Gymkhana, If Ya Don’t Know – Now Ya Know

Gymkhana Racing – The Next Big Thing?

Gymkhana may sound like a name of some small third world country, but its actually a type of auto racing that’s beginning to take solid shape in the United States. With the popularity and influence gained from Autocross, Drifting, and Rally racing, Gymkhana’s attempting to be the next big motorsport trend for the coming years.

Gymkhana Ken Block SEMA

Currently, there is one man in the United States that holds the key to the sport’s popularity votes, and it seems as though he’s on the right track. Ever heard of the Rally driver Ken Block?

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Ken Block has all the tools he needs to make Gymkhana a success and perhaps even re-write the entire definition of the sport.  So far, with huge corporate backing from DC Shoes/Monster/Ford, Ken Block’s Gymkhana videos have made the list as some of the most viewed, viral video in the entire world simply because car stunts are awesome to watch. The automobile acrobatics, cinematography, creative editing, the sounds, all in HD goodness!! I suggest going to Full screen mode, crank up the sound, and enjoy the intensity of what a high powered AWD car driven by a pro can do. Block has also captured the extreme sports audience as one of the founders of DC Shoe Company which can be seen all over pop culture media today.

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So lets see, he has the attention of the skateboard industry, the rally industry, the fashion industry, and the youths all over the world… I have a feeling all eyes are going to be on his next move in 2011.

So what is Gymkhana?
Gymkhana sure doesn’t sound like an English word, and upon further research its actually an Hindi-Urdu word which means an area set aside where sporting activities take place, basically derived to the word Gymnasium. The original form of Gymkhana was practiced with horses, where people would ride their horses in a fenced off perimeter and perform tricks for points.

Gymkhana, Horse Racing, barrel, turns

It is still widely popular today, and if there were no cars in the world today, this is the type of racing I’ll definitely be doing!

The automobile version is the same, except that the competition consists of any motorized vehicle, even motorcycles, attempting to go around set track obstacles as fast as they can. The good thing about gymkhana in cars is that there wont be any horse poop to run over out on the course!

There are cones, barrels, and barriers drivers have to maneuver their cars around in any way they can.  This motorsport tests the drivers ability to grip, drift, steer, accelerate, and brake, all while requiring a high level of concentration and memorization of the track layout. The track sometimes includes small boxed areas with a single cone in the center where drivers must spin the car 360 degrees and some courses require the car to be piloted in reverse! Very tricky. Here’s a sample track layout. See the traditional slalom between 6 and 7 and the 360 degree E-brake enhanced turn after 9 near the end.

Gymkhana, Course Layout, cones

Japan and Europe currently have sanctioned Gymkhana events every year with different classes separating the competitors. The Japanese take this sport very seriously and even has the FIA governing their series with “professional Gymkhana drivers” too.

Gymkhana civic cone turn

Gymkhana, the next big motorsport trend?:

In the 1990’s there was a huge trend of import drag racing that eventually settled within the dust storm to uncover a new trend called “drifting”. Now that drifting is slowly dying, more and more younger auto enthusiasts are looking for the next big rush.  Rally and time attack (autocross) racing are fun to watch on video, however, can be pretty boring to see firsthand since the courses tend to be HUGE and only a portion of the race is visible from a single standpoint. (Remember the X-games Rally? The audience was only able to see one part of the race inside the arena and the rest on the Jumbotron.)

Even with the substantially increasing Subaru and Mitsubishi (AWD fanatics) following the US has gained over the years, WRC Rally is still in a so called “under-appreciated” state in this country. Maybe it’s because American motorsport is saturated with NASCAR’s boring turn left, turn left again… car of tomorrow crap? And too bad for F1 racing… despite the 20,000 rpm rocket ships they race, its popularity will probably always be limited since they rarely race on US soil.

Gymkhana, Ken Block, Fiesta, donuts

Therefore, its pure speculation but Gymkhana might be the next big thing! Here’s why:

  • From an audience and media point of view:
    • Lots of action that’s thrilling to watch live
    • Audience can watch from fairly close to the action and see the whole race track
    • Which makes for great videos and pictures
  • Then for gymkhana drivers:
    • Ultimate skill of vehicle control: drifting, braking, steering, throttle work
    • Races can be done in a head to head manner
    • Only thing to hit is a harmless cone
    • Test of memorization and concentration
    • Can be practiced in any wide open space
    • Any type of vehicle can participate (ie: FF, FR, AWD, MR, etc)
  • For the racing parts manufacturers:
    • See first hand: Your parts work well or don’t
    • Great opportunity for racing exposure
    • Instant feedback from drivers after run
  • For the organizers:
    • The event is easy to set up with minimal equipment needed
    • All that’s needed are a parking lot and cones
    • Less crashes since only one car is out on the track

I would say to keep an open mind about this sport, and go see for yourself to say how successful gymkhana will be. Don’t knock it until you try it, that’s for damn sure!  Be on the lookout for Ken Block’s events in the future! Avid Gymkhana participants might fear that their sport is becoming mainstream now, but is that such a bad thing? What do you think?

And just so you don’t start thinking Ken Block is the only gymkhana participant, dig this crazy display of vehicle control in forward and reverse! You’ve made it this far, spend another 1:13, you’ll be glad you did!

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