Ken Block looking to rally in GRC
Ken Block has been on a little bit of a roll lately in Global RallyCross. After tearing through the field in Charlotte, North Carolina, in July for his first GRC win of the year (and only the second of his career), Block went next to Daytona, Florida, where he finished second to Rhys Millen. The two podiums put Block just 40 points off the series leader Nelson Piquet, Jr. with four races left in the season.
XGames.com spoke with Block following his win in Charlotte and again after Daytona about his position in the series, course design, dirty drivers and motocross.
XGames.com: Ken, you started the race [in Daytona] from the third row, yet within a few turns you were all the way up to second. And that's where you remained all the way to the checkered flag. All things considered, a good race for you?
Ken Block: I was actually really happy with it. It was a bit of a frustrating day just because I had pole position for the semifinal, and if I would have won the semifinal I would have had pole position for the final. However, Nelson Piquet decided he was going to spin me and put me into a wall and that was very unfortunate. I had to transfer through the last chance qualifier and got lucky and ended up winning that -- even with a tire puncture. That put me in an OK spot for the final -- inside on the third row. Luckily I got a good start for the final and ended up in front. If I would have had another lap or two I would have been able to catch the leader and potentially pass him. The day started off bad but the final result actually ended up pretty good.
During the opening phase of the race, you were approximately 3.5 seconds off the lead. Then, at the halfway mark, you had burned the gap down to a little over two seconds. And on the white flag lap, you were less than a second of the back of [eventual winner] Rhys Millen's Hyundai.
Man, it was actually fun to chase down Rhys. It was great having a target out there to really try for, and unfortunately, I just ran out of laps. It was really fun and Rhys drove well and I really enjoyed the track. I ended up with a great result and two of the guys that were ahead of me in points ended up having really bad events. I got pretty close up to the leader, Nelson Piquet, in overall points so now I'm just second overall and 40 points out of first. With four races left we're looking pretty good for the championship.
The Daytona track featured a few high speed areas which were offset by a host of dirt-based and super-tight 180-degree turns. The hairpin turns appeared to work really well for you and the Ford.
Yeah, the track, actually, was something that worked really well for me. There was a good amount of dirt and some high speed sections and we were quick to get our car set-up well and put in some quick time and that real helped us all the way through the event.
There was a lot of talk about how well your car was performing at Daytona. The Fiesta looked to have a lot of top end speed, as well as plenty of low end horsepower to yank itself out of the slower speed dirt turns.
The team has worked very hard with car set-up as well as the overall performance of the car. We just worked really hard this year to put ourselves in a position to win and this weekend really showed it. It's a great package and I think the things I'm doing inside the car are working well so right now I feel like we're the team to beat. That's really because of a lot of hard work.
The Port of Los Angeles races are up next on the GRC schedule. With you being born in nearby Long Beach, that's sort of a hometown deal for you, isn't it?
Yeah, definitely. I was born just a short distance from where the race is going to be held so I'll have a lot of family and friends out at the event. And it's a doubleheader so I hope it's a good track because it actually means a lot for the championship. I'm really looking forward to it.
What did you learn from motocross that you were able to apply to four-wheel rally racing?
Well, the main thing I learned from my past of racing motocross is that the track is always changing. You're always trying to find the best lines where you can find the best grip. Your eyes are constantly moving around the track to try and figure out what the next best line will be the next time you come around the track. I was doing that in the car at Charlotte. I was finding different lines and moving the car around. In some areas I even went slower because I knew I would be faster on the next straightaway. I know I was the only one doing that because some of lines never got followed because every time I'd come around the track I'd still be the only person leaving tracks in a certain area. That was really fun for me. I loved that part of racing motocross -- always looking for new lines and playing with different lines and moving the bike around different parts of the track. It was fun to apply that knowledge to Rallycross.
One thing that fascinates me about Rallycross is that you basically have all walks of racing life lining up for these GRC events. You know, Formula 1, NASCAR, Drifting, even supercross. What's your take on the spectrum of talent you compete against?
I've known a lot of these guys for a long time. Guys like Tanner [Foust] and Travis Pastrana and even Liam Doran. I've known these guys for years. There are some incredibly talented guys out there. Tanner, I feel, is one of the most talented drivers in America, just because he drives so many types of race cars. I really enjoy racing and hanging out with Tanner. Guys like Travis being around are always good. The variety of talent in GRC is amazing. And to have guys like Scott Speed and Nelson Piquet is interesting as they also push the talent to another level. ... We're all racers and we all want to go out there and win.
Are some of these drivers more reckless than others?
There definitely are some. There are some guys that you know are a bit more conservative, and then there are a couple of other guys, Tanner included, that are willing to go and push guys around. That's just the way it is. We're always trying to find the limit of what the acceptable level of contact is. Sometimes you have to push that a little to find where the penalties start happening. It is what it is. Some guys are more aggressive than others.
The number of crashes, bent cars, red flags, first-turn crashes and minutes in downtime at the GRC races can be downright maddening for both drivers and fans. How do you feel about the carnage and wasted on-track effort?
That is a tough question. For me, all that really comes down to track design. I think that sport is quite entertaining and it's really fun for us drivers. And the cars are really quite capable of doing a lot of things. Between being able to go zero-to-60 in less than two seconds -- that's faster than a Formula 1 car -- and being able to drive on both tarmac and dirt at the same time, makes the cars we race very dynamic. I think the biggest thing holding us back is the track design. I think we know what works for us, but for whatever reason, the track designers, maybe based on the different locations the organizers are able to put tracks, are just not able to give us the best tracks for what the cars are capable of. It's just unfortunate. I think there is still a bit of a learning curve because the sport is still young here in the States. Hopefully we'll see evolution over time that will make things more dynamic.
Are you optimistic about where [rally racing] is going?
I'm very optimistic. The cars we drive, like this little Ford Fiesta I race, they are amazing vehicles. The world that we live in with all-wheel-drive and 600 horsepower out of a little four-cylinder engine that's inside a chassis that is very light and nimble, it's just an amazing time to be a race car driver. I'm really, really lucky to be doing what I do. From a stage rally in Sweden to being able to do a Gymkhana in the summer down in Barbados or in Japan is really amazing. I've really enjoyed it. I keep pushing to get better and to push the sport every step along the way. The more fans we can expose these great sports to, the better.