(CNN) -

Once a year, a motley crew of superstars in supercars carve out an impossible, hedonistic adventure.

The Gumball 3000 -- now in its 16th iteration -- is an intercontinental car rally built on unabashed excess, unbridled thrills and kaleidoscopic changes of scenery.

Exactly where the cars and characters venture changes from year to year.

The 2014 rally -- which took place June 4-12 -- blitzed a path from Miami to Ibiza -- with flights and ferries to conquer seas, as required.

In rallies past, Gumballers have motored everywhere from Marrakech to Bangkok to Dubrovnik to, most remarkably, an incursion into North Korea in 2008.

It was there that British entrepreneur and Gumball 3000 founder Maximillion Cooper famously karaoked with the late Kim Jong-il.

Securing a place among the curious cast of Gumballers is no mean feat. It's a particular melange that makes up a participant: maybe he's rich, maybe he's famous, maybe he's a little reckless.

The one common strand?

A hunger for unusual adventures.

High costs

Naturally, such mighty exoticism and thrills come with a mighty price tag.

First things first: entry fee. This year, that was the better part of $100,000.

Broke yet? You still need a ride.

Though you can drive whatever vehicle you please, most entrants opt for tricked-out beasts: Porsche, Jaguar, Rolls Royce.

Saudi entrants, Team Galag, built an epic, street-legal replica of Batman's tumbler.

An insanely rare McLaren P1 graced the route this year.

These ain't your average garage projects and these aren't your average drivers.

Even discarding the celebrity presence -- of which there was plenty this year -- I met no fewer than eight multimillionaires in my week with the rally.

But with no shortage of ways to blow cash in exotic and unorthodox ways, the question is why -- why this?

"There's no purpose to it," grinned rapper Xzibit one foggy morning in France. "It's the camaraderie -- the brotherhood."

As participants remind me evangelically: this isn't a race -- this is a matter of pride and joy and adventure, not milliseconds.

"It isn't about racing," says Gumball 3000 founder Cooper. "It never has been."

What they mightn't tell you is that it's about status, too.

Participant prestige

"It's like going to dinner and pulling out a black card, a gold card and a debit card. This is the one you want to be carrying around," says entrepreneur and multi-time participant Caleb Garrett, who has Gumball 3000's logo tattooed to his forearm.

By the time I join the rally -- on a lazy, warm Sunday in London -- the participants have braved a brutal drive up the east coast of the United States, and, just the night earlier, hopped on a charter plane from New York to Edinburgh.

When I drop into Regent Street in London, it's clear what the event has grown into.

Central London has been closed off.

Regent Street, home to heritage buildings and colossal brands, has been gated-off into a mini-festival.

The number of spectators is astonishing.

Hundreds of thousands, easy.

They're here, on the streets, climbing poles and leaning over barriers, waiting for a glimpse of the fine-tuned monsters and their famed drivers.

Around 11 p.m., I meet a young family camped out in a Soho side street.

"We came here eight hours ago," says Alice, a well-spoken, ostensibly responsible mother of five. "We wanted to make a day of it. We want to see the McLarens. It's school night -- they should be home in bed!"

From the moment they departed Miami, the Gumballers have had eyes on them -- spectators waiting out the routes, mammoth crowds in arrival cities, GoPro'd livestreams, the media crews that tail the rally (CNN included).

Even those who came into the race with no fame have been transformed into instant (if temporary), intercontinental celebrities.

As much for fans

Every day on the rally is punctuated, regularly, by boys, girls and grown men begging the drivers to let their engines roar: in gas stations, passport control, ferry docks and fast food parking lots.

The riders soak it up, dishing out high fives and posing for pictures.

Though the bevy of cars are soon parked in a square in the middle of Soho for the night, Gumball 3000 continues its adventure until the early hours.