, who happened to be tinkering on his helicopter in a nearby hangar, to get in on the action.
On another occasion, the motorcade received a pre-arranged, four-bike police escort as it left the Gold Coast’s Versace Hotel heading into Tuesday morning traffic.
What they hadn’t expected was that police had shut down a section of the Gold Coast Highway to facilitate a quick and trouble-free getaway.
Meanwhile, drivers in traffic banked up for 2km on the other side of the road gawked at the procession of luxury cars speeding away.
“My mate couldn’t believe it,” Smith says. “He was fist-pumping out of the sunroof.”
That’s not to suggest this is an all-male event, though it naturally fell that way in the beginning.
These days, however, more women are getting on board, and they don’t do it by halves, either.
Last year’s rally attracted a couple of female Porsche fans from Sydney who wrapped their car in a Wonder Woman theme, and occasionally dressed accordingly, too.
Co-organiser Simon Allsop says the rally travels through spectacular scenery, taking in the
most exclusive hotels and the best restaurants along the way. Last year, the opening event involved taking over the top
floor of Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), while the year before it booked out the upper level of Quay Restaurant overlooking Sydney Harbour.
“And after the dinners, we always put the credit card on the bar, not that many people get too silly,” Allsop says. “During the rally, those who
come are introduced to networks and make connections with successful people who are in a position to be in cars like these.
They’re making relationships which last a lifetime, and many of them describe the rally as the highlight of their year.”
Some, like Warren Jack, founder of the Australian Institute of Training in
Sydney, are so enthusiastic, they buy a car especially for the event. Last year, Jack picked up a Ferrari
488GTB and wrapped it in glaring eyes and teeth as part of his Bullrush livery (seen here on Sydney Harbour).
While the rally involves about four hours of driving each day, Seider says cars are not the main game.
“We put so much focus on the cars but it’s more about the people,” he says.
“On the first night, everything’s quite quiet and they’re all getting a feel for each other. But by Day Two, everyone’s on the same level
and the noise is so loud you can’t think, with everyone coming together with a common passion.”
This year’s event will leave Melbourne on October 30 and cover 1400km en route to Sydney with stops at Mt Hotham, Canberra and Bathurst.
Included are five nights of dinners, parties and accomodation, with at least one track day – though, airport tarmacs are not guaranteed.
Seider works closely with local authorities such as police and councils to ensure everything goes off without a hitch. Safety is obviously paramount.
To date, there haven’t been any accidents, and traffic infringements have been few and relatively minor. On one occasion when a country police officer pulled over the convoy, he ended up taking a green Lamborghini Huracan for a spin. No fine was issued, which indicates this didn’t happen in Victoria.
The name “Bullrush” refers to a game Madam Wheels played as a child (though we called it Red Rover) in which one or two children are “it” and stand in the middle of a field while the remainder line up on one boundary. When those in the middle call “Bullrush!” (or “Red Rover!”), the line breaks into a sprint, dodging and weaving around those in the centre trying to get to the other side without being tagged. Those who are caught join the centre crew to target the remaining runners on the return pass.
There’s a fair bit of chasing on a Bullrush event but certainly no tagging, other than on the plethora of social media hits that result.
As for what type of cars are welcome, Seider is reluctant to be seen as exclusionary, though he identifies any BMW “M” and Mercedes-Benz AMG and upward as being appropriate.
“Generally, we try to keep the level above Golf R/Audi RS3,” he says. “It’s a very tight community and we try to limit it.”
Last week, he gave the green light to a Ferrari 812 Superfast, Nissan Nismo GTR, Porsche GT2RS, Rolls-Royce Ghost and Aston Martin Rapide, taking to 36 the number of cars signed on for the rally. The event is capped at 50 cars.
In the meantime, good luck and pleasant driving!