Planes, Trains and Automobiles; that was the theme for this year’s Gymkhana GRiD Finals hosted here in our own back yard at Carnival City, Brakpan. With this being one of the biggest events to be hosted on South African soil with Local drivers going up against some of the best drivers from around the world; this was one event I did not want to miss.
Throughout the 2017 Supadrift National and Regional series, local drivers had the opportunity to compete for a golden ticket to compete at the finals of Gymkhana GRiD, and showcase their driving skills on an international platform. Drivers came up from Cape Town, Durban and Port Shepstone to join the Joburg drivers to ready their machines to compete against the international drivers.
Now for those who don’t know what Gymkhana GRiD is; there are two classes namely All Wheel Drive (AWD) and Rear Wheel Drive (RWD), as drivers go head to head on an obstacle course. The track layout is mirrored on both sides, as drivers take turns competing against the clock and the other driver on each side. With only a hand full of South Africans competing in the AWD class, this left the RWD class pretty full with Local talent. This meant that three times Gymkhana GRiD champion, Luke Woodham had a massive target on his back as the South Africans where hungry to take his spot as the 2017 Champion.
Along with the local drivers, Luke had a good line up of international challengers too, as well as his good mate Steve “Baggsy” who had brought along his brand new 1J powered Mazda RX7.
The RWD class saw a few of the local Subaru drivers take up the challenge with the hopes of competing against some of the fastest WRX drivers in the world; namely Riku Tahko, Petter Solberg, Johan Kristoffersson (Current 2017 WRX Champion), Andreas Bakkerud and of course Ken Block. This was not an easy task as these drivers WRX cars are set up with some insane horse power and are built specifically for this kind of driving, and our local drivers; well they were mostly using their street legal “Daily Drivers” to compete… not an easy task at all.
Having all these international drivers here was definitely a highlight for many fans, being able to see them up close and personal and queueing up to get the opportunity to get their autographs, made the day for many as little kids got to take photos with some of the biggest names in Motorsport, and having local driver Jason Webb up their among the International drivers was awesome. With Jason Webb being the only South African Monster Energy athlete, we’ve seen him grow from a local multi Supadrift Champion, to becoming the first driver to be sponsored by a major motoring manufacture, Ford Performance and Rousch in his convertible Ford Mustang dubbed the “MonStang”.
The Saturday saw drivers take the opportunity to hone in their skills in the morning before heading into the qualifying sessions in the afternoon, which went on into the night. As if racing against the clock wasn’t enough during the day, doing the same course at night seemed to be its own obstacle; as some drivers battled to adjust to the change, and well some drivers never had headlight. Okay so they were stickers, what do you expect from WRX cars hahaha, less weight is what it’s all about in WRX, who needs lights anyway?
Sunday’s racing started late in the afternoon with Top 16 RWD and AWD taking place round 15:30, with the previous night’s qualifying, only a few of the South African drivers made it through.
In the RWD we saw eight South Africans namely Paulo Gouveia, Eric van Eyssen, Izak van Zyl, Jason Webb, Christopher Long, Otto Graven, Riaan Stokes and Leroy Frans battle it out against the international drivers; and like I said before with the RWD class was filled with local driver, sadly we only saw a few international battles as many battle it out in the Top 16. However this would also see one of the bigger upsets for the Monster Energy team as due to technical issue with Jason’s ECU cutting out in his run, Jason Webb loses out to local driver Izak van Zyl.
Paulo Gouveia Jnr would be knocked out by Adam Elder in the Quarter finals, while Izak van Zyl would be knocked out by Danny Cross; with Otto Graven taking out both Riaan Stokes and Christopher Long to take him to the semi-finals against Luke Woodham. And the other end of the list, Adam Elder and Danny Cross battle their way through the field, to make their way to the Semi-finals. What you know we had a South African driver in the Semi-finals!
With Luke Woodham having issues with his alternator during the night, he had to get a little help from his team to get him to the start line, with Otto’s S15 throwing flames, getting ready for the battle, the lights would go from amber to green and BAM! Something went wrong; as Luke Woodham shoots down the circuit, Otto was left stranded at the start line, unfortunately he had crossed the line and that was it, over for Otto. We had hoped to at least see a South African on the podium, but sadly Otto’s car had given up and not only did he not get to race Luke Woodham, he handed the third place to Danny Cross.
The final race would see Adam Elder versus Luke Woodham, a close battle between these two drivers would see Luke Woodham take the win and with that his fourth RWD Gymkhana Championship.
In the AWD class we saw Wanye Hay, Sean Pretorious, Pierre Bester, Chet Meyer and Carl van As had the opportunity to go up against some of the international driver. Now I’m no driver but I’m sure for Pierre Bester and Chet Meyer, losing to Ken Block and Andreas Bakkerud… well that isn’t losing; as they had the opportunity to go up against the best in world and I’m sure they are not complaining hahaha.
The RWD Semi-finals seemed to be a repeat of the WRX front the weekend, as Ken Block went up against Petter Solberg, and Andreas Bakkerud going up against Johan Kristoffersson; Ford vs VW, with the two VW’s edging out the two Fords. This would see team mate’s battle team mates for third position and that number one spot. With Ken Block versus Andreas Bakkerrud, Fiesta RS versus Focus RS, Andreas just managed to pull out the victory for third position; a great way to end his racing for the [HOONIGAN] racing team, as this was the last race he’d do in his Focus RS.
Finals saw Petter Solberg go up against Johan Kristoffersson, these two have been cleaning up all day with their VW Polo WRX beasts. This race was insane, with both drivers pulling off massive amounts of smoke and skill, hitting each obstacle with precise precision, the race to the end was neck in neck, with only mille-seconds between them, Kiristoffersson took the win. This being double wins for him, two weekends in a row.
Now for a lot of people the main focus was the opportunity to see Ken Block in action, and yes I can agree 100%, but for me it was not only getting to see him tear it up in his Fiesta, but for our local drivers to get the opportunity to drive against the best in the world in their fields and get to rub shoulders with international drivers and share their passion for motorsport.
Your Podium for your 2017 Gymkhana GRiD:
1st: Johan Kristoffersson
2nd: Petter Solberg
3rd: Andreas Bakkerud
1st: Luke Woodham
2nd: Adam Elder
3rd: Danny Cross