About two weeks ago we received a call from Patrick David from AIT racing and Quicksilver Turbo letting us know about this event. The competition was being hosted by Chris Willard and Ken Block, and was called “Gymkhana Grid” and Gillis Motorsports was invited to participate. We spoke back and forth about what how we thought this event would be setup and how it would shake down. Considering that all our race cars are Front Wheel drive touring cars, we had only my street car – a Stock Motor Honda S2000 to run (What was I thinking!!!). Even before we got to this event, the wheels started turning about what car we would need to build for the Gymkhana finals at the end of the year. Luckily for us we already had an invite to the finals at Irwindale so we could use this as a trial run to gather data and figure out what we need to build in order to dominate at the Gymkhana finals, as well as to see how we stacked up against the other competitors.
Friday evening we packed the S2000 onto the open trailer, grabbed some spare tires and a few tools and headed down to LA. We arrived in LA around 3:30am and decided to sleep at the track rather than go find a hotel and have to be back at the track in 3.5 hours. At 6 we were woken by the arrival of another AIT driver – Joon Maeng with his S13 drift monster. Joon had just spoken to Chris Willard and had a spot set aside for us to park and setup. We had a quick drivers meeting while the media got ready and after a quick demo from Ken Block the track was green! The first few times out were just about figuring out where the track went which I am sure was quite a sight to see. After a few runs it was time to get down to business, clicking off faster and faster laps as well as getting more angles and smoke out of the tires, all things needed to get the crowd screaming!
By the lunch brake I felt as though we had a decent handle on the course and turned my attention to the other competitors, the Pro formula D drivers who felt this event would fit them well. I needed to see how their times developed so that I could determine how much time I need to drop.
We began to run against one driver after another – either beating them or being very close to them. I then focused on making sure I was drifting all the sections that were mandatory. Each time we were going faster and faster. It seemed as if after every run people were coming over, pumped with how sideways this stock S2000 was getting and how fast it was going through the course. We began to feel like we belonged there – and then some.
Later in the afternoon Ken Block was getting ready to run his car as we were out there running. It just so happened that we lined up together. We were running the right side of the course which was the side I had the hardest time learning. So we had spent most of the day running it. We got the five second countdown and were off! I got a great jump off the line “for a stock S2000” but it was nothing compared to the pure acceleration of the Ford Fiesta. By the entry of the first corner he was five car lengths in front of me but he was taking a different line than I was. He would pull the E- brake and have a very aggressive entry whereas I would drive in to the corner – Left Foot brake and then accelerate into the drift. Coming out of the first turn around of the figure 8 I saw that we were neck and neck. I pushed hard through the rest of the 8, in and out of the box and through the drift that tightens and then as I came through the chicane, I could see that we were a bit ahead! I flew around the J turn and around the 360 and through the finish just barely beating him! It was a great feeling. I think he had a lot more in pocket but we now know we are “in the range” and we know what we need to do to be a top contender. I would say for the finals we are going to need something that allows for more angle with more tire and more power for more smoke!!! We spent the rest of the day working on our line and our drift angle I think we got close to fifty runs in!!!!
The following day we arrived at the track around 8:30 with the pro drivers set to go out at 9 to give a demonstration of the track to all the amateurs who showed up – and there were a ton of them – well over 200 cars. All the amateurs would be competing for a coveted five invitations to the Irwindale event at the end of the year. During the demo we ran the line as well as made sure to put on a great smoke show for the crowd, and on the last demo run we went all the way through the second set of tires we had. We were then forced to use our 16’s which have stickier tires. We were worried that this would hurt our car’s ability to turn in, as well as drift the long corners that the car had done so well at on the first day. We were very surprised to see that we were able to do as well with the 16’s and as a bonus we were getting a lot more forward bites, vastly improving our lap times from a 58:91 to a 56:1. That was an unexpected piece of info we gained for the finals! We ran a few more times, but as the competition began, it was going to be three hours before we would get a run so we decided to pack it up and start the long ride home.
This event turned out even better than I could have hoped! I would like to thank Chris Willard and Ken Block for bringing this event to life! Also, a huge thanks to Patrick David from AIT Racing and Quicksilver Turbo, and also Chris Sabando¬¬¬¬¬¬ from XXR wheels. Our 522 wheels drew a ton of attention and they were light enough to allow our little car to spin the hell out of the 245’s we were running all weekend.
What a great event! See you all at the Gymkhana Finals in December.