Gymkhana is an interesting term. It has several meanings, and is open to interpretation depending on who you talk to. In some parts of the word, people use the term simply to refer to gymnasium style exercise. To others, Gymkhana is actually an equestrian term, used to describe the sport of skillfully guiding a horse through an obstacle course and over jumps. But hold your horses, cowboy, Modified is not an equestrian magazine, is it? Incidentally, the type of Gymkhana we care about as a motorsport, is not entirely unlike it's horseback-based cousin. Behind the wheel of a car, Gymkhana is the unique combination of autocross, drifting and time trials, requiring a precise driver and responsive car. Two drivers race head to head through a maze of pylons, cones and other barriers, with the fastest time taking the win. There are no points awarded for style.
By now you have probably heard about and seen Ken Block's 3 Gymkhana videos. If not, get over to YouTube as soon as possible to see what you've been missing out on. A simple search will yield a dazzling display of car control, tire smoke, flying cones and even a blow up doll. Pretty crazy to watch, the man certainly knows how to put on a show! But let's take a look at what Gymkhana means to the average enthusiast.
The good news for us, is that you don't have to be a millionaire to enjoy Gymkhana for yourself. With the introduction of the Gymkhana Grid series with its inaugural weekend at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, California, the option to bring out your car and shred some rubber is now more attainable than ever. We sat down with Ken Block to talk a little bit about Gymkhana Grid and what it's introduction means for automotive enthusiasts.
"The reason I wanted to make the Gymkhana videos was because I had this crazy car, and no events to run it in," Ken tells us. "A lot of people know the word Gymkhana but don't really know what it means. The videos are shown as a practice of sorts, they aren't real Gymkhana. I'm a competitive guy, lots of people over the years have said they would like to make the Gymkhana competition a reality, but Chris Willard was the only one that came forward and said 'I can make this work' and came through.
"I always wanted Gymkhana to be a competition series and the Grid is a perfect solution. It gives people the opportunity to come out and give it a shot for themselves, there's certainly a lot of people on the Internet who think they can do it." Ken laughs. "It's not as easy as it looks!"
Gymkhana Grid also gives an opportunity for those drivers who do not (or cannot) compete in time attack, rally or drifting. "No matter what kind of car you've got, Gymkhana is a fun way to drive," Ken says. "Whether you're all wheel, front or rear drive, you can push your car to the limits in Gymkhana Grid and have a blast doing it."
The learning curve isn't that steep in a motorsport like this, so why not try it out? Later this year in December, there is another event scheduled at Irwindale Speedway, and a whole slew of events in the pipeline for next season. As well as being able to come and enter yourself, if your car isn't quite done being built yet, or if you just prefer to watch, you can expect to see some big name guys doing it huge in the Pro segment. Drivers from the realm of drifting find themselves right at home on a Gymkhana course, as do rally drivers, all three driving styles require a similar skill set. So how about stepping out from behind the keyboard and onto some pavement to see what all the fuss is about firsthand? Hope to see you there!