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The anatomy of a Gymkhana car: the black magic of mixing drift and grip

22.12.2020

Every petrolhead is familiar with the Gymkhana video series, a series of videos all about precision stunt driving first conceived by rally driver Ken Block. More than 10 years ago the original Gymkhana videos actually featured a Subaru (powered by Motul) before switching things over to Ford. For 2020, however, Ken Block hung up his Gymkhana helmet and handed the torch to none other than Travis Pastrana, whose debut in the series also marked the return of Subaru (and Motul). The result is an 862bhp custom-built drifting monster. We took a closer look at the car and what it’s capable of.

The anatomy of a Gymkhana car: the black magic of mixing drift and grip

I'll be back! The return of Subaru

The return of Subaru to the Gymkhana series is a return to its original roots: both early Gymkhana cars were based on Impreza WRX STi models, albeit heavily modified. The first two cars were built by Vermont Sportscar, as is this new one. As Vermont Sportscars runs both the rally and rallycross team for Subaru Motorsports USA, which Pastrana drives for, it only made sense that they built this car.

I'll be back! The return of Subaru

1: The engine

The engine is a bespoke piece of billet-drilled art by Vermont Sportscars. It’s a 2.3-litre, four-cylinder boxer engine mounted low and as far back in the engine bay as possible to improve the car’s centre of gravity. The engine is turbocharged by a Garret Motorsports turbo charger. The result is a power unit that puts 862bhp to the ground. it’s also equipped with a rallycross-style anti-lag system to keep boost pressure up. What’s unique is the 3D-printed Inconel exhaust coming out of the hood. The engine is lubricated with Motul 300V 20W60.

1: The engine

2: The body

The shell is based on a standard WRX STi and built in a similar way to a rallycross car. But with a reduced wheelbase and a significantly increased width to widen the track for a squarer stance.

2: The body

3: The drivetrain

Because of the bespoke layout of the car and the way the engine is mounted, the Sadev gearbox sits in the middle of the car and receives its input power through a torque shaft. The output is sent from the middle to two differentials, one at the front and another at the back. All the gears are kept running smoothly by using Motul Gear Competition 75W140 lubricant.

3: The drivetrain

4: The suspension

The most challenging part of the car is building suspension that’s both capable of tackling the high-speed, extreme jumps Travis is known for, as well as the precision driving that’s required of a Gymkhana car. This result is made by the combination of bespoke suspension arms built by Vermont Sportscars and Reiger competition suspension.

4: The suspension

5: The tyres and wheels

Method is mostly known for making racing wheel for its off-road products and the Baja, but they’re also used in the Subaru Rallycross cars. The 18-inch wheels have been wrapped in Yokohama Advan A052. It’s a tyre that provides a lot of grip, which is needed for precision driving but also allows you to drift.

5: The tyres and wheels

6: The active aero

At the back of the car, you’ll find an active rear wing that serves a dual purpose. To keep the car extra planted in tight and high-downforce situations, as well as to make sure the car’s nose is pointing in the right direction while flying through the air in one of the many jumps it’ll have to do. The wing is operated by a button on the steering wheel.

6: The active aero

7: The interior

The interior has a few unique functions such as a speed limiter that can be set to the perfect entry speed for jumping the car over a ramp (not too fast, but definitely not too slow). It also has a boost function that engages a richer fuel mix providing more flames and drama from the bespoke exhaust. And lastly, it includes a button that speed dials Pastrana’s wife.

Check out the latest Gymkhana video here:

© Picture credits: Subaru Motorsports, Larry Cheng

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