Triple FIA World Champion Petter Solberg, reigning GRiD Champion Luke Woodham, World RX racer Reinis Nitišs, multiple X-Games medalist Liam Doran, and Gymkhana GRiD founder Ken Block make motorsport history at the fifth edition of the Gymkhana GRiD: European Gauntlet Series Final.
As the famous saying goes, ‘Speed is fine, but accuracy is final’. Celebrating half a decade of full-throttle tyre-slaying mayhem, Gymkhana GRiD’s European Gauntlet Series touched down in the historic town of Marathon in Greece for its 2016 showdown.
We don’t need to tell you the racing was intense, and we definitely don’t need to tell you that the stack of smoking tyres at the end of the incredible three-day event was almost as high as the Acropolis itself. The big news is that after an impressive fire-spitting roster of 55 cars went head to head and against the clock, Petter Solberg and Luke Woodham emerged victorious in the All-Wheel Drive (AWD) and Rear-Wheel Drive
Even with the event occupying its usual late-October slot in the race season, come race day the sun scorched through the cloudy autumn Athenian sky, lighting up the grandstands filled with fans who had swapped the dusty banksides of the Acropolis rally for the amphitheater-style tribunes around the tight GRiD track.
As the sun went down and the temperature dropped, the intensity on the blacktop only amped up. Reigning Gymkhana GRiD champion Luke Woodham and UK-based hotshoe Adam Elder carved through the field to go head-to-head in an epic battle in the final, with the split between them in the first run amounting to only 300ths of a second. By run two, Woodham just pulled clear, beating Elder to the finish line by a margin of 1.64 seconds. Fellow UK racer Danny Cross scorched to the finish line to defeat ‘Croatian Crusher’ Marko Palijan in his signature E30 BMW to round out the top three of the rear-wheel drive category.
In the All-Wheel drive class it was a true clash of the rallycross titans; Petter Solberg, Liam Doran and Reinis Nitišs all pushed through to the final battles, after some of the most horsepower and smoke filled runs Gymkhana GRiD has ever born witness to. In a shock plot twist, reigning series champion Dmitrij Srybnyj was eliminated in the great-eight-quarter final stages. Another surprising exit came in the form of series founder Ken Block, who had been in contention for the podium, setting some of the fastest times all weekend, when he was eliminated (by Doran) in the semi finals.
The day culminated in an epic battle between reigning FIA World Rallycross Champion Solberg, and multiple X-Games medalist Liam Doran; both World RX racers, both armed with huge horsepower Citroens, and both drivers out with a point to prove. In a haze of fire and smoke, Petter just nosed ahead, and the rest as they say is history, but only by 1.75 seconds. Reinis Nitišs rounded out the podium with two super solid runs, facing off against the head Hoonigan in charge for third place.
Don’t just take our word for it though, check out the inside line from the winning drivers themselves, the recording of the livestream, as well as an eye-popping selection of images direct from our trackside sharp shooter photographers.
Luke Woodham – 1st place (RWD) – 02:03.760
“I can’t explain the feeling. It’s three times in a row, and it’s not been easy. Adam had me worried. He set the fastest time in qualifying; I was second. We made a few changes to the car. It didn’t work so we re-did the car all over again in the pits, all the lads, all the monster energy athletes and teammates, we all came together, and we put our heads together and we worked out a good package. It wasn’t easy. I had to drive my arse off. I’m so happy. This is one of the best events I have ever done. They (the crowds) are so enthusiastic; completely behind every driver. Really welcoming I can’t wait to come back and race again here some time!”
Adam Elder – 2nd place RWD – 02:05.400
“Luke is definitely the one to beat – his crew worked really hard all weekend. I was top qualifier, and honestly I thought I had it in the bag, but he really just pulled it out of the bag in the end. I’d really like to thank all of the Monster guys for their hard effort this weekend – it’s been absolutely incredible – it’s hard to describe how happy I am, even though I didn’t get the top spot. I definitely want to come back stronger at the next one. That top spot is mine next year!”