With most of the U.K. Shows and events coming to an end mid September we decided to go the extra mile to bring you some content for the blog. In late October 2016 we followed our Tarmac Sportz supported driver James Stephen and his team out to Athens in Greece to see him take part in the Gymkhana Grid finals 2016.
James had traveled to Ireland back in July to take place in a FBS (Fueltopia barrel sprint) along side the Irish drift championship. In which James managed to finish second after a car failure while leading the final but none the less this had managed to secure him an invite from Monster energy to take part in their Gymkhana GRiD event.
After this the meddicks Blacksmiths Subaru underwent a huge reconstruction with a full new fibreglass body fitted then painted by Revolution paintwork in Alloa, Scotland. There was also a new engine build by EngineTuner Ltd and fitted by A&J Motorsport.
As we arrived at the track for the first time it was rather clear that this was no small event with James in competition with the likes of Ken Block, Liam Doran, Terry Grant and Andreas Bakkerud. Even Rally legend Petter Solberg came to check out the Meddicks Blacksmiths Subaru.
Thursday Practise saw some good pace from James however constantly breaking drive shafts was quickly becoming an apparent issue. The shafts used on the car were updated however when your pushing out nearly 700ft/lb on super soft Semi slick toyo's (supplied by Treads Garage) things tended to break. Thankfully the team from A&J Motorsport Perth were on hand to keep James in the running. The only problem was that James could not use a full capacity launch going into qualifying.
Qualifying saw some difficulties with a water pipe bursting at the starting gate the car was quickly turned around with new pipes and radiator where James barely made is Q1 attempt. However with this mad rush the engine mode had not been set properly and error had caused a DNF (did not finish). No pressure but if James wanted to make the final he had to put down a solid Q2 other wise it would be an early plane home.
James headed out for Q2 at the front of the que & he put in a sensible run. Not the fastest we had seen from the Meddicks Subaru but he had done enough to secure 8th and a chance at the top 16 battles the following day.
Race day came and practise kicked off for 9am sharp, James was up early and first out yet again but with good reason. The night before Petter Solberg had given James and the team some top tips on car set up and James was willing to try a risky move to and get farer up the pecking order. This worked and saw James finding a huge amount of time ahead of time going into his first battle against Maris Neiksans of Latvia who qualified 9th in his Group N Mitsubishi evolution 10.
However everyone had up'd their game and the first battle got underway, Maris took the lead at the end of Run 1 by just over half of a second which means for James to progress to the top 8 he would really have to get the hammer down. Run 2 that's exactly what happened when James decided for the first time to let everyone see the potential of the car crossing the line almost 4 seconds ahead of Maris. The whole team had a buzz around it and it was just a matter of waiting untill the next round was drawn.
Due to the qualifying issues it soon became apparent that James would be lining up against the most decorated rally driver that's ever lived Petter Solberg. Petter was driving a former Colin McRae wrc Citroen Xara that had been flying all weekend.
James and Petter took to the track in what could only be described as a nail biting show down. James took the jump despite the launching problems and and lead Petter all the way to the final obstacle, unfortunately crossing the finish line there was a 2 second penalty added to James's time for clipping a spool. This meant going into run 2 James would be on the slower side and running a 2 second deficit. James went out and drove hard but it was to much to late and Petter had knocked James out.
We enjoyed the rest of the show which saw Solberg go on to take the victory from Liam Doran in his Global RX Citroen while Hoonigan racings Ken Block finished 4th. The event was streamed lived to over 2 million people and watched on 28 tv channels across the world by a further 1 million people.
At the end of the event James and the team were happy to officially take 7th in the world rankings, however I think there was more pride in knowing this tiny team from Scotland in a road legal borrowed Subaru took on the world champion and made his sweat just a little. James is hoping to secure full funding to build his new purpose made gymkhana car and make it back to Gymkhana Grid, but this time for a podium.