Ordinarily, donuts are avoided by athletes like Chesterfield’s World Rally Championship regular Rhys Yates.
Last week in Poland, Rhys couldn’t help himself. He couldn’t get enough donuts. Every time he finished one, the crowd went wild and cheered until he did started another.
Courtesy of American rally superstar and internet sensation Ken Block, donuts and Gymkhana GRiD go hand-in-hand. New to this world of handbrake-induced drifting and 360s (enough of the donut talk now…), Rhys wasn’t sure what to expect.
He needn’t have worried. As well as the spectacle, GRiD demands inch-perfect driving and ultimate car control from those who want to succeed. Rhys fitted right in.
And then some.
After a day of practice to find his way between, around and under the obstacles (think a horse-based Gymkhana – just with more horsepower), the first competitive action at the specially designed track in Warsaw was a revelation for Rhys. He qualified third fastest with only triple world champion Petter Solberg and his son Oliver in front of him. And the Solbergs were both driving cars with more than twice the power of his Hyundai i20 R5.
Rhys missed out on the chance to go head-to-head in a semi-final meeting with Oliver Solberg by just 0.42 seconds.
And here’s the worst part: Rhys was penalised by a second not hitting two out of four hanging balls on the course.
“Missing the semi by such a small margin was obviously really disappointing,” said Rhys. “What’s worse is that I would have made the semi-final if I’d just touched another ball. It’s so frustrating! You had to slide the car and hit two balls on the course. I missed one of them. When I crossed the finish line I was ahead of [rival Riku] Tahko and thought I’d made it into the semi-final and the top four, but then I got the penalty and that cost me. I was absolutely gutted!
“But, to be honest, just being invited to come here and compete at an event like this was something else for me. It’s been amazing. A-mazing!
“I’ve watched Ken Block’s Gymkhana videos for so long and to come here and compete in an event with him and have some understanding of what he does is unreal.
“It’s been a blast. It’s been mental to be hanging out and chatting with legends like the Solberg family and meeting so many really cool people. Trust me, there are some serious dudes at Monster Energy! I’m so into this thing now – I want to come back again and again.”
Talking of legends, what about Sir Chris Hoy?
“Top bloke! As you’d imagine for somebody with six Olympic gold medals, he’s all about the competition. Like me, he was completely new to this and to see the effort, application and dedication he brought to the thing was incredible. It was a proper honour to meet him.”
And the car? What about the new motor, the Hyundai i20 R5?
“Nice one. Mega. OK, drifting around a car park in downtown Warsaw’s not the same as the gravel stages on, say Wales Rally GB, but GRiD definitely gives you a good feel for the car. You need precision and power for this event; you need it to turn-in exactly where you want and then launch out of the really tight turns. The Hyundai did all of that. Mint.”
Back next year?
“If they’ll have me. Definitely.”
Can of Monster?
“Two, bro. Two.”