What has over 50,000 horsepower, is worth over $20 million, and snakes its way through eight states from Beverley Hills up to Seattle then back down to Las Vegas? It’s the goldRush Rally, an opportunity for those with the means, the time, and the permission of their spouses to live the rock-star lifestyle in a turbocharged jaunt through the USA.
For around C$30,000, drivers enter their cars in the full, eight-stop event; or for half that, the four-stop second leg.
Two autoTRADER.ca execs, Mike Kilinski and Allen Wales, did just that, in a hotted-up Porsche 911 that is these days more of GT2 RS than the 997 Turbo it started out as. The duo joined 100 other teams in supercars for a week of high-octane shenanigans.
The first time they saw the cars parked up, Allen says he was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of car porn on display. Modified, bedazzled, and decked out in event decals, the 100-plus supercars on hand were a mouth-watering drawcard for the local enthusiasts. All were gathered, cameras at the ready, in every city to catch a glimpse of the unicorns on display.
Entry level for the ninth-ever goldRush 9INE Rally was a Nissan GT-R. At just over $120,000, it’s really the bargain sports car of this bunch – which included a plethora of Porsches, lashings of Lambos, fleets of Ferraris, and battalions of Bugattis.
Mike says that the pecking order was established early on: “Bugattis, Rolls, and Lamborghinis out the front, Porsches in the garage” were the parking arrangements at each hotel.
“Every stop you’d walk into the parking garage and just be amazed at the supercars in their custom wraps all lined up together,” drooled Allen.
And you can bet the 911 driven by Allen and Mike garnered its fair share of attention. With more than 850 hp on tap, the carbon-drenched, ultra-tuned-up Porsche is as much go as it is show.
Sadly, their car wasn’t one picked by Microsoft to grace the newest edition of Forza Motorsport.
In a Day 1 lunch at the software giant’s headquarters, the developers chose one of the rally cars to be captured in images and placed into the next game. It’s just one part of the prestige attached to a supercar rally.
With vanity plates on display like “WINNING”, “GR 9INE”, “9INE”, it was clear these guys were heavily invested in the “family” and enjoyed driving their supercars alongside their gold-blooded kin.
While the goldRush veterans formed a tight-knit clique, Mike and Allen found no shortage of rookies and first-timers to drive, drink, and run amok with. Among them a pair of party-hard Aussies in a rented Brabus 4x4 Squared; the Maserati brothers; a pilot in a Jag wrapped as a pink-and-purple Cheshire Cat who also turned out to be the fastest kid on the block on the drag strip; a Monaco-based fashion designer and son team in a classic orange Camaro; and a Manila reality TV star in a 650s Mclaren, to name a few.
The rally participants are fed and sheltered throughout the route in five-star, ultra-luxury accommodations, with nightly parties – some planned, others spontaneous. In the kick-off nightclub party all attention soon turned to the Aussies, who had fellow participants doing the “Shoey” from their Louboutins. The “Shoey” was made famous by Formula 1 ace Daniel Ricciardo, who celebrates podium finishes by drinking champagne from his race boot. There was plenty of Armand de Brignac – Ace of Spades – Brut Gold Champagne flowing that night.
“One of the guys owned a restaurant, Thai Bamboo, so we all went there for dinner,” tells Allen. “And he sort of put the word out that the rally was coming to town – literally thousands of people all showed up in Spokane to check out the circus as it pulled in.
“But, we went in an Uber; because we thought we were drinking. When we arrived, there were 2,000 people watching us get out of the Uber! We’re pulling up, in our t-shirts and hats with goldRush 9INE all over it, in this Toyota Camry or whatever it was, while everyone else pulled up in their Lambos, Porsches or McLarens. The crowd was just mental.”
The Fake News
With police escorts at most stops, and a hefty police presence in others, the goldRush Rally is relatively tame when under the watchful eyes of the law.
It’s not a race, but that doesn’t mean people fall into line. One outlet published a story about the goldRush being hit with impounds and fines, a story that was only half-true.
Instead, a local challenger in a green Lamborghini decided to get amongst the rally participants and show off, speeding and cutting in and out of traffic. He was pulled over twice in the same state and eventually had his car impounded, leading to that headline story.
“The locals can get a bit eager,” says Allen. “That guy wasn’t actually on the rally with us.”
Sure, the rally shut down the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Las Vegas Strip, and every town it pulled into and out of (during rush hour), but that was done legally, in full cooperation with the municipalities and police. And drivers were encouraged to explore the limits of their cars, but only at the track events organized as part of the rally.
The Trials and Tribulations
Mike passed on the drag racing, not wanting to overtax his Porsche, claiming a clutch at the end of its lifecycle, risking an organic plate exploding, or something like that, but he landed up wailing it during the scheduled track day.
Hoofing it in the only manual, around the track in a hotted-up Porsche would be more than enough fun for most people…
...but there’s always someone to push those boundaries.
Speaking of boundaries, the Aussie crew at one point decided to take their Brabus down a river bed, then later try offroading in the snow-covered Wyoming hills where it promptly got stuck. A local police officer, who apparently didn’t realize the Brabus was a far more capable beast than his Ford Explorer, tried to help them – only to get stuck himself, resulting in both cars being pulled out on tow cables.
The sight of a goldRush car and the accompanying highway patrol car being towed from an icy swamp was enough to send the rally into gossip mode of the first impound, but no tickets were issued and everyone was soon on their way again.
The rally can be gruelling, with a hectic schedule of driving matched only by the taxing schedule of partying the night before.
Over nine days, teams will drive between five and nine hours per day. Each leg is usually marked by a massive “You haven’t seen anything yet” party, with concerts by Maya and other events designed to keep the rally rock stars occupied.
“If you’re not driving, you’re partying. Eating and sleeping is cheating,” says Allen.
“So you wake up with a mild hangover, gag on your toothbrush, shout out some profanities, throw on your gold kit, dose with caffeine, and shoot over for the 8 am driver’s meeting. This is exactly why you need a co-pilot on a rally like this.”
There you’ll learn about what the exit (convoy route) looks like, where there will be friendly police escorts, and unfriendly police ambushes, and what the road conditions may look like. Drivers learn the schedule for the day including the route and any stopovers on the day; no detailed information is given beyond the current day.
Mike “Killer” Kilinski says Allen was pretty frustrated by his precision: “He kept telling me to stop it with the Navy Seal time!” Meanwhile other teams were struggling to stay on schedule. “Mike had to be there 15 minutes early to every bloody briefing while everyone else was 30 minutes late, resulting in 45 mins sleep time lost every day,” Allen grumbles.
Rally crews found innovative ways to pass the time. One group gained access to another team’s hotel room to do some mischief. Their victims then retaliated by smothering their attacker’s car with ice cream.
The hotel even offered to provide video evidence of the vandalism, but the ice-cream-caked Porsche owners declined. Turnabout is fair play on the goldRush.
And while the organizers try to make sure the rally is on the right side of the law, it’s not uncommon for those boundaries to be explored, on the lonely desert, farmland, and scenic highways.
Once the police escort ends and the population density dwindles to near zero, things get more spirited. Mike and Allen had a strategy – by making sure they were not in the “lead” group of drivers and holding station in a more well-behaved line – letting the cars ahead be the sacrificial lambs.
With that strategy in play, they were able to stay on the right side of “expected behaviour” and avoid unwanted attention from the ever-hungry highway patrol.
Yet even with those precautions, the rally wasn’t always kind to the silver Porsche. While flying down one remote stretch of Utah tarmac at spirited speeds, they encountered a large elevation change, followed by a drop in the road. The Porsche left the ground momentarily, and had a big left-right-left tank-slapper before it settled on the correct direction once again. Thanks to German engineering, no drivers were harmed in the making of this movie.
That bit of drama, the team would later learn, knocked out the wheel alignment, in particular the caster on the front driver wheel, so one was actually out ahead of the other. It also knocked off a wheel weight, upsetting the Porsche’s precision balance even further. Whoopsadaisy.
“We were nearly gone,” says Mike. “Like legitimately, we almost left the tarmac for a roll in the tumbleweeds.”
And it wasn’t the only moment. The Porsche pair legitimately used seven of their nine lives, beginning with being cut off by a light truck in the pouring rain just minutes outside of Vancouver en route to the rally.
Flying low in Wyoming, on full throttle and boost, the car popped a hose off the throttle body.
Support soon arrived in the form of a Sheik in a Lamborghini – who called to his support car (which by the way was a Rolls-Royce) only to learn it had leapfrogged ahead. Instead, a couple of rural mechanics helped get the GT2 RS back on the road for a measly $20.
In Utah, $20 again was all it took for a local mechanic to hoist the Porsche up and pop a few bolts back into the skid plate cover which had worked itself loose from all the gentle, well-mannered driving.
Mike and Allen were lucky. Four of the McLarens, one Lambo, and a Jag on the rally didn’t make it to the finish line, all suffering a raft of rally-ending mechanical and electrical dramas. Their drivers were unimpressed.
The Jag F-Type had the most interesting failure, in that there was nothing wrong with the car itself – actually it’s a solid piece of kit, however the Pirelli P Zero tires – all four – suffered serious, systematic tread-cracking failure. Thankfully they were able to replace them a few days later.
The goldRush 9INE Rally ends with a showboat tour of the Las Vegas Strip under police escort. Music pumps, the table service starts, and the Louboutins are filled once again with champagne.
There are awards too: Best Rookie, Dirtiest Car, Best Costume, Most Likely to be Banned From the Next Rally (the Aussies won that one).
So would they do it again?
“I’m glad we did the half-rally rather than the full nine days – that might have been one party too many for me,” said Allen, though it’s clear the bucket-list rally left a lasting impression. “For a week after I couldn’t sleep without dreaming of goldRushing.”
Car owner Mike was not as circumspect, though he knew someone who might be.
“I’d do it again, 100 percent. I just have to work out how to make it work financially...
“And how to explain it to my wife….”