I love the way The Gumball Rally starts. No messing around with plot or characters; just a rich guy sending out the word, and then it's on. We don't have time for your fancy "exposition" or "characterization" here! If you don't understand why people would want to race across the country, then that's just too bad. You can figure out who's who on the ride. Let's go!
I'm assuming that the real cause of movies like this was the 1974 creation of the 55mph speed limit. There were driving movies before then (like Vanishing Point and Two-Lane Blacktop, which were supposedly the inspiration for the actual race that inspired this set of movies), but after the national speed limit, you get this, Convoy, Smokey and the Bandit, and generally Hal Needham's whole directorial career.
I do think some people take their car movies a little too seriously. For example, I present this quote from Wikipedia: "A good deal of effort went into reproducing accurate sounds from the now classic cars participating in the race. Few movies of the era managed this, and some find the opportunity to hear the V12 Ferrari and 427 Cobra at full song is alone worth the time spent viewing this film." Really? Hearing the sound effect of an engine is a good enough reason to see a whole movie? Man, that's weird.
Structurally, this is the same movie as Cannonball Run: a straight-up race from New York to Los Angeles. It even ends in the parking lot of the Queen Mary. But Gumball Rally plays it straight for the most part. There's only one team in a disguise; everyone else is in a sports car. Well, there's the team in a van, but I don't think they're trying to trick the cops. It's interesting to see which elements the movies have in common. Apparently, "hiding a car on a truck" is one of the basic elements of a movie like this.
Incidentally, this is the movie that answers the question "When are they gonna get to the fireworks factory?"
I also wanted to make a note that at the beginning of the movie, the alleged record time was 34:11 and at the end, it's 33:57. There's a record mentioned in Cannonball Run that I want to compare that against.