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January 16, 2018

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Entry fee: $20,000; traffic tickets: $2,000; Bullrun rally experience: priceless

Las Vegans return after top-10 finish in famed West Coast road rally


Sam Morris

Diana Spencer and Chi Pang pose with their trophies after completing the 2012 Bullrun Saturday, June 30, 2012.

For a week, Chi Pang and Diana Spencer lived in a world of Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis, on the edge of the law and fueled by the constant rush of adrenaline.

They drove more than 4,000 miles in a black Porsche Panamera S tattooed with the names of friends and family and with local business decals, and crowned with a giant Hello Kitty head. They traveled from Los Angeles to San Francisco to Lake Tahoe, Boise, Portland, Klamath Falls and Santa Cruz. Along the way, they accumulated $2,000 in traffic tickets, two trophies and a lifetime of stories.

In short, the Las Vegas Valley natives lived in the world of the 2012 Bullrun rally, which ran June 22-29.

“It’s an experience; it’s the camaraderie,” said Pang, owner of the Red Mango yogurt shop in Henderson. “There’s always a part of you that wants to be bad.”

Bullrun rally is a collection of people with a passion for nice cars and racing, along with eccentric personalities. There was Charles Schwab’s son Michael, an Indonesian prince, and a team with a pink car designed to look like a pig with a curly tail in the back and a nose on the front.

The rally started in Los Angeles, and each day, drivers had to reach designated checkpoints as fast as possible to earn points, all while challenging or evading police officers. At the end of each day, participants stay in five-star resorts and take part in lavish parties.

“There was one team that had $16,000 worth of tickets in one day,” Spencer said. “They went to jail and just pulled the money out and were like, ‘Can I go now?’”

Pang had always wanted to enter the rally, which costs $20,000 per team to join, but the timing never lined up until this year. Pang teamed with friends Spencer and Gina Ko, who was visiting from out of town, and entered the competition as one of seven female teams.

“Everybody loved us. They all rooted for us,” Pang said. “There have been several girls teams over the years, but I think we were by far the favorite.”

Beverly Hills Car Rental loaned them the Porsche, and Pang enlisted local businesses like Popped Gourmet Popcorn as sponsors to make it happen. Armed with an iPhone and radar detector, they expected it to be a relaxing rally, but when opening day came, they got swept up in the competition.

Each day, they woke up at 6 a.m. to prep the car. Rather than challenge the police officers that are alerted of the speeding cars’ arrival, they chose to avoid them. They used directions on iPhones to take them along back roads where police radar couldn’t detect them.

“We were like outlaws, I hate to say it,” Pang said. “Although, some cops who were in small towns were, like, happy to see us while others were like, ‘Stay away.’”

They rarely took time for bathroom stops or breaks, often finding other methods to take care of business. Their thriftiness paid off. Spencer said they made most of the checkpoints and got as high as the top three once.

Not everything went smoothly, however. Driving along a back-country road, Pang said they nearly ran out of gas with no station within 30 miles. They coasted on hills to conserve fuel but eventually had to beg another team to give them their extra tank. Their brake lights also malfunctioned, remaining on the entire race.

“Some teams had scramblers, flippers, radars, the works,” Spencer said. “We just had a radar and an iPhone, and we killed it.”

When Pang and Spencer returned Saturday from Los Angeles, they were exhausted. They clutched a 3-foot-tall, silver trophy shaped like a champagne glass for their top-10 finish and another homemade trophy of spare brake light parts given to them by another team to show for their efforts.

Their Porsche was parked outside, speckled with white gravel chips, weary from the road and in need of a new paint job. Next year’s rally already lingered in their mind, but after living at 100 mph for an entire week, their next stop was a bed.

“We miss it already,” Pang said. “A week of the ‘Vraahhh’ (of the engines) all day, the radar going off, ‘whoop-a-whoop,’ and we didn’t go to jail. We’re OK.”

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