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Kristoffesrsson, Woodham beat big names to Gymkhana Grid title

2017-11-21 13:30

Reynard Gelderblom

Johan Kristoffersson continued his victorious visit to South Africa by adding the AWD Gymkhana Grid title to his name. Image: Reynard Gederblom

Brakpan, Gauteng - Never draw any conclusions before seeing the whole picture. I’m sure all those who attended Gymkhana Grid’s South African debut will agree that we were treated to some very pleasant surprises during this spectacle of light, sound, smoke and automobile power at Carnival City Casino and Entertainment World in Brakpan.

What is Gymkhana Grid?

For starters I’d like to clear up misconceptions regarding this being a cheap spin-off originating from the Gumtree FIA World Rallycross season finale that took place in Cape Town a week prior. The event might have been headlined by competitors such as Ken Block, Petter Solberg, Andreas Bakkerud and newly crowned 2017 champion Johan Kristoffersson; that’s however where the similarities end. I will also add that with ticket prices at more than R400 per day you can hardly call it cheap either. 

Gymkhana Grid took place over two identically mirrored course layouts. Items such as tyres, cones and even aeroplanes marked bargains where competitors had to turn.

After completing their first lap, the two dueling competitors swap and take on the other side. This then sounds fairly similar to events such as DriftCity which has been taking Cape Town by storm during the last two years, but that’s however also wrong.

While DriftCity is scored similarly to other drifting events, competitors in Gymkhana Grid solely advance to the next round based on the accumulated time for completing both courses. With Saturday only being qualification, competitors went head-to-head in elimination style races during Sunday with cars being separated into All-Wheel-Drive and Rear-Wheel-Drive classes.

                   Johan Kristoffersson and Petter Solberg lining up for the AWD final. Image: Reynard Gelderblom

Who won and who lost?

With the on-track activities taking place from the afternoon and ending at night, it wasn’t just about getting to terms with the course, but they also had to adapt to changing light and surface conditions during Saturday’s qualifying sessions.

The RWD Class saw a list of 31 local and international entries battling it out for a place in the top 16.

England’s Adam Elder topped the day’s timesheets ahead of his compatriot and reigning champion Luke Woodham.

The first South African on this list was Western Cape Gymkhana ace Izak van Zyl. With a star-studded entry list, it was expected that the day would see an early exit for some big names. The likes of Clare Vale, Joey Govender and Hungarian female sensation Nikolett Szanto, all found themselves eliminated by Saturday evening.

Just making it into Sunday eliminators was Petter Solberg’s son, Oli. The sixteen-year old youngster only got behind the wheel of a RWD car for the first time a few days prior; making his effort even more remarkable.

Following Sunday’s initial eliminators, Otto Graven found himself as South Africa’s last man standing in the semi-finals, but a mechanical failure eliminated him from the event.

The final had been hinting towards a showdown between Elder and Woodham throughout the day. Woodham retained his title following a good performance in the finale. Graven’s retirement paved the way for England’s Danny Cross to finish in third position, a self-funded racer who made a big name for himself during his time in South Africa.

      Head-to-head between Petter Solberg and Wayne Hay during the quarter finals. Image: Reynard Gelderblom

AWD Class

The AWD Class saw 15 drivers competing in qualifying with Petter Solberg celebrating his birthday by topping the time sheets on Saturday. With no sixteenth runner this also provided him with an easy route into the quarter-finals. 

The semi-final line-up didn’t come as a big surprise with all four headline drivers progressing through. Reigning champion Solberg beat Block; the man who practically invented Gymkhana Grid to a spot in the final. Kristoffersson was eager to continue his victorious tour of South Africa and beat Bakkerud to set-up an all-Volkswagen team final. 

Twenty-two hours earlier Block and Bakkerud treated the spectators to a just-for-fun smoke show, but this time round it was serious business as they lined-up for the third-place decider which saw the latter securing his place on the podium. The thrilling final saw Kristoffersson pipping his teammate Solberg to the line to clinch the 2017 AWD victory.

Did Gymkhana Grid live up to the hype?

I’ll be brutally honest here. Discussions in the media tent and during late dinners on Saturday evening weren’t favourable to the event at all. Results proved difficult to get hold of; imagine being a paying spectator who went home without knowing who made it to through to Sunday.

And the day didn’t start off on a good note for the spectators either. A ticket misprint saw a host of them halted outside the gate for nearly two hours; a big group missing the Terry Grant opening show in the process. The four grandstands told a tale of two cities due to miscommunication regarding ways to gain access to two of them. A host of delays also saw those in the stands watching an empty track for prolonged periods. 

Come Sunday morning we were pleasantly greeted to a totally different story. Gone were the frustrating burdens of the day before. Not only were we treated to continuous action, but the show finished two minutes ahead of schedule. It proved to be an event which was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Sunday also saw the annual 94.7 Cycle race taking place in Johannesburg with Carnival City itself also hosting the latest broadcast of the Idols show.

                    Luke Woodham retained his tital as rwd gymkhana grid champion. Image: Reynard Gelderblom

As mentioned earlier the ticket prices were rather hefty; especially when you take into account that this was the week before payday and the month already seeing two major concerts, the Kyalami Motorsport Festival and Nitro Circus taking place in Gauteng as well as a host of people having flocked to Cape Town for Rallycross. Yet, we were greeted to full stands and happy faces.

I really do need to congratulate Monster Energy and XS Promotions for hosting such an incredible event. International commentator Jarod DeAnda was joined by probably South Africa’s most passionate and knowledgeable voice Sasha Martinengo to keep the crowd informed of everything happening on the track as well as all the interesting news from pit lane. The trackside big screen also provided the spectators with a better view of events; the same that was broadcasted via live streaming and on SuperSport.

Gymkhana Grid was something different and I for one would love to see this spectacle returning to South Africa. Despite the early problems, it concluded by setting a new standard for how motorsport events should be run. It was preceded by a lot of big talk and it lived up to every word promised.

To reference one of the official hashtags for the event in summary: Gymkhana Gird was lit.

Read more on:    reynard gelderblom  |  drifting  |  motorsport

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