Ever since the first Gymkhana, I’ve been a fan of Ken Block’s video brand of rally car driving acrobatics. Imagine my surprise and delight when I found out that the fifth iteration of the series will be shot in the streets of my lovely hometown, San Francisco. The hilly and twisty roads of the city coupled with world renowned landmarks makes for the perfect canvas for Block to perform his technical car handling ballet with a rally car. Doing burnouts and massive drifts on such epic San Francisco locations like the Bay Bridge, Financial district, and Twin Peaks is something us regular car enthusiasts can only dream about.
The reason I am a big fan of the Gymkhana series is that it helps introduce/promote the rally form of motorsport to the American public. Rally cars and the World Rally Championship (WRC) over in the Europe has been one of my favorite racing discipline. Just the sheer variety of terrain the rally cars has to traverse and the abuse it is designed to take is simply magnificence in engineering. Unlike most other forms of racing, WRC features race cars based largely on road cars you can buy. The greatest examples of this is perhaps the Subaru Impreza STi, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, and the original Audi Quattro. These cars were essentially homologation road going models of the same rally cars campaigning in WRC. The kind of car Ken Block is using to zip through San Francisco with? You can buy one. Today - and that is absolutely magic.
Unfortunately in the land of left turn racing, rally car is something many Americans are unfamiliar with. If it was not for racing games such as Gran Turismo introducing it to us and making us desire these type of cars, automakers wouldn’t even make them available to the American market (it wasn’t until 2003 before STi and Evos finally arrived to our shores, while the two have been sold in other markets for a decade.) What I hope ultimately happens with these Gymkhana videos is spread the rally motorsport discipline throughout America. It would be nice to see actual rally events in the States (and not just the X-Games.) The popularity will then push automakers to make road going rally type cars for people to purchase (that Ford Fiesta Ken Block is driving can NOT currently be bought in the turbo four wheel drive form). As a car enthusiast living in the U.S. that loves rally cars, this reality would be awesome.