Remember the movie Gumball Rally, in which a secret code word — in this case “gumball” — would be whispered by someone at the end of a phone line?

It meant head to a secret location and get ready to race across America.

Well, this time the code word is “bullrun.”

And when competitors hear it, they know what it means.

It’s rally time. Time to head to their machine. New York to L.A. in your car — and fast.

Toronto is the first stop. Tonight.

Welcome to the 2006 Bullrun.

“Toronto has never seen anything like this,” said founder Andrew Duncan. “It’s a rally road trip for 100 invited Bullrunners — with some special events along the way.”

It’s a Cannonball Run — another movie depicting this kind of fun of driving more than 5,000 km from one end of the continent to the other.

“This is a modern-day, millennium version of those movies,” jokes Duncan. “In the movies they would try to do it in 35 or 40 hours. We take seven days.”

Honest. And they are a little more public about it, heading out from New York City’s Times Square at sunrise this morning.

But after the first day’s run to Toronto, the route is a carefully guarded secret. Even the celebrity racers don’t know where they’re going next until the start of each day.

There should also be fewer police chases than in the movies — although you never know.

“There was that one time when Dennis Rodman forgot to pay for his gas in Denver and they issued a warrant for his arrest,” Duncan says, laughing.

That’s probably the least offensive thing Rodman’s actually ever done — although you know our own lovable OPP Sgt. Cam Woolley will be on the lookout for him.

Great story if they can nail him for doing something unusual on the QEW from Buffalo. Woolley, today’s Sheriff Buford T. Justice (played by Jackie Gleason so well in Smokey and the Bandit), must be already writing the script.

They should be able to get some money from the tax coffers from these guys.

And who gets to frisk Paris Hilton should she be going more than 100 km/h? No shortage of volunteers, I am sure.

Duncan insists everybody drives safely — although there was that time Canadian Hayden Christensen rolled his car during one of the rally track events en route. Should make a great reality TV show — which is actually something being shot along the way.

Now for those who haven’t seen any of these movies, with Bullrunners you’ve got people heading out on a coast-to-coast rally on the highways.

“There will be lots of surprises but if we told you what they were, they wouldn’t be surprises,” Duncan says.

One thing for sure: Arriving here tonight will be more than 100 slick cars and even hotter celebrities — all of whom paid the $14,000 entry fee. A massive party is planned on King St. W.’s famous Century Room upon their arrival.

“We will have a masseuse on site at the event for drivers with aching shoulders and backs after their long day driving,” said April Jackson of Elizabeth Grant, one of many sponsors. “We are launching a product for this called the Elizabeth Grant Bullrun Backrub.”

Wonder who gets to do Hilton’s backrub?

Woolley would probably have the stories of all stories to tell should it be him.

Maybe he’ll let our Toronto Police traffic team in on some of the fun.

Toronto coppers are in need of a laugh during this summer of sadness and firearms.

This whole event is a nice diversion and an example of what summer in the city could and should be.

Tonight will be a good night to see some celebrities. Among those on the list with Hilton are Rodman, Christensen and Mario Andretti. For those who want to see some Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Porsches, this is your dream come true.

“I think the Hilton hotel will be the best place,” said Duncan. “There will be at least 100 really amazing cars.”

It’s also accessible for the public. “We are not car snobs,” he said.

In fact, cars and the desire to see North America are what it’s all about it.

Duncan and business partner David Green started the Bullrun “because we were bored.”

They spiced it up a little by getting some people together and heading across country. The thing quickly caught on and the rich and famous couldn’t resist.

“Some people have great cars and nowhere to drive them and no reason too,” he said, adding this gives them a neat reason.

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