How do you insure a madcap 3,000-mile super rally across 10 countries?

Insurer lifts the lid on insuring supercar drivers at famed event held earlier this month

How do you insure a madcap 3,000-mile super rally across 10 countries?

Insurance News

By Lucy Hook

Specialist motor insurer ERS had the mammoth task of insuring drivers in this year’s Gumball 3000 rally – a 3000-mile race now in its 19th year, which saw 140 high-performance supercars, valued at an estimated £30 million, hit the streets.

The celebrity rally, which this year reached a global audience of around 100 million households, kicked off in Riga, Latvia at the beginning of this month, and saw drivers travel through 10 countries on public roads, finishing a week later in Mykonos, Greece.

Insurance Business caught up with two of ERS’s senior team – Tom Donachie, head of bespoke, and Alan Bradbury, senior bespoke underwriter – to find out about the challenges of insuring the iconic motoring event.

What preparations did you have to make to ensure you could manage everything from the ground in Riga, where the race began?
Alan: “We had to focus not just on insuring unusual cars, but on unusual drivers too, taking into account a broad range of potential risks involved. This meant extensive research of past Gumball events and watching hours of digital footage to really understand what was involved in the event.”

Tom: “As an event, Gumball 3000 completely fits with ERS’s specialism in underwriting prestige automobile insurance. We had a number of these cars on our books already, so we understood the risks involved and this, combined with our research, made it possible for us to fit the whole plan together.”

What was the most challenging aspect of insuring entrants at the last minute?
Alan: “We were located in a small room in the basement of the hotel, away from all the action and noise of the Gumball registration room, so perhaps the last place that entrants wanted to be. At ERS, we’d been preparing for this event for six months, so every aspect had been planned carefully and considered to give entrants the most speedy and efficient service possible.”

Tom: “Many of these drivers don’t see insurance as a priority, so we had to make sure the policy was right for each one, as we knew the drivers wouldn’t be reading the small print. Ultimately, we had to go above and beyond what a ‘normal’ insurer might do – from being on-site at the event until the 11th hour, to working with the team back in the UK to make policy amendments at extremely short notice.”

How many cars did you insure for the rally?
Alan: “Our team managed to insure a staggering 20 cars on the day during a 12-hour stint from 9am to 9pm – we were working flat out to get everything completed in time. It was amazing to see so many teams arriving without even considering insurance, but I guess that’s what we were there for.”

Tom: “In total, PK Partnership, the broker, and ERS, insured 91 cars in the rally, more than twice as many as the official insurer had last year, spanning more than 40 different nationalities taking part in the rally.”

What is the most unusual car you insured?
Alan: “Many of the Gumball 3000 entrants had modified their vehicles which made them stand out from the crowd. We insured a Yellow Ferrari 488 with an upgraded engine and modified body for more than 400K, a huge amount given it’s usually considered sacrilege to alter a Ferrari. We also saw a Cadillac with a substantial engine modification, giving it phenomenal power of 900 brake horse power, as well as a Dodge Charger body wrapped to look like an old Lancia rally car – quite a bizarre idea to make an American muscle car look like an Italian Classic, but it really stood out on the grid.”

What was the most expensive car you arranged insurance for?
Alan: “The most expensive was a Porsche 918 Spider worth in the region of £1 million. Interestingly, a lot of the cars that take part in the event form part of larger collections and haven’t done many miles at all. Gumball 3000 is a chance for them to be released and actually driven.”

The cars were to travel across 10 countries, including some outside the EU. How did this affect your approach?
Tom: “Our underwriting governance team looked at every country outside the EU – such as Montenegro, Bosnia and Albania – to ensure the correct cover was provided, worked with reinsurers to make sure they knew what documents were needed. We had prior experience of this based on other rallies ERS has insured – e.g. Paris to Beijing. Again, the key is careful preparation and looking into every detail so all possible scenarios are covered.”

Would you be keen to take on a challenge like this again?
Tom: “Absolutely, it was an amazing experience to be part of such a huge and well-run event.”

Alan: “It’s a lot of hard work for six months, but the rewards far outweigh the effort. It would be useful to spend more time at the rally in the future to meet more drivers and understand them better – this helps better educate our business and informs better collaboration with our broker partners.”

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