Gymkhana: Getting Started
It's best to arrive at an event early to allow time for registration, technical inspection and walking the course. Registration usually involves showing a valid driver's license, paying the entry fee and establishing your car's appropriate class and number.
Technical inspection varies from event to event but usually requires securing loose items (like the battery), removing hubcaps and checking seatbelts. Just be sure to inquire about a complete list of what's required before you attend any gymkhana event -- that way you won't have any surprises on race day.
After inspection a driver can walk the course. This is a critical part of the event and every driver should take it seriously. Memorizing the course early -- maps are usually published before the event -- makes the walk-through even more effective.
The final step is the drivers' briefing, a mandatory meeting that's a part of any organized racing event. After this, the race is underway. Cars are sent through in order, and the timer starts when you pass the initial gate. Your fastest run of the day determines your final standing. Various time penalties are given for knocked over cones, missed turns and incorrect routes, while a mechanical failure or an incomplete run will land you a DNF (did not finish) penalty.
The open nature of gymkhana -- low-cost and easy to race -- plus the fact it's a timed event where people can try to beat the clock or other driver's times makes it alluring to first-time racers.
Ainsley Hyman, also a member of the DG Trials club, is also involved in gymkhana. The 25-year-old said she's been involved in motorsports for several years and found gymkhana to be one of the most accessible forms of racing. "You don't have to be a car person or a driving person to get involved," she said. "The best way to get involved is pass the certification and get out there and do it, you don't need a lot of money. It's kind of like a gateway motorsport," she said.
Eric Jacobs agreed that the best way to start was simply to get involved in any way you can. "We always need volunteers at these events," he said. "There's always room for another set of hands, so just find an event, volunteer, hang out with people and see what it's about."
As for the skills required to start driving, Jacobs had a firm opinion. "The biggest silly thing is people saying they need to practice first before they race," he said. "The event is for practice. It's completely unrealistic to think you can practice this before you race."
He said even the most experienced drivers, those who've taken to the track for hundreds of hours, lose their way on the course. They still get confused when it's time to slalom or slide, and sometimes they break free during a drift and skid off to the side. While competitive, the idea is to have a good time, to challenge yourself mentally and to challenge your driving skills while building new ones; but mostly gymkhana is all about having a good time. Like Jacobs said, "You just have to go out there and do it."
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