After a successful Gymkhana GRiD world finals qualifying event held behind closed gates last year Monster Energy returned to DubShed at the start of April with ‘The Stages’.
With the exception of over 800 static cars on show at the Eikon Centre this year, that couldn’t be there last year due to restrictions on large gatherings, the live action was more or less the same formula as before. A slightly tweaked track ran in a different direction than last year, to offer thousands of spectators a greater spectacle.
Ciarán Hanton, marketing team leader for Monster Energy on the island of Ireland told us a little more about it, “So obviously Gymkhana GRiD started with Ken Block in collaboration with Monster Energy, it all started off when he was doing those epic videos in cities all over the world.
“He then turned that into a competition, essentially making Gymkhana a competitive sport that drivers could enter to show off their skills. Usually we [Monster Energy] have qualifiers for Gymkhana GRiD all over the world, and last year we had one at this very venue at the Eikon Centre.
“This year, Gymkhana GRiD is not happening globally, so we have now turned this event into a stand-alone event called ‘The Stages’ which is actually a pilot event that we have brought to Northern Ireland before rolling it out across various venues in Europe.”
Ciarán continued, “It’s all about the spectacle, we have Luke Woodham here with his Prolite V8 truck and the crowd just love it, they love the roar, and he sends it every time.”
When asked about DubShed itself, Ciarán said, “I really think it is absolutely epic, and I think that the synergy between both our events side-by-side has been unbelievable. We are both drawing in different crowds, but to be able to walk through two halls full of unbelievable cars and then being able to walk over the Monster Arena to see some live action is just fantastic, you don’t really get this anywhere else.”
The man making all the noise, four-time Gymkhana GRiD World Champion, Luke Woodham said, “I am a multi-disciplined driver for Monster Energy so I do everything from off-road to drifting, Gymkhana events to demos, live shows to rallycross and everything in between. The only thing I have not done with Monster is drag racing.
“I have brought my Prolite [for demonstration runs this weekend] which is essentially an American stadium truck that is designed for short course dirt tracks racing against other vehicles the same.
“The truck is rear-wheel-drive and its V8 engine, which produces around 450hp, actually sits in the middle of the truck. It features a 3-speed semi-auto gearbox and is built to go pretty much anywhere. Just last week I had it on snow-capped mountains around Courchevel, France.
Luke continued, “The track here [at The Stages, DubShed] is incredible. I have killed a set of tyres off already; I just get a little bit excited. I am absolutely loving it, the event is amazing and the Prolite has worked out way better than what I thought it would because it is a bit of a handful and it is so different.
“I’m a petrol head through and through so the first thing I done, even before the crowds were allowed in, was to go and look at all the cars in DubShed. I actually have a few friends with cars here, which is funny. It’s incredible!”
“I love the different types of vehicle you get, you just don’t know what you’re going to come across, there is some mad stuff, it’s just mental!”
An action packed two-day event saw entrants practice on Saturday, with the main competition on Sunday. Not only is it against the clock, but you must complete different parts of the track in a certain way, not to get penalised.
Speed, agility, and a great memory are key components to this sport and winner of The Stages, Stephen Halferty commented, “I really enjoyed the event from start to finish. I had good fun practicing on the Saturday, but unfortunately the clutch started slipping.
“Come Sunday, I decided to do as little driving as possible, just to save the car. After a couple of practice runs before the official timed runs, I was content with my times.
Stephen continued, “When it came down to the official runs, there was no messing about as Tim [Jackson] was very close with his times! Luckily it all worked out in the end.
“It was great to get behind the wheel again after a long off-season, unfortunately I wasn’t driving my own car, but I’m grateful to Aaron Breen for the loan of his BMW E36 for the event.”
Stephen thanked the organisers of the event, GTi NI, and the guys from Gymkhana GRiD and Monster Energy for running The Stages.
Words and Photos: GRAHAM BAALHAM-CURRY
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