There’s no arguing that Vancouver is a veritable hotbed for supercar sightings on any given day. Some say you can’t shake a stick and not hit a Lamborghini in the downtown core. Even in my neighborhood of South Granville I would think something was wrong if I didn’t hear a V10 or V12 supercar scream by me over the course of a weekend.
The interspersed appearances of exotic sheetmetal and carbon fibre occasionally make Vancouver’s auto enthusiasts numb to the presence of these cars. However, in May the third annual Diamond Rally brought out enough hardware to make even the most jaded Vancouverite giddy with excitement. This year’s event saw a record-breaking 131 cars roll into the parking lot of Brian Jessel BMW in preparation for what was to be another epic drive from Vancouver to Whistler.
Rather than covering the event from the sidelines as I had in the past, it was finally time to get in on all the fun. After a bit of back-and-forth, the team from Autoform in Vancouver came through with a 2011 Aston Martin Vantage N420, allowing us to fit in amongst the supercar fray.
Lining up alongside the roughly half-dozen Astons on Saturday morning, it was clear that there would be a few brands with much larger packs in the drive. At final count, Porsche took the lead with 25 cars, followed by Lamborghini at 21 and Ferrari at 18. The biggest surprise came from McLaren, which saw 17 of the 19 cars originally registered for the event turn out.
McLaren has dug a solid foothold in the Vancouver market in no time at all, having just opened its doors in the city one year ago. While the bulk of the pack was primarily 650S models, it also included not just one, but two P1s. These two über-exclusive surpercars also rounded out two out of the top three most expensive rides in the event, with the third spot being taken by a lone Porsche 918 Spyder.
Though a huge part of the appeal of the rally is simply being part of a massive motorcade of performance, a large focus on the part of event organizers and drivers is their fundraising efforts for a number of local and national charities. Organizations ranging from the BCSPCA to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada were represented by rally teams at this year’s Diamond Rally, and many teams managed to raise tens of thousands of dollars for their respective charities through raffles and other initiatives leading up to the event.
“Our (biggest) success is that the Diamond Rally is a Charity Challenge, when every dollar raised from invited driver and their team goes directly from their team to the charity of their choice,” said Diamond Rally organizer Craig Stowe. “In Vancouver, we live in the one city in Canada where you can drive a supercar 12 months a year.”
On the other side of the coin, the rally docket also includes a significant grouping of young drivers that are simply happy to come out and have a good time. The Vancouver Sports Car Club, one of the city’s more prominent supercar groups – often known for tearing it up all over the city – arrived with a significant grouping. Many of the event’s young drivers’ vehicles arrived sporting B.C.’s mandated “New Driver” badging, however the day’s drive would prove these guys are more than capable of handling their cars, as well as the rest of us.
Departing our starting point easily qualifies as one of the most entertaining experiences I’ve had on public roads in my lifetime. In order to ensure the 131- car pack would stay together, a police blockade was set up from the dealership lot through to our entrance onto the highway. Not only did this ensure smooth sailing to the open road, but it also meant our first few kilometres of highway (which included a reasonably long tunnel) remained free of any traffic. I’m the first to admit I got a little “enthusiastic” myself, within reason, however the McLarens and Porsches that flew by me provided a soundtrack that I’ll be dreaming about for years to come.
As the day went on it was clear that a baby blue McLaren 650S and a Ulysse Nardin-sponsored Porsche 911 GT3 were set on leading the pack, though the bulk of the pack remained quick all while keeping in mind that B.C. has a strict impound law for speeding that is regularly enforced. Over our first pit-stop in Squamish the group once again lined up for an hour-long display. Another significant crowd was in attendance to see the procession, however, the site wasn’t nearly as crowded as it was earlier in the morning.
Taking a moment to chat with Chris Green, McLaren brand ambassador in Canada, it was clear he was quite impressed with the day’s turnout. Though I’ve yet to find an official figure, Green and I remained confident in saying that Vancouver easily contains the most supercars per capita of anywhere else in the world. And with roads like the Sea-To-Sky Highway, these cars rack up more memorable driving roads than they would just about anywhere else.
Completing our final leg of the journey to Whistler led us to one final display spot in the Olympic Plaza before heading off to the event’s closing ceremonies at the Whistler Four Seasons Hotel. Once there, it was time for a few well-deserved cocktails and a bit of lounging as presentations took place to thank sponsors and give away a handful of trophies associated with the event. Best livery wound up in the hands of a heritage-wrapped McLaren 650S sporting the old “McLaren/Marlboro” colours of the ’80s, when Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost dominated Formula One. More importantly, the winning charity campaign title went to the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, which raised a little over $60,000 with the goal of sending a young terminally-ill child named Joey off to Italy with his family to tour the Ferrari factory in Maranello.
Between the drive itself, the good deeds of the charities involved, and the brilliant weather it would be difficult to call the 2015 Diamond Rally anything other than a resounding success. Having been bitten hard by the lifestyle rally bug, my only question after an incredible weekend is how long must I wait to do it all over again?