Gymkhana GRiD, one of the world’s craziest motorsport competitions is returning to South Africa this weekend. In fact, you can catch the live steam right here on Fast Car tomorrow.
So we thought we’d catch up with the most successful RWD driver in the history of Gymkhana GRiD, and the reigning RWD champion, Luke Woodham.
How is this year different for you – is another win on the cards this weekend?
Luke: “It’s kind of funny, but every year Lewis Hamilton has won an F1 championship, I’ve managed to win GRiD. So he’s done a fifth; now I’m going for a fifth! It’s got to be a good sign! I’m feeling the best I’ve ever felt. I’m in a really good place. The car is the best it has ever been; much improved from last year. We know what works and what doesn’t. All that I can do now is drive at the best of my ability and bring the best car possible. Which is what I’m doing!”
So you’re definitely thinking about a fifth consecutive win…
Luke: “Of course! Without a shadow of a doubt my aim is to go there and win. That’s like any event I compete in. I’m a competitive person – so even if it’s shopping in the supermarket, I want to be the fastest person with the trolley! It’s just in me to do that. If I win I’ll be over the moon. It’s my favourite event of the year and I’m going there to try and bring another trophy home.”
What do you think the key to your success has been?
Luke: “That’s a difficult question. I’ve got great people around me, amazing sponsors, and amazing friends who all come along to help. My whole family are massively supportive. I try to enjoy driving as well. I’m really comfortable driving at events, and it almost seems like the more pressure I’m under, the better I do. I don’t know why that is! Maybe thats the key?”
What can you tell us about the updates to your car?
Luke: “I’m running a new chassis, that has been completely stripped down with a full weld in cage – it’s pretty trick! The seating position and mounting points for components in the car are lower for better weight distribution. Based on what we learnt last year, we have improved the cooling system on the car a lot too. The colder and denser the air we can get through the intercooler and radiator the better obviously. I’ve taken a lot of advice from Petter Solberg – he looked at the car with me and gave me some incredible insight on what I should change and tweak. I have basically the same intercooler arrangement as Petter runs in World RX. We know that the air is going to be thin in Johannesburg, so we took that into consideration even more this time. My engine mapper is on hand over the weekend remotely, so at any time we can plug a laptop into the car and he’ll be able to log in and see what we are doing. There are a few little tweaks…”
What about preparations for yourself as a driver; physically and mentally…
Luke: “I like go-karting, so I have tried to get as much of that in as I can. I try and do that at least two or three times a week. It’s fun, and it makes you keep your concentration levels high. I’ve been back on the race simulator as much as possible too. It’s all with the aim to keep sharp. Any driving environment which I can get my race suit on and get physically and mentally under pressure is good training. Obviously based on last year’s experience I know it’s going to be very hot. I know a couple of the other drivers last year suffered from heatstroke, so it’s massively important to drink lots of water and stay hydrated all the time. I keep a cold Monster on hand obviously! The only other option I thought of for preparation was playing Playstation in the sauna. Haha!”
Who do you have your eye on this year in terms of direct competition?
Luke: “That’s the great thing about Gymkhana GRiD – it’s so different to other series, that it really could be anyone’s day if they keep things clean.You can’t rule out the local drivers now – after last year, most of the drivers will have a better idea of how the racing is going to run. I’m expecting their pace to be a lot faster. It’s going to be fun to race with Daigo Saito – I’m excited to see his car and see him in action. We really will have to see!”
Would you consider a switch to the All-Wheel Drive category?
Luke: “I’d consider a change if it was in a Supercar – the likes of the PSRX Volkswagen or Ken’s team’s car. What I mean by that is that I’d like to see the difference in driver ability come through and not the performance of the car. I could buy a Subaru and sink $20k-$30k into it, but it’s still not going to be as fast as a World RX car. Guys like Jonathan Buck and Dmitrij Srybnyj have good cars and are fantastic drivers, but there’s still a leap to the times that guys like Johan (Kristoffersson) are setting because of the machinery. My passion is rear-wheel drive but I’d absolutely give it a go if the right drive was available.”
What aspect of Gymkhana GRiD do you find the most challenging?
Luke: “I think as a whole, the competition has become a lot harder. The more successful the format becomes the more commitments the drivers have had to fulfil. I can now appreciate how drivers like Ken (Block) and Petter (Solberg) have to be on point during interviews and then jump in the car and perform just as well on track. With the racing condensed down to one day, keeping concentrations levels high is going to be key. When you line up on the line, it’s all or nothing – there’s no messing about!”
What do you enjoy the most at Gymkhana GRiD?
Luke: “The close racing between drivers. The highlight for me – apart from winning last year – was seeing two cars race sideby- side and it really coming down to driver ability. I’ve always like the idea of a one make series, so you can see who’s talented as opposed to it just being a battle of budgets. What other event do you to where you have world champions racing alongside athletes and amateurs at the same time – it’s amazing. It’s the firework display of motorsports; as much as it’s a brutal competition, it’s a great show too.”
Thanks Luke, and good luck!
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