A long time ago, in a country far, far away… long before drifting became mainstream; long before fake GAB wheels existed; long before energy drinks and MTV cared about motorsports… gymkhana was already going pretty strong in Japan. Even before I ever had a chance to see a Japanese gymkhana video on VHS tape, I used to go to the Japanese bookstores in the San Francisco Bay Area (Kinokuniya in Japantown SF or Yaohan bookstore in Saratoga CA) and look at photos of all the amazing cars in the Japanese magazines that I couldn’t (and still can’t) read.
This is a YouTube video of the 1989 Japan Cup Gymkhana’s C3 Class, which features some pretty amazing looking cars! The Ken Block Invitational event at Irwindale was super fun, but I wish the cars in gymkhana competition today looked as incredible as the ones in this video! Vintage cars with period correct graphics, widebody AE86s that are actually used for racing, AW11 MR2s spinning around cones… I love it!
This Japan Cup video definitely brings it back to the roots for me, because of the amazing cars featured in the clips! To steal a quote from a friend of mine named Kero One, “innovation is useless if you forget the essence.” This statement definitely holds true when it comes to motorsports! Even before all the big sponsors and professional drifting existed, this is the type of motorsports activity that got me excited about driving! Traditional gymkhana is fun, skill-based, relatively low speed, and has a relatively low barrier to entry in terms of money. (more…)
For those who don't know, gymkhana is kind of like a cross between autocross (slalom/solo racing in a parking lot, in a course laid out with cones) and drifting. Back before I started working the media end of the drifting scene, I was pretty active in driving at autocross events. It's fun, it improves your driving skills, and it's not too expensive.
Ken Block isn't the first person to try to organize a gymkhana event though. Erik Jacobs from DG Trials in Atlanta GA was the first person that I had ever heard of trying to make a series of drifting and gymkhana events... this was back around 2004 or so, when drifting was just beginning to blow up! To put things in perspective, back then, Vaughn Gittin Jr was still working on getting sponsored by Falken, and he was driving an S13 240SX, not a Ford Mustang! Read more...