Andy Duncan Car Domain Interview
We had a few requests to post up the interview Andy Duncan where he talks about all things rally with John @ Car Domain a few weeks ago…The Insider
John: Hey Andy, how you doing? It’s John Coyle from CarDomain.
Andy: Hello mate.
John: How’s it going?
Andy: Not bad actually, not bad at all. Can’t complain, it’s just another day in paradise here in LA isn’t it?
John: Nice man, nice. I am so incredible stoked to be going on the rally this year, I’m going to be riding with Mike Musto (Mr. Angry), and you know I’m just like, I’m freaking out!
Andy: Cool, well I’m sure you will have a great time with him.
John: So, as someone who hasn’t done Bullrun before, what should I expect my first time out?
Andy: Total and utter exhaustion; every one of your senses, overexposed and probably about three hours of sleep a night.
John: That sounds perfect
Andy: Yeah, by the end of the week you’ll have this condition we have called Bullrun lag. This is where you just literally walk around like a zombie for about a week, till you have fully recovered.
John: That sounds cool; I pretty much walk around like a zombie normally so that should be alright. So, what’s your daily driver?
Andy: Well, we got a few; couple of trucks, we have got an old 911 Porsche, a Mercedes CLK 55 AMG, and we have a special edition Shelby West Coast Customs & Bullrun Edition Mustang GT.
John: Oh wow, what is your favorite one?
Andy: I’m a bit of a grandfather when it comes to my daily driver, you know I just like something nice and easy, and I actually like the Mercedes.
John: That makes sense, they are beautiful cars.
Andy: But we’re lucky, we get cars off manufacturers’ to play with and drive like Lotus and we want a Spyker C8 next.
John: Oh wow!
Andy: We are very, very, very lucky.
John: Yeah, it sounds like it. So how many years has the Bullrun been going on?
Andy: It’s been going for five. We started it in 2003 and this will be the fifth year, but it’s about the seventh rally we have done. Because we have done more than one rally in some years.
John: Right, what gave you the idea to start your own rally?
Andy: Well, we used to participate and organize for fun, some other events like this in Europe, which we sort of got involved with in 2000. We did it with other people and then we just thought you know, we want to do our own thing, we want to do it our way and we want to make it totally geared toward a television angle, so that what we can do is build an automotive lifestyle brand out of the rally. Our focus initially was always on the rally but with a view to always expand beyond that.
John: Right, what were some of the big surprises on the first rally you through, or what caught you completely off guard?
Andy: How much money it was going to cost I think. I mean, it’s a couple of things. The amount of time and effort that goes into getting these events right. And also the cost. There were plenty of rallies out there that were doing a similar sort of thing, but some of them are not doing it right and they are just ripping people off. If you are going to do it right and have people returning year after year, you have to properly look after them, and it is expensive to do that.
John: that makes sense, it looks expensive.
Andy: Yes, the first year we had a big TV show commissioned in the UK which we produced that filmed that very first rally, and it did really well, and we never did look back from then on. We called the series ‘Bullrun: Cops, Cars and Superstars’ and it’s now in its’ 5th year and airs in 96 countries.
John: wow, so over the years what are some of the craziest things you have seen on the rally?
Andy: Oh my God, where do I start? Watching Carl Lewis in a sprint competition against a Mosler in 2006. Hayden Christensen and Dennis Rodman having a 180mph drag race against each other on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Lamborghinis (and Hayden spinning out at 180mph). Police chiefs asking to drive our cars, then taking a Ferrari off one of our drivers and doing 150 down the road in it! The California highway patrol had all of their leave cancelled one day because they heard we were going to be coming into the state. You name it, it’s happened. We had 25,000 people in Times Square for the start of the rally is 2006 – we actually shut down Times Square at that start. No one has done that before, and I doubt anyone will ever do it again. So many memorable moments.
John: that’s incredible!
Andy: I could seriously bore you to death with my anecdotes, I’ll spare you!
John: I don’t think I would get bored, who do you think are some of the craziest drivers in the rally? Is Alexander Roy, is he going to be there this year?
Andy: Not that I’m aware, I don’t think Alex has done a Bullrun rally since 2005.
John: Oh, really? So is he retired now?
Andy: I don’t know, I don’t think so, I think he does other rallies, but I don’t really know what he does for fun these days. I heard he was trying to break the record attempt that Richard Rawlins and Dennis Collins set in 2007, the ‘Cannonball’ cross country record from New York (34th Street) to LA (Portofino Inn).
John: Yeah, with the Ferrari with the big gas tank.
Andy: Yeah, they came on our rally this year in Montreal, they got into a bar argument and their friend Jared Riecke bet them $50,000 they couldn’t break the record. So they drove to New York, had five hours sleep and then drove to LA nonstop and broke the record. Then, they came back and met us two days later in Savannah, Georgia and joined the rest of the Bullrun. Those guys are officially rally legends these days not for just breaking the record but for doing it at that short notice and then coming back and joining another rally, it’s unbelievable really how they had the stamina for that.
It doesn’t get much crazier than that, but the guy who bet them, Jared Riecke is up there too! Last year, so he could finish the final leg of Bullrun from Miami down to Key West first, he loaded two cars into a DC6 cargo plane and flew them to Key West. We have it all on film. He wanted to win that last leg so badly. At the same time Claus Ettensberger, the president of CC Wheels was doing that final leg in a powerboat. It’s an endurance event but it’s always about fun.
John: I’m really looking forward to it. Last year on the Gumball 3000, there was that accident, where the people pulled out in front of one of the cars, I was wondering how has that publicity affected the Bullrun and how long do you think you can go in the states before people start cracking down on rallies in general?
Andy: Well, that’s a big question.
I guess they have cracked down on rallies in Europe, I heard the Gumball 3000 was actually stopped from driving through Germany last year, by German police but don’t know how true that is.
In general we try extremely hard to keep the rally safe, we have around 100 cars all traveling 3,000 to 4,000 miles each year over the course of a week, a lot can happen. We plan the rally ourselves, we drive the route twice ourselves, and we drive it within the speed limit to so that it can be done within the legal speed limits. As boring as it may be sometimes, we have to do it ourselves.
With regards the death of those two people on Gumball 3000 last year it hasn’t impacted us. We’re a different business on a different continent.
Like most people I heard Gumball 3000 got a ton of negative press in Europe and on the autoblogs as apparently they tried to deny the existence of the accident and the deaths and that the Gumballer who caused the accident try to skip the country but it’s all just stuff I heard through the rally rumour-mill I didn’t see anything myself in the US media.
Having said that, when you have a lot of cars traveling 3,000 miles, it’s easy for someone to have an accident in normal driving conditions. All it takes is a blowout on a tire to cause an accident and if your car has decals on it and your traveling in a rally the press can mount against you and smell a sensationalist story which may just actually be an unfortunate car accident story like you hear every day.
With regards to rallies in the USA, if people start being crazy here then the authorities will clamp down and if people are sensible they won’t. They will see it for what it is, but you know there are hundreds of car rallies out there; obviously Bullrun is the most high profile one in the USA but there are hundreds all over the world, and scores in the USA that have been running for a very long time. Plenty don’t get publicity because they’re just little clubs. You have literally thousands and thousands of drivers on US roads every year participating in rallies.
John: So it’s hardly a new thing.
Andy: No, these car rallies have been going almost as long as cars have been going. Like the old Peking-Paris rally, which I think started in like the 1920s or 1930s, and the Carrera Pan-American in Mexico which has been going since the 50s. We’ve never pretended we created the car rally, we have just done something that is our version, done it our way for TV and hope that people would enjoy it and get out of it the vibe we are trying to create.
John: From my perspective you’ve done it brilliantly, and I am so stoked to be coming along this year.
Andy: You are going to have a pretty amazing time, that’s for sure. If its not the best week of your life by the time you finish it, I am going to be very, very surprised. That’s a bold statement, but I know what’s in store for you, so I know you will have a great time.
John: Thanks so much Andy, I’m really looking forward to Bullrun, and looking forward to having a drink with you.
Andy: Ok. Take care, mate!