Ken Block’s Gymkhana 9, the chapter that could have been filmed in Australia if not for an endless reel of red tape at the permits office, has been released online today.
This latest instalment in the long-running Gymkhana series that first blew fanboy minds in 2008, was filmed in Buffalo, the second-largest city in the US state of New York.
The Buffalo backdrop marks a return to the US, after episode eight was filmed in the desert oasis of Dubai. But, as news this week confirms, this new chapter could have been set against sights like the Sydney Opera House and the city’s famous Harbour Bridge.
Talking with American motoring blog Jalopnik this week, Matt Tuccillo from Block’s Hoonigan production team said that the cult driving star’s relationship with the new XBOX game Forza Horizon 3 – set in Australia – made our island home appealing as a destination for the Gymkhana series.
But, for reasons relating to permits and concerns over safety and traffic management – and, perhaps more significantly, the obsession in government with keeping even the slightest hint of ‘hoonery’ out of automotive advertising and the minds of Australian motorists – the team struggled to get approval from NSW Police.
“The police down there started to make things difficult with the permitting process for the locations we were trying to secure, both public and private,” Tuccillo told Jalopnik.
“Apparently we were going to be ‘bad’ for Australia and as we got closer and closer to filming we started to lose more and more locations that we had secured, ultimately forcing us to abandon the concept.”
The team’s aim, no surprise, was to film in locations “that were iconic and instantly recognisable as Australia”. So, when it was suggested that they consider Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour – far removed from visual landmarks like the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge – the dream of an Australian setting was binned.