It seems Gymkhana and Ken Block have become synonyms in recent years. While we thoroughly enjoy what Mr. Block and his Hoonigan crew do it’s also a little discouraging to watch big blockbuster style stunts that likely take millions to pull off. Thankfully for us someone has decided to show us what an epic Gymkhana video on a budget looks like, and it is amazing.
The man behind the wheel is Tyler Witte, and he is our low budget hero. Tyler was a late bloomer when it comes to moto enthusiasum, but shortly realized his passion while attending Cincinnati State. After graduation Tyler found himself building ARCA trucks and late model chassis. After that he became a member of the Doran Racing team, working as a fabricator for their Daytona Prototypes.
Tyler had the bug so bad that he decided to take up rally racing. He found a Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS, gutted it, and fabbed up a full cage. He then went through the arduous path of making the RS spec legal. His first event was at the Lake Superior Performance Rally, where he took home silver. After racing in eight events, with 6 podium finishes, the cost of it all became too much, prompting tyler to take some time off.
Now it was time to make something special. A friend of Tyler’s sold him a full open class rally drivetrain he planned on using in his RS. Unfortunately a local shop screwed him over, and he had to start from scratch. Tyler says, “Over the next eight months the car was transformed into what I had envisioned. My friend Ryan, who owns Driven Fabrication, was gracious enough to give me a spot in his shop so I could build it. After a few months of fabrication and gathering new parts the car was ready – or at least I thought it was. For the ECU, I went with the AEM Infinity which was brand new at the time and was yet to have Subaru firmware. I spent a fair amount of time making custom cam and crank triggers and manually inputting ignition sequences into the ECU, and with some help from my friend Jacob and AEM, the car finally ran. After it was tuned I took it out for a little testing, but approximately 20 minutes later the motor blew up. Cause: detonation on #4 cylinder.”
After the blow-up, it was back to the drawing board. Tyler got right back at it, doing it himself with some help from his friends. “I tore down the motor and started on a new build. The new motor was sent out to be machined and after approximately a month and a half I got it back, only to tighten the case housings together and realize that my crank was seized between them. This had been caused by worn dowel pin holes and the line bore not being within tolerance. I sent the block back to the machinist who tried to fix it but couldn’t, so then I had to start over yet again. The third motor was built by Kendall Samuel at Mechanical Advantage Engine Design and it’s ended up being the charm. We got it in and tuned with the AEM and finally I was off to make my video.”
If you haven’t made a video like this before you may think that the hard part is over. You would be oh so wrong. A New Jersey heavy equipment owner gave Tyler permission to use his lot and equipment, setting the stage for this homebrew Gymkhana. It took 5, 16-hour days full of intensive labor, just to set up for the shoot. Then it was another 2 full days of filming. Tyler decided on some re-shoots when he was back in Ohio, just to clean things up a bit.
Tyler says, “My mind is still full of new ideas and I’m very motivated to make more. I’m hoping that the process will become easier with time, but I’m really looking forward to continuing my passion for building, creating and racing.”
All in I think the production was worth it. Not only does it showcase his car building skills, but also his creativity and driving. The end product is a video that rivals almost all of Ken Blocks, on a fraction of the budget. Now all I want to do is 4-wheel donuts all day.