Ken Block’s Gymkhana Grid Event Recap and Rant

Gymkhana Racing in California
Ken Block, ken block Ford Fiesta, DC shoes, Monster Energy fiesta, gymkhana

Invitational only! This means that only professional race car drivers of various disciplines were invited for a no holds barred gymkhana match at Mr. Block’s home field, Toyota Speedway in Irwindale CA.

The tire smoke has finally settled after the first ever competition style Gymkhana Grid event on December 4th 2010. The word around the digital informational highway is that the internationally hyped up event had definitely lived up to its expectations and best of all, it looks as though everyone, especially the drivers had waaay too much fun out there!

Tanner Foust, Rockstar Energy, Ford Fiesta, gymkhana

Professional driver, Xgames champion, Top Gear USA host and renaissance man Tanner Foust was killing it out there with his Rockstar Energy Ford Fiesta. Congratulations to Foust, as he managed to score 1st place podium in the AWD class, above Ken Block at his own event! The final battle was a heated one… it was a test of pure skill and gracefulness to pilot their race cars around the track without any mistakes.

Daijiro Yoshihara, Discount tire, Nissan S13, gymkhana

The drifters seemed to rule the event, as Daijiro Yoshihara in the Discount Tire Nissan 240SX grabbed the RWD 1st place finish over John Russakoff in the JSP / Falken Toyota Corolla.

Apexi, Hankook, Lexus SC430, gymkhana

Daijiro Yoshihara, Toshiki Yoshioka, mirrored course, gymkhana

kevin abbrings, biomcn, mehanol, eco

The environment of the venue was much too similar to that of Formula D or D1 Grand Prix which are both popular drifting events in the US. It’s logical because most of the competitors were professional drifters and all they were doing was sliding their cars around the track like they’re used to. Since the official Gymkhana website stated the different classes available, (FWD, MRWD, RWD, AWD) to my suprise and disappointment, there were only the RWD and AWD class competing at this event. From my experience attending Japanese Gymkhana events, the fastest cars are of that of the FWD (front wheel drive) configuration, however this class was nowhere to be found. It was puzzling why the organizers had done this, since it would have been very easy to squeeze in another class during the 2 hour lapse when there were no other racers on the track. Without the aid of the Mass Appeal car show held by and the loyal vendor booths present, the crowd would have went home early because of the rain.

Motormavens,, gymkhana environment

motormavens, ratrod, lily, whitewall tires, gymkhana

Honda Ruckus, motormavens, mass appeal, gymkhana

Ok fine, its all good that Ken Block and the organizers are attempting to redefine the sport of Gymkhana, and it has been called the “American version of Gymkhana”, but their balance of competition and entertainment needs to be kept clear. Upon interviewing several high profile drivers, I learned that they were instructed to drift or slide their cars around certain turns or else points would be deducted. The absolute fastest way around a gymkhana track is mostly grip their way around the cones (depending on the type of turn) and FF cars are the quickest of the bunch.

However, the general consensus is that a car gripping around the corner barely making a tire squeak is boring to watch, hence the mandatory flamboyant drifting “performance’. Bringing the variable of “drifting” into the judging criteria introduces the subjective factor into the sport, which means that the fastest lap time doesn’t necessarily score you a trophy. This is pure speculation on my part, but this is why the FF class was excluded from competition, since they are unable to drift.

Wolfgang Hoeck, Wolfie, Mitsubishi Evo8, gymkhana

Stephen Verdier,Crawford Performance, Subaru STI, gymkhana

To their credit, this event was just for exhibition and next year there will be an actual point series competition. From a drifting fan point of view, it would be a entertaining to see more AWD cars romp their throttles and more Rally drivers competing instead of just drifters for a change.

Ken Block, shades, Monster merchandise, gymkhana meeting

Monster Tajima, Suzuki Sport, Escudo, gymkhana

Tanner Foust, Bucky Lasek, meeting, gymkhana

Overall, organizing a motorsport event is VERY difficult and I feel as though the team did a very good job. The Monster and Rockstar energy drinks were free and there were lots of pretty models to look at as well. The spectators were allowed pit access and had the opportunity to shake the hand of their favorite racer as well as check out the car up close. Such celebrities as the legendary Pikes Peak Hill Climb champion “Monster” Tajima was present, as well as professional skateboarders Bucky Lasek and Rob Dyrdrek.

Jeff Jones, BMI, 4rotor, Mazda RX-8, gymkhanaMicheal Essa, GSR, BMW 350R, gymkhana

Tony Brakohiapa, Hankook, Mustang GT, gymkhana

JR Vaughn Gittin, 1978 Ford Escort, gymkhana

With all the praise and  criticism, it will be exciting to see exactly how this event will be held next year and what new talents will be showcased from competition. Don’t be afraid to chime in on your thoughts, especially from people who have actually attended this event, or someone that is an avid Gymkhana enthusiast. Please make sure to check out Introduction to Gymkhana if you dont know what this motorsport is!

Toshiki Yoshioka, Quoc Ly, Driftspeed, gymkhanaRockstar Energy, Rally, Ford Fiesta, pit, gymkhana

Alex Pfeiffer, Lexus Soarer, Battle Version, gymkhana

Vaughn Gittin, 1978 Ford Escort, Hoonigan, gymkhana

5zigen, GT500, Toyota Supra, display, gymkhana

5zigen, Eri, model, racing gloves, gymkhana

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