Maximillion Cooper’s Big Oops: For Gumball Rally Guy, A Rather Sticky Situation

On Friday, May 4, British entrepreneur Maximillion Cooper, the organizer of the Gumball Rally—a six-day, 3,000-mile party-boy-fueled drive around Europe that has been held since 1999—held a meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia, to explain the tragedy that had occurred two days before on a rural road in Macedonia. Driver Nick Morley’s Porsche 911 Turbo TechArt had smashed into a car not involved in the race, a VW Golf, killing an elderly couple.

Mr. Cooper was interrupted by Sean Dalton, a driver in this year’s Gumball. “Take off your sunglasses when you’re talking about something as serious as this!” Mr. Dalton shouted.

“Is it absolutely necessary?” Mr. Cooper replied, according to the recollection of Mr. Dalton, a former Marine who lives in the East Village.

“I think that infuriated me the most,” Mr. Dalton told The Transom. “I said, ‘Yes, it is.’ You could hear a pin drop in the room.”

He wasn’t the only driver frustrated with the way Gumball brass handled the accident. Socialite and veteran driver Alex Roy was also perplexed by how long it took organizers to react. Mr. Roy said he received word of the deaths in the middle of the afternoon on May 3. “As soon as I heard that people had died, I immediately pulled out of the rally and headed back to Zagreb,” he said.

Gumball didn’t officially call off the rally until later that night. Indeed, on the evening of May 2, organizers and drivers attended an event hosted by Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha at the Presidential Palace in Tirana.

In a mass e-mail sent to drivers on May 8—apparently in response to a public outcry on the Gumball Web site—Mr. Cooper explained that he had been “aware of the accident but not its severity” as he proceeded with the gala. “[D]espite all kinds of rumors flying around the dinner table,” he went on, “that evening the Macedonian authorities informed me that the elderly couple involved were in hospital but were ‘okay.’”

This seemed a tad naïve, considering that Mr. Morley—who fled the scene of the accident before he was apprehended at the Macedonian border—was sitting in a jail cell that same night.

Upon his return to the States, Mr. Roy and his driving partner set up a fund for the family of the victims. So far, he has raised about $50,000, including $10,000 of his own money.

Mr. Cooper and Gumball have yet to take any such action aside from writing the letter, and didn’t respond to calls for comment.

“I’m not sure if the Gumball will continue, but I know I will not be participating again,” said Mr. Dalton, who paid the official $55,000 entrance fee to put his ’55 Chevy to the test. “It’s marketed as a world-class event. It’s not—as this accident clearly indicates.”

Mr. Roy, too, said that this would be his last Gumball. “This was inevitable,” he said of the incident. “They should have prepared for it.”

Maximillion Cooper’s Big Oops: For Gumball Rally Guy, A Rather Sticky Situation