The 911 calls started rolling about 3:30 p.m. last Wednesday, just as the B.C. Lower Mainland’s notorious rush hour was starting to build: so many high-powered luxury cars were weaving recklessly through traffic as they raced south on Highway 99 that it looked like a Need for Speed video game come to life. A squadron of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and the like flew past anxious drivers as they streaked out of the narrow George Massey tunnel under the Fraser River toward Surrey and the seaside community of White Rock.
Lower Mainland RCMP scrambled to get a helicopter over the scene for an accurate measure of the speeds, which may have exceeded 200 km/h, but there wasn’t time, said RCMP Supt. Norm Gaumont, the officer in charge of traffic for the region. RCMP cruisers corralled some of the racers in Surrey, while the rest were pulled over in White Rock. In all, they impounded 13 vehicles worth $2 million by police estimates.
“I’ve got a Ferrari 599, I have three Lamborghini Gallardos, I have an Audi R8, I have three Nissan GTRs, I have two Maserati Turismos, I have two Mercedes SLS and I have an Aston Martin,” said Gaumont, reading through the list of cars impounded for seven days under provincial anti-street-racing laws. None of the 12 males and one female, all from Vancouver or Richmond, was older than 21. Six were novice drivers, required under B.C.’s licence system to display an “N” sign on the rear of their vehicle. “My son drives a ’94 Mazda,” said Gaumont, “and he thinks he’s pretty hard done by after this.”
The drivers are likely to get off lightly. Each was issued a $196 ticket for “driving without reasonable consideration,” the only charge police felt they could prove without radar or helicopter evidence of their speed. The drivers will also lose six penalty points, enough to issue a suspension for the novice drivers, said a spokesperson for the Insurance Corporation of B.C. (ICBC). If police could prove a criminal charge of dangerous driving, they would have had to do some even more serious explaining to their parents. “Then we’d be looking at seizing the vehicles permanently,” said Gaumont.
B.C. is among several provinces to crack down on street racing. Gaumont says the level of racing has declined since police gained the power to impound vehicles last September. Some 101 vehicles have been temporarily impounded for racing or stunt driving, and 5,700 were seized for excessive speed, according to figures from ICBC.
As for the recent arrests, the drivers seemed largely unconcerned. One told a Global News reporter at the scene they were just on their way to get something to eat. Gaumont called it fortunate that no one was injured or killed. They come from very wealthy families, he said. “I find it very unusual that you would have kids that age driving such high-end vehicles,” he said. “I can’t speak to what the parents are thinking.”
Within hours, the arrests were generating heat. “Who gives an 18-year-old a Lamborghini?” someone on the CBC website asked. “Not only is there the aspect of providing that child with an enormous sense of entitlement and elitism, but it’s damn dangerous . . . These are parents more concerned with status than good parenting.”
Posters on the website Luxury4Play, which glorifies high-speed autos, took a decidedly different tack. “I want to know who won?!” one wrote. “200 km/h?” said another, “Should’ve gone faster.”