IRVINE — Not many people can say that they've had the experience of being pulled over because the officer wanted a personal photo with the car.
That happened to Newport Beach resident Gus Doppes — not once, but multiple times — across 10 European countries in seven days as he drove in the much-ballyhooed Gumball 3000.
Doppes, founder and CEO of California Scents, an Irvine-based air freshener business, plans on leaving the hot-pink, neon-green and orange temporary plastic wrap he placed on his 2009 hard-top convertible Ferrari California for a few weeks as a memento of the recently completed race.
The car's flashy makeover wasn't the only element causing all the attention.
The 2011 version of the widely-publicized event took 125 teams through London, Paris, Barcelona, Spain, Monte Carlo, Monaco, Italy's Milan and Venice, Zagreb, Croatia, Belgrade, Serbia, and Sofia, Bulgaria, before crossing the finish line in Istanbul, Turkey, on June 1.
"You can't believe what it was like coming into these cities," Doppes said of the experience he shared with his co-driver, Jim Norman of Florida. "There would be thousands of people waiting and screaming as the cars arrived. You needed to have someone walking you through, in front of the car, to get through the crowd."
It was the first year that Doppes participated in the annual 3,000-mile race, which moves around the world every year. It was also the first time that Doppes was able to give his Ferrari's 4.3 liter V8 engine, capable of over 450 miles of horsepower, a little wiggle room on the open road.
"The roads were perfect," Doppes said of driving through France. "I've never been on an interstate like that before — it was like a glass road the whole time."
Doppes and his co-driver often navigated the 400- to 600-mile daily journey with a band of other motorists in eye-popping cars, including a Ferrari 599 GTO, a Porsche GT-2 RS, a Porsche Turbo, a Mercedes SLR, a Bentley GTC sport and a Bugatti Veyron.
While the days were spent driving, the nights were followed by high-end dinners and glamorous parties, all of which was included in the almost $36,000 entry fee.
However, Doppes described himself as falling into the category of "early to bed, early to rise."
"That's why I always drove the next morning," Doppes said with a laugh. "Jim usually wouldn't be ready to drive until the afternoon — he's a lot younger than me."
When the race concluded in Istanbul, Doppes' wife of 30 years, Linda, was there to greet him.
Doppes has asked his wife, who is also a motoring enthusiast, to team up with him as his co-driver for the 2012 Gumball 3000, which will be in the United States. The duo would most likely drive her Aston Martin at "reasonable speeds," he said.
"This Gumball, for someone who is a car person, it's just something they have to do," Doppes said.
The race, which actually has no winners or losers, is something that Doppes can now scratch it off his bucket list, he said.
As to what will top the exhilarating event as the next item on that list, Doppes wasn't sure.
"I guess I'll have to think about that for a while," he said.