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Thursday, May 28, 2009
Action Sports Report


A look at the new Gymkhana Subaru.

[Ed.'s Note: The Action Sports Report is a weekly blog that covers sports from skateboarding to snowboarding to FMX.]

Last October, a video featuring DC Shoes founder Ken Block performing motogymnastics in his Subaru rally car was dropped onto YouTube.com with virtually no promotion. Modestly titled Gymkhana Practice, the video showed Block sliding, spinning and skillfully maneuvering his custom Impreza WRX STI around cones, Jersey barriers and one very daring video producer on a Segway at El Toro Airfield in San Diego. The video, which became a cult classic in both the action and motorsports worlds, was viewed more than 20 million times in less than six months. The driving was impressive and unlike anything seen in motorsports. So after watching the four-minute clip, viewers were undoubtedly left wondering what the heck they'd just seen. Gymkhana? Isn't that an Olympic equestrian event?

Well, yes. But, no.

This form of Gymkhana, which Block all but invented as a way to practice rally racing while at home in SoCal, is a mix of drifting, stunt driving, rally racing and art. It requires immense concentration, dexterity and precision and is, at this point, practiced seriously by a total of one man. "It's a dynamic use of a motor vehicle that has never been done before," Block says. The name Gymkhana is a Hindi and Urdu word most commonly used to describe a place where sports contests are held. It is also a form of equestrian competition that blends many forms of riding. Block's Gymkhana is similar in this respect. It just requires a few more hundred horsepower.

Writer Alyssa Roenigk gets a test drive with Ken.

Based on the success of the Gymkhana Practice video, DC is releasing a follow-up video, Gymkhana TWO, on Monday, June 1. But this time, they upped the production value, held a premiere Tuesday night at the Port of Los Angeles (where the video was filmed) and plan to promote the heck out of the video in an attempt to sell Block's new line of TeamWorks Collection gear. Infomercial or not, the video is impressive, funny and worth a trip to YouTube (or dcshoes.com/auto) during your lunch break on Monday. Block calls the video, "motorsports eye candy," and I couldn't agree more. "It's a skateboard video with a car," he says.

While they're impressive when viewed on a computer screen, Block's driving skills are absolutely stunning when witnessed firsthand from the passenger seat of his car. Tuesday night, I had the chance to ride along as Block performed some of his favorite Gymkhana moves around the course he designed. The experience was every bit as fantastic and stomach churning as it sounds.

"Ever been in a car like this?" Block asked as I fastened my helmet and buckled the four-way seatbelt that would help keep my spine from separating from my pelvis as we spun 360s around a DC-branded RV. "No, Ken. I haven't," I said. "There isn't another car like this." A souped-up version of his rally car, the Impreza Block drives in Gymkhana TWO (and that I was sitting in as he asked this question) is a one-of-a-kind 565 WHP machine with hundreds of high-power performance modifications. (And, for the record, no one but Block has driven it. "I told Travis [Pastrana] he could come out and drive it, but he hasn't taken me up on that yet," he says.) It was powerful, quick and maneuvered like no car I've ridden in. It was like riding shotgun in a stunt plane on wheels.

Thankfully, we stayed grounded for the duration.