There is one event in Norway that I’ve always wanted to visit: Gatebil Rudskogen.
Every year, automotive enthusiasts arrive at the Motorsports Center in Rakkestad, AKA Rudskogen, and each year the event gets bigger and better. After making our way from Sweden, I thought I was going to have a quiet Thursday evening, walking around the paddock and scouting the area out for the days to come. Oh how wrong I was…
Almost as soon as we arrived at Rudskogen, my buddies and I headed out onto the track to catch Thursday’s practice sessions ahead of the event’s proper start at 8:00am Friday morning.
Longtime Speedhunters friend Fredric Aasbø was back in Team Toyota and ready to tear it up alongside his Formula Drift colleague Ola Jæger and Tor-Anders Ringnes in the Super 3 (three-car team drift) competition. Simen Olsen, another FD driver, was also present with Team Rymax.
It was good to see plenty of Swedish drivers and cars in the ranks too.
One of the best things about Scandinavia’s drift scene is the diversity of cars. At this event, there was everything from the popular Japanese platforms to an American rat rod.
Before long, the drivers got the call to head back to the pits for vehicle safety inspections. Once these were completed, Super 3 qualifying runs could begin.
In the pit lane, drivers and crew members were in high spirits. For many, this was their first event in two years and the excitement was real. It was obviously going to take a while to get through all the cars, so I went and took a quick peek at the paddock and one of the campsites.
I ran into the Gatebil media team and the guys over at Robyworks as they were setting up their BMW camera chase car. They drove all the way from Latvia in a Fiat Multipla, so kudos to them for that alone. The Fiat has a livery with unicorns, so there’s some bonus points too.
The campsite, which was far bigger here at Rudskogen than the one at Gatebil Mantorp last month, had started to fill up nicely, and the main stage for the afterparty was coming together. I wanted to explore more, but at this point I realized I’d need to come back later, as I only had a couple of minutes to get back up to the track and get into position for Super 3 qualifying.
What exactly is Super 3? As I mentioned, it’s a three-car team drift. Simply speaking, all three drivers try to stay as close to one another as possible, while maintaining high speed and angle during the corners to the final exit.
Since this was the first run, errors were to be expected. Team Toyota’s Tor-Anders Ringnes learnt that the hard way, spinning his A90 Supra into the gravel. The Toyota suffered some slight damage that needed to be repaired in the pits, but soon enough Tor-Anders was back out on track.
This time, Team Toyota drifted beautifully and secured their place in Friday’s competition.
Despite it only being Thursday, the grandstand seats were largely filled. The crowd went nuts when a near-perfect run was completed.
It was fun learning where to stand at Rudskogen, but looking back, the track is not that different from Mantorp Park. The only difference is, Mantorp is faster with longer corners. The layout is very similar, and even the main corner is called Pariskurvan, just like at Mantorp Park.
In the end, I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the weekend. After the drift session, it was time to hit the hay. I knew that for the next couple of days, sleep would be an absolute luxury.
My Thursday night sleep was a luxury too, because at 8:00am sharp the next morning, the racing started.
Everything seems to be much louder when you’re half asleep, at least it was in my case. I’d previously never had an opportunity to sleep near a track, but doing so in the media center was amazing. Brushing your teeth in your underwear, while you look down on the time attack session below sounds like the perfect start to a race weekend, don’t you think?
These grips sessions had everything from classic Audi Quattros built for the track to modern day Porsches, the latter making up the majority of the field.
It didn‘t go too well for some drivers. Gatebil Xtreme favorite Kai Roger Bakken‘s Lotus Esprit broke down 15 minutes into practice, and Vidar Tømmerås Audi TT spun out when the right rear wheel came flying off. A rough start of the morning, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed – it was only Friday after all.
It‘s not only wild time attack cars that race here though; anything goes in the Straight Line (no drift) session. Seeing a Peugeot 206 keep up with a 2JZ-swapped Mazda RX-7 isn’t something you witness everyday.
Rudskogen is very photographer-friendly, the elevation of the track making for some interesting angles. But it’s also hard to reach some of the more unique spots. At times it was almost impossible due to razor-sharp rocks and tall grass, but with some persistence I eventually made it to the back straight.
The T3 corner is the track’s fastest and where cars push for maximum speed and angle, perfectly demonstrated here by Simen Olsen and Joachim Haugenes. It‘s also a corner where almost no one treks out to, probably because of the effort needed to get here.
My hiking efforts were cut short though. The track became quiet, and with no cars passing for a good 10 minutes I wondered what had gone wrong.
As it turned out, one of the competitors had completed an entire lap with an unknown fluid leaking from beneath their car. It even got messy in the pit entrance and all the way to the paddock. As the track crew would spend some time mopping up the mess with sand, the session was stopped, so I decided to hike back to the pits for a look around.
Earlier I spoke about Robyworks and the car they were setting up. Many film crews choose an SUV with plenty of space for the camera operators to work, but Robyworks have gone with a BMW M4. There’s three occupants – a driver, an arm operator, and a camera operator. The M4 seems like the perfect car for a track as fast as Rudskogen.
Robyworks have produced some of Gatebil‘s most memorable films from past events, so I highly recommend you check some of them out.
I lost all sense of time while running around the pits, and didn’t notice that the racing had resumed. Since it was still early on Friday, it made sense for me to continue checking out the paddocks and see what I missed on Thursday.
I can‘t stress enough how important the freedom of running around the paddocks is for the public. For any newcomer to motorsport, this is the perfect opportunity to observe how everything works behind the scenes. The best part about it all is seeing kids taking an interest in cars. I was that kid once, and I know full well that if I had the same access as youngsters have here at Gatebil, my knowledge of cars and engines would be on another level today.
I always see these tattoo shops at Gatebil events, but rarely with anything happening. Granted, it was still early in the day, so I’ll come back to this later on.
As I walked around the paddock, admiring the builds I had never seen before, something rather spectacular caught my eye.
Laying in bits and pieces was Kai Roger Bakken’s Lotus creation. This was the aftermath of the fluid leak that had stopped the track action earlier on. Given how many pieces the car was in, and the fact the Audi 4.2L twin turbo V8 capable of 680hp and 800Nm was fully on show, I guessed there was a major issue.
When I spoke to Kai after the event, he told me an engine block fault led to a huge oil leak, and that the problem needed to be resolved before Saturday. It was the first time they had run the car with the new engine, and to be able to continue they needed to redesign the breather box under the intake.
While Kai and his team were trying to sort out that issue, I found another driver changing the gearbox in their E46.
The main paddock is huge, and for Gatebil there’s even another one in use on the other side of the track. I spent hours photographing here, and I’ve still got that to share with you. But now it was time to head back to the track, because the Super 3 finals were about to begin.
Out of 27 teams, 12 teams battled it out during Friday evening. This sub-event quickly became my favorite thing to photograph, so it’s a shame it only lasted two days.
Seeing the cars go door-to-door and the crowd going crazy when the cars nearly touched was something. The roar from the spectators was often louder than the cars, which was a spectacle in itself.
Playing tag with your team mate isn’t always the best idea, but it’s all fun and games and the Gatebil crowd sure appreciates it.
To my surprise, there was no sight of Fredric Aasbø’s Team Toyota, which meant the Super 3 title was well and truly up for the taking.
The victorious three: Team Datsun took home the main prize, showing everyone how it’s done with perfect synchronization and style. Second place went to Team Europa with 17-year-old Nikolass ‘Nik Nak’ Berans. And finally, third place went to last year’s champions, Team Fullfinans.
In true Gatebil fashion, when the last event is done the party begins.
You should know by now that when night falls at Gatebil, the animals come out to play. Seeing this sight makes me want to join in myself next year. I mean, I kind of did this year, camera in hand, but in my own little area in front and on the side of the stage reserved for media and security.
The top three teams from the Super 3 were presented their trophies and cheered on by the crowd. This is some next level stuff; it’s like they had just won an F1 race, which was awesome.
Pyrotechnics, live DJs, flying beer, hip hop in a language I can barely understand – it was all worth the sore muscles and confused mind I’d experience later on.
Saturday morning rolled around very fast, and before long there was only four hours till I needed to be up again. Stay tuned for part two…