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Maseratis, millionaires and mayhem as Gumball 3000 comes to Scotland

IT IS the height of decadence:

Nicola at the rally's registration day in Edinburgh, also pictured above right	Photographs: Mark Mainz/Twitter
Nicola at the rally's registration day in Edinburgh, also pictured above right Photographs: Mark Mainz/Twitter

a fleet of the world's most expensive supercars flown across the Atlantic to Scotland for what is effectively a 21st-century version of the Wacky Races for multi-millionaires.

Today, the Gumball 3000 rally will arrive in Scotland for the first time in its 15-year history, with around 120 cars, including Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis rolling off two jumbo jets at Prestwick airport, with their drivers following on a private jet.

The convoy will make its way to Edinburgh for a pit-stop on the Mound, before moving on to Manchester and London. The rally started in Miami and the end destination is Ibiza on Wednesday.

Yesterday, a sample of the supercars were lined up on display in Edinburgh, with some drivers registering to join the rally for the European leg only.

Among them is Nicola Wood, a former Miss Scotland and Miss UK, who is taking part in the event for the first time. She will join up with her pub tycoon husband Garreth Wood, son of the Aberdeen-based oil billionaire Sir Ian Wood. Garreth Wood set off from Miami last Wednesday and he and Nicola will make up the only Scottish team of Gumballers.

The car they will be driving is a Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe which they have owned for a "couple of years" and has been specially customised by being wrapped in velvet with a red chrome bonnet.

At upwards of £300,000, this type of car costs more than the average property in Scotland. The ordinary driver might quake at the idea of sitting behind the wheel, but Nicola is remarkably blasé.

"I have driven the car before, it doesn't worry me too much," she says.

"Garreth has got me really into cars. I have driven a Lamborghini, I have driven a Ferrari, I have driven Porsches and whatever.

"Driving the Phantom is a bit different - it is like steering a ship as you have a massive bonnet in front of you, but it will be good fun I am sure."

She adds: "The whole event is very extravagant - the outlandish cars, the parties in the evening, the long distances and wonderful destinations that you go to - as well as flying the cars back and forth.

"But I think everybody would give it a bash given the opportunity."

Famous names who set out on the US leg include American rapper Bun B, music producer Deadmau5, rapper Tinie Tempah and former Baywatch star David Hasselhoff. But who exactly will make the trip to Edinburgh is being kept under wraps.

The Gumballers - who stump up £40,000 to enter the rally - will join in the celebrations in Ibiza as the rally founder, British designer Maximillion Cooper, marries his long-time girlfriend, hip-hop star and actress Eve Jihan Jeffers.

But for the Scottish "Velvet Phantom" team, the event also has a serious side. The couple, who have a three-year-old daughter, will be trying to raise at least £100,000 for the charity When You Wish Upon a Star, to take around 100 children who have been diagnosed with life-threatening or terminal illnesses on a day trip to Lapland in December this year.

They will gather funds by performing 50 random "acts of kindness", which will trigger donations by Garreth Wood's company, the Speratus Group. Examples en route so far have included carrying another team's luggage, washing a windscreen and buying chocolate for a child.

Nicola said the idea to fundraise for the charity came after the tragic loss of their triplet daughters last year, who were born prematurely and lost their battle for life within two weeks.

"It is heartbreaking to be in hospital and to have to deal with the really tough days and see your little ones go through treatments," she said. "We really wanted to do the charity element as well and to link the two makes it much more than just a nice adventure for us."

And whether driving a Fiesta or a Phantom, it seems some issues relating to long road trips remain the same.

When asked about any problems she expects to encounter, Nicola joked: "A lack of chat and Garreth's bad taste in music."

Donations can be made to the Velvet Phantom's fundraising effort by texting KIND81 £5 to 70700 or visit www.justgiving.com/50-random-acts-of-kindness

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