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COVERAGE> Gymkhana Block Party!

Ken Block Monster Gymkhana Rally car Hollywood Park

This weekend, while I was out of town handling some family business, drifting sharpshooter Larry Chen was out at Hollywood Park attending the media preview day of DC Shoes founder Ken Block’s Gymkhana Invitational. I’m pretty disappointed that I wasn’t able to make it to the event myself, as I absolutely LOVE gymkhana.

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!

Ken Block Monster Gymkhana Rally car Hollywood Park

In the parking lot of the gymkhana event, Larry spied one of our favorite new BMWs out at the event… Mike Essa‘s E90 BMW 335i, with the heart of an M5.

Ken Block Monster Gymkhana Rally car Hollywood Park

Don’t worry… Essa wasn’t out there just to park in Hollywood Park’s lot. He was out there showing the Inglewood peeps how he gets down behind the wheel of his BM double!

Ken Block Monster Gymkhana Rally car Hollywood Park

Another interesting car that made it out to the event was Alex Pfeiffer‘s 4AG turbo-powered Locost, which is modeled after a Lotus Super Seven. We’ll keep this update short and sweet, but keep an eye out for more photos in our forum and on Larry’s personal website, Driftfotos.com.

:: Antonio Alvendia

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13 Responses

  1. Pretty cool! It’d be interesting to know why there’s a difference between Gymkhana and Autocross…like, are the tracks prepped differently? Do they cater more to drifting or is it basically the same track layouts, but a different approach to attacking it?

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  3. I may be corrected on this one, but I’m fairly sure that Gymkhana courses utilize much tighter corners than standard Autocross, therefore drifting tends to be a more preferred technique to get around some of the corners quicker. I do believe that the ultimate goal is indeed to go as fast as possible through the course tho…kinda like parking lot rally? From what I’ve heard, the best kinda gymkhana car is a light one with a little motor, kinda like Pfeiffer’s Locost. I’ve also heard that the all-powerful Hachi Roku is a top choice for some gymkhana enthusiasts as well. All my info is second hand though…it’d be interesting to hear an explanation from somebody who has actually seen a gymkhana event. 😛

  4. Phil

    To watch, autocross and gymkhana (or at least this Block-style gymkhana) look like different flavours of the same thing. But having driven at yesterday’s event, from behind the wheel, it’s night and day.

    Autocross pretty much lays the entire course out for you – gates, slaloms, lane-change type features, stuff like that. Lots and lots o’ cones. It’s all about precision and the time is everything. If you drift they get pretty mad at you, and if you do it again they’ll kick you out. It’s pretty fun but very rigid.

    Japanese gymkhana looks like this:

    This new deal – Gymkhana Grid – is like someone took the Japanese course, made it really big, threw in some autocross elements, and then mirrored the whole thing so two cars can run at once. We were starting off drag race style and probably getting up to 50 or 60mph before the first element, which was a big barrel that you were supposed to drift around. From there, you did a figure-eight around two other barrels, then around a cone in a box made of plastic hydro barriers (empty, luckily!). Then a big wide sweeper, a slalom and a 180, then back down the first straight to another barrel around which you did a 360, and into the finish box. It was balls-out the whole time and definitely favoured RWD cars with a high power-to-weight ratio – not surprising given the nature of the event – but AWD cars with big power and clever diffs did well too.

    In the end, it’s a timed course, but there were some caveats placed in that to be considered for a fast time, you had to have drifted certain elements.

    My early Evo 8 is a viscous 50/50 setup, no front LSD, a useless e-brake and pretty stock engine-wise, so I had to feint (or Scandinavian-flick) and ride the boost to get the ass-end out. Otherwise it was all understeer, all the time. It was much better after I raised the rear tyre pressures as high as my little compressor could get them. And I’ve done a ton of (US style) rallycross, which helped a lot.

    I was just there for fun – no timing – though it was still satisfying to cross the line in front of some more advanced machinery on the other side 😀

    Hopefully there’ll be more grass-roots level Gymkhana Grid events though, because it was an absolute blast.

    Hope that ramble explains some of it.

  5. Jonathan McWhorter

    I have even seen videos with minis and small cars like that locost and the lotus super seven absolutely dominating gymkhana courses

  6. Phil

    @Leonard – yeah, kinda, if you mean it was timed (as opposed to judged) drifting. It was more like a hybrid of drifting, gymkhana and autocross.

    @Jonathan – yep Minis and 7s kill at autotest and motorkhana, which are the UK and Aus/NZ equivalent of Japanese gymkhana. The difference is that they usually have reversing elements whereas I don’t think gymkhana does.

    @Mitch – difference is in the timed aspect. Drift is a subjective sport, and touge is a hobby/activity, unless you happen to have a private mountain. And then it’s usually called a hillclimb.

    Honestly when it comes down to it, it’s just another fun thing to do in cars at the weekend.

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