OZGymkhana series – Gymkhana1

It takes a dedicated group of individuals to organise a motorsport event, and a lot more goes on behind the scenes than any spectator or competitor usually realises. What’s even more amazing is when a group of volunteers decide to run a completely new type of event that’s never been run before. In addition to the usual myriad of organisational tasks, there are a few other hurdles that need to be overcome such as finding a location, finding a way to fit it within the event structures of governing bodies (ie CAMS), and last but not least, actually convincing competitors and spectators to come.

The team at Ultimate Motorsport Events (and the Southern Districts Car Club) are no strangers to staging impressive events – the Mt Alma Mile hillclimb and Adelaide Hills Tarmac Rally form their annual portfolio, so they were the perfect group of volunteers to run the first ever OZGymkhana event.

UME make no secret that they got the idea for OZGymkhana from the famous Ken Block Gymkhana practise videos, and the event was borne from the thinking that it would be pretty cool to run an event like that in Adelaide. The team picked Tailem Bend Motorsport Park (the old Mitsubishi testing and proving grounds) as the ideal location because of its mix of a long runway, skidpad and several curving access and test roads.

OZGymkhana runs on the principles of traditional bitumen motorkhana; you go from a standing start, navigate a series of obstacles and then finish when you come to a complete stop at the finish line. You are penalised by a few seconds for hitting cones, or penalised quite heavily for a ‘Wrong Direction’, ie going the wrong way through the test. The competitor with the fastest accumulated time after all tests is declared the winner.

 Where OZGymkhana differs is that the tests are significantly faster, and place less of an emphasis on remembering the course and more emphasis on driving enjoyment. Speeds are higher with much of the course navigated in second or third gear. Some of the faster competitors reported reaching speeds of around 130-140ish, and many did a lot of this sideways.

It was interesting to see the different approach by competitors. Some approached the event to set good times, and others just had fun driving sideways. Many started seriously and then slowly progressed to more and more sideways as the day went on!

The day started in bright sunshine with all participants lining up on both sides of the runway. An excited atmosphere abounded as nobody knew exactly what to expect. A few competitors walked the first test, named OZ because the first few elements of the test resembled the word when viewed from above, and everybody had a differing opinion of how best to approach it.

The first test started off with a 360deg turn around a barrel, which was then followed by two 180deg barrel turns before opening out into some fast and flowing S bends, split up by some nice first gear hairpins. The run then finished with a fast and linkable slalom to the finish.

It soon became obvious that handbrake turns were the fastest way around the barrels, but only if you knew how to do them perfectly. Many people didn’t, and it was great fun to watch the way drivers attempted to salvage their run when they had messed it up so spectacularly.

As much as the tight stuff is a definite test of skill, everybody seemed to enjoy the fast stuff that little bit more, and I think future events will be designed with this feedback in mind.

But then at about 3pm, the rains came with vengeance. It didn’t just rain – it poured. But it wasn’t cold, and the rains made the tests a whole lot more exciting.

The four wheel drive cars had a definite advantage in the wet, you could physically see the extra speed they were carrying around the course.

And then a pretty rainbow came out, and all was right in the world again. I went to the end of the rainbow which coincidentally was right at the start line, but I found no pot of gold. Damn.

But I did find the Jones Brothers racing each other, which was close enough. The final two tests of the day were set up back to back so that cars could compete head-to-head. This was the first time that the Jones Brothers had both of their identically liveried rally cars out at the same time, so of course they had to have a little race! It was a pretty cool thing to watch.

The outright winner of the event was Zac Edwards, behind the wheel of his Lancer Evo 6. 4WD isn’t necessarily an advantage in the wrong hands, as terminal understeer can soon negate the benefit of extra grip. However Zac drove smoothly and cleanly, and was visually fast from the beginning.

Second place went to the Subaru STi of Alex Wintulich, who also won the Shannons Shootout at the end of the day, taking home a $250 cash prize donated by Shannons Insurance.

And third place went to Dan Day in the S&J Subaru STi. This thing was packing so much power that it was exciting to watch Dan drive it. This is Dan’s ARC contending car, and the S&J boys pulled out the ARC restricted 2.0 litre engine and replaced it with a hand grenade 2.5 litre built specially for the event. The very next day the hand grenade engine came out, the ARC engine went back in and the car will be competing at the Coffs Harbour round of the ARC next weekend. Now that’s dedication.

And favourite car of the event? It was a tie. I loved the look of Phong Vu’s MX5 which was set of with nice but useable wheel fitment, side skirts, roll bar, Bride seats and a Garage Vary front lip which was sadly removed courtesy of a small unexpected kerb on the first test.

And I know it’s a predictable choice for favourite, but you just can’t got past Adam Kaplan’s VL Walkinshaw. The thing is an absolute beast, the noise alone enough to hold your attention. Kaplan was sharing the car with Adam Tipping, the car’s builder.

A lack of front end grip made the Walky a little unpredictable to drive, resulting in this brief meeting with the cones.

This video is almost worth watching for the noise alone. Stay tuned for a closer look at this car in the near future.

This was by far the best sticker of the event.

I’ve always maintained that it’s more fun to drive than take photos, so I spent the day juggling the camera and helmet and competed in my MX5. I can honestly say that I had more fun at OZGymkhana than I’ve had driving a car in a long time, it was like nothing I’ve done before and I think I’m hooked. I remember being on cloud nine after finishing the first test, and laughing out loud as I took my helmet off. I immediately went to excitedly recall my run to my fellow competitors, who were all jumping about with the same excitement.

And I learnt more about car control and throwing a car around at OZGymkhana than I think I’ve ever learnt before. I’ve taken the MX5 to Mallala a few times but I’ve never needed the techniques I used at OZGymkhana. It’s all about using the various controls in harmony to influence the attitude of the car, for example caressing the brakes to keep the nose of the car tucked in around a wide right hander, whilst using the accelerator to keep a slightly ‘oversteery’ attitude and the steering to finely balance the right amount of opposite lock. I’m not at all attempting to say I was actually good at it, but I was a different driver at the end of the day as compared to the start.

I’m constantly amazed at just how good these MX5’s are given their age and price, and mine didn’t disappoint. With almost 300,000km on the clock, bog stock everything and rubbish supermarket tires (I was scared of ruining the good tires on my other wheels) the MX5 made a brilliant, balanced OZGymkhana car. It’s verging on a little bit boring to drive at Mallala (not fast enough, too mushy etc) but it was ideally suited to OZGymkhana – the body roll and lack of grip just meant it was more forgiving to throw around and easier to steer with the right foot, and the lack of power just made me focus on improving my driving. I couldn’t think of a better beginners car.

In the end I managed 30th outright and 4th in class, behind another NA MX5 (he had coilovers and grippy tires, that’s my excuse!) and this Moke which was brilliantly driven by it’s two drivers. These guys obviously had significant motorkhana experience and it was a pleasure to watch them drive. Hmm, beaten by a car that’s 20 years older, has about 500cc less…

… and is far more practical!

All credit must go to the officials from UME and Southern Districts Car Club. They braved the sun…

… the wind…

… and the rain to put the event on for us, so a big thankyou!

The next round will be Gymkhana2 held on December 9, which has been upgraded to state championship status and will be the sole round of the South Australian OZGymkhana Championship.

The first event had its teething problems, but that was to be expected given the pioneering nature of it. These issues will be addressed for Gymkhana2, and I really can’t stress enough just how much fun this new discipline is! See you all on December 9!

The full provisional results can be viewed here: OzGymkhana 1 Provsional Results 1930 29 09 2012

Words and photos by Andrew Coles.

Thanks to Mark Williams of MWP Sports Photography for the shots of my MX5.

Email andrew@anygivenreason.com for photo samples of your car.

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8 Comments

  1. Stephen Mee September 27, 2012 Reply

    I went to the launch of the Nissan ute where they gave out blue wife beaters with the slogan I've got guts printed on it. Was very good quality.
    Still have the cowboy hat they gave out at the launch of the Stanza. Has a cowboy riding a bucking bronco on it. Looks like it was a fun day.

    • Andrew Coles September 27, 2012 Reply

      That's awesome! As if they actually had wife beaters! By the way I saw you driving the Familia down Sir Don this afternoon, it stood right out amongst the rest of the boring traffic!

  2. Alex Wintulich September 27, 2012 Reply

    It was an awesome day and you have captured it so well..... excellent write up & photos!

    • Andrew Coles September 27, 2012 Reply

      Thanks Alex, and congratulations on your podium.

  3. Andy Braker September 27, 2012 Reply

    Excellent write up as always.

  4. Michael Myllynen September 28, 2012 Reply

    Great write up again Andrew. I have seen other photo's from the event, but they were all stock archive photos. None have captured the excitement and character of the event like your write has.

    It really makes me want to time my next trip back to Aus, throw a set of old R-specs on the E30 and have a blast.

    • Michael Myllynen September 28, 2012 Reply

      P.s. how awesome was it that Gleney and Day had their ARC car out there...

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