Passing Through

Joe Talbot’s customized metallic blue Lotus looked a little out of place parked in the lot of Taco Bell on Toronto Road Monday afternoon.
Web extra: More info on Bullrun 2006

After all, there aren’t many Lotuses in these parts. Same goes for Lamborghinis, Porsches and the multitude of other sports cars cruising down Interstate 55 Monday - a few of which reportedly were going faster than 100 mph, sometimes on the shoulders, and had state troopers scrambling to track them down.

Talbot’s was among the dozens of high-end luxury cars that raced through the Springfield area on Monday’s leg of Bullrun 2006, an invitation-only coast-to-coast rally that attracts the rich, the famous and a cast of “petrosexuals” - people obsessed with cars and motor sports.

Entry fees for the race are $14,000.

Among the celebrities reportedly participating in Bullrun this year are racer Mario Andretti, Olympic athlete Carl Lewis, actors Hayden Christensen, Corey Feldman and Corey Haim and possibly former Chicago Bulls forward Dennis Rodman.

Participants left Times Square in New York City on Saturday and expect to arrive in Los Angeles on Saturday. They reportedly stay in five-star hotels, and the event’s parties are “legendary,” according to the event’s Web site at

“Bullrunners” make their way from one checkpoint to the next and don’t know their destinations until they are handed a card each morning when they depart. The card lists an address, a destination city and the number of miles to get there. The rest of the navigation is up to them.

Talbot, a commissioning editor with British television network ITV, stopped at Taco Bell for a quick bite, then hit the highway again. Destination: 1 Busch Plaza in St. Louis, also known as the Anheuser-Busch brewery.

“We try and drive responsibly,” said Talbot, who is from London. “Not that many of us know the speed limits. It varies from state to state. Occasionally, as many people do, we get a bit overexcited at times.”

Most of the participating cars were emblazoned with numbers on their sides and adorned with a variety of decals. Among the makes and models represented in this year’s rally are Lamborghini, Ferrari, Bentley, Mercedes, Corvette, Lotus, Porsche, Ford Mustang, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Range Rover and BMW. A 1954 Studebaker Commander and a 1980s-model Suzuki SUV are among others in the running.

Tom and Rita Naylor of Stratfordshire, England, were driving car No. 48, a Buick Lucerne - not the sexiest car in the rally but certainly a reliable way to get across the country. Tom, a retired truck driver, won $30 million in a lottery in 2001. His personal cars include three Jaguars, a Bentley and an Astin Martin.

“It’s a great deal of fun. It’s not a race, it’s a rally,” he said, as he and Rita stopped to fuel up at a gas station near Illinois 108 outside Carlinville.

Though he hadn’t been driving as fast as the other participants and was consistently coming in last, he did manage to get a ticket for going 80 mph in a 60 mph zone early in the trip. He’s not worried about the fines, though.

“It’s only money at the end of the day,” he said.

Many of the drivers outfitted their cars with such equipment as police scanners, CB radios and radar detectors and jammers. They made sure they had cash, identification, vehicle registration information and proof of their vehicle’s ownership.

Most of the cars had cameras and video equipment to document the race. Videographers were among the group, and some of their footage is going to air on Spike TV, one of them said.

Talbot said there even is a helicopter with special camera equipment following the race from above.

“It’s an eclectic mix of people - fast cars, old cars, slow cars,” Talbot said. He added: “The best part of the rally is that it’s not about the cars. It’s about the people in the cars. There’s a real camaraderie.”

Most of the drivers had been pulled over at least once during the drive, according to Web sites dedicated to tracking the rally. Talbot said he’d been pulled over several times already but said the police had been very nice.

He added that the Illinois leg of the rally was “really boring,” “very flat” and the “worst part” of the race so far. He gave the leg between New York and Toronto a rave review.

District 9 Illinois State Police began receiving complaints about speeding sports cars with numbers on the side about 1:30 p.m. They received reports of cars going as fast as 140 mph. Most, if not all, of the drivers were slowed dramatically when they reached the construction zone at the Lake Springfield bridges south of the city.

By late afternoon, troopers had stopped two of the Bullrunners and issued them citations. District 6 troopers north of District 9 reportedly pulled over six drivers, and District 18 troopers to the south were made aware of the rally heading their direction. At least one of their troopers worked from an overpass, using a Lidar device to catch speeders.

Capt. Tim Reents of District 18 pulled over car No. 66 for going 78 mph in a 65 mph zone near Illinois 108. The same car was pulled over earlier near Springfield for having no visible registration.

“We can’t allow people to have an open race on the interstate highways,” he said.

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