VIDEO: South Coast drivers take on world’s best in historic Gymkhana GRiD

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Quintin van Jaarsveld

A trio of South Coast drifters enjoyed an opportunity of a lifetime when they mixed it up with American superstar Ken Block and company in South Africa’s first-ever Gymkhana GRiD finals at Carnival City at the weekend.

The historic two-day #AutoCIRCUS powered by AutoTrader saw international and South African drivers deliver high-octane action in head-to-head competition on a mirrored course that featured obstacles like tyres, cones and even a piece of a plane, which competitors had to navigate in the fastest time possible.

Margate brothers Gavin and Brendan Puren and Stuart Gregory from Port Edward were among the field of 31 drivers in the Rear-Wheel Drive category, while 15 drivers duked it out in the All-Wheel Drive category.

Drivers had the opportunity to get a feel for the tight and technical track in Friday’s practice prior to Saturday’s qualifying.

With the heat on as qualifying commenced, drivers pulled out their best 360s, reversals, parking box moves and drifts in their bid to book their place in Sunday’s finals.

The local trio shared the tarmac with the likes of three-time Gymkhana GRiD champion Luke Woodham and fellow England aces Adam Elder and Danny Cross, as well as a slew of top South African drivers.

Unfortunately, the South Coast stars were unable to advance to the finals, missing out by two seconds, however, all three said it was an unforgettable experience.

“It was something completely different and lots of fun,” Gavin, who finished on the SupaDrift Series championship podium this year, told eHowzit.

“It was an awesome experience to meet and drive with some of the world’s best,” Puren, who competed in his Toyota Soarer, added.

Gavin Puren. (Darren Townsley)

His brother Brendan, who raced in his BMW drift car, said, “It was an epic experience. It was awesome pulling up to the line next to guys that you watch on TV and follow and social media.

“To practice and drive with the world’s best was amazing and the biggest thing I took out of it is they’re not unbeatable.”

Brendan, who like his brother moved up the ranks in the SupaDrift Series this year, said the gymkhana showcase was a highly-enjoyable learning curve.

“It went pretty well. It was very different for us as we’ve never done this type of thing before, and it’s so different to drifting.

“It was hard to remember the track and not make mistakes. We didn’t have much practice time and it got trickier in the evening, but we learned so much.

“Next time we’ll be much more prepared knowing what to expect and we’ll be much stronger with a very different car set-up.”

Brendan Puren. (Darren Townsley)

Gregory, too, said he had a blast in his Nissan S15.

“The event was huge and it was great to compete against the best drivers in the world.

“Unfortunately, I had technical issues with my car and couldn’t practice as much as I wanted, but I learned a lot, and know how to set-up the car for next year’s event.”

A Gold Roof of Africa finisher and the 2017 KwaZulu-Natal senior enduro champion, Gregory extended his love of motorsport to four-wheel racing about a year ago, and has since competed in the SupaDrift Series and events like the Dezzi Invitational.

“I enjoy the challenge on four wheels. It’s a whole new ball game. I’ll definitely still be riding two wheels though and I’ll be going back to do Romaniacs next year.”

Fellow South Coaster Des Gutzeit had also earned a golden ticket to participate in Gymkhana GRiD but missed the event after recently undergoing surgery.

Stuart Gregory. (Darren Townsley)

Woodham managed to retain his title when he beat Elder in the final.

The All-Wheel Drive category saw current FIA world rallycross champion Johan Kristoffersson trump triple FIA world champion Petter Solberg in the final.

Solberg beat Block in the semi-final but bent the knee to his teammate Kristoffersson in what was a thrilling decider.

Watch how the finals unfolded

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