Ken Block already has two silver and two bronze medals in X Games rally events, but his chances of getting his first gold medal greatly improved this year.
First, ESPN added three more X Games stops around the world that will include RallyCross events and second, there's Block's new Ford Fiesta RX43, which will debut this weekend at X Games Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil.
The car was built by M-Sport, the British company that makes Ford's cars in the World Rallycross Championship, and you can watch him test it in Block's debut video for XGames.com's Pro Series (above).
Between the RallyCross silver medal he won at X Games Los Angeles 2012 -- despite finishing with a flat tire -- and the cockpit fire he raced with until it finally forced him out of the Global Rallycross Championship season finale main event, nobody can question Block's determination.
XGames.com recently caught up with Block, the 45-year-old co-founder and chief brand officer of DC Shoes, by phone from his Hoonigan Racing team's headquarters in Park City, Utah. Jet-lagged after returning from a trip to South Korea, Block discussed X Games in Brazil, his busy rally schedule and the "Gymkhana" viral video series.
XGames.com: Your XGames.com Pro Series debut video shows you testing the new car for the first time. Have you had much time since then to test it before it was shipped to Brazil?
Block: No, we only did one day of testing and everything was quite good. The car is just an updated version of my existing race car, so all the set-up and everything as far as suspension goes is all similar to what we've been using, and the tires are the same. So really for us the thing that's going to make a difference, which we still have a bit of work to do on, is just some engine mapping. But we can do that as we get ready in practice at the event.
With the course in Brazil being 90 percent dirt, how do you like your chances?
Hey, the more dirt, the better for me. My expertise is gravel rally, so where I have the most experience is out on gravel and dirt. So, the more they add that stuff in, the more it makes an advantage for us rally guys like myself and Tanner (Foust, the two-time defending GRC champion).
So you feel good about your chances of getting your first X Games gold this week in Brazil?
I'm going to work my ass off (laughs) for that, that's my expectation for this year. You know, I was very close last year and the only thing between me and getting that gold actually was a bad start in the first semifinal. That's what put me farther back in the grid, otherwise if I'd won my first heat race I would have been where (gold medalist) Sebastien Loeb was on the start. Hopefully I could have done what he did, which was get a good start and just, you know, walk away from everybody.
I'm really happy with my team, my car set-up, the car I run, everything. The Ford Fiesta that we race is absolutely one of the best rally and Rallycross cars in the world. So I couldn't be happier with every direction that we're going. I just need a little bit of good luck and hopefully I'll get that first gold.
Like you said, luck has to play a role and you were on the bad side of that with the flat tire at X Games last summer and the fire in the GRC season finale in Las Vegas last November. You seemed to be a little snake-bit last year.
Yeah, unfortunately for me I kind of have that sort of luck that comes and goes. It is what it is. My team and I work extremely hard to do the best job that we can, and I absolutely love what I'm doing so it is quite heartbreaking when we have some of these issues that I've had.
But all we can do is keep trying. I absolutely love to race these all-wheel drive cars and I'm really looking forward to this year having four X Games instead of just one.
Besides the added X Games and expanded GRC season, you're also racing World Rallycross Championship and Rally America. Is this one of your busiest years or is this just a typical year?
It's definitely one of the busiest years. I have a lot going on and we also have a lot of demands from my sponsors for me to go do different things around the world, so it's for sure one of the busiest.
I wish I was doing more WRC events but I'm only able to do one this year because there just isn't enough time in the schedule. But I'm racing the four X Games, Global Rallycross, all the Rally America (National) Championship, the one WRC event, plus we have several Gymkhana Grid races this year. In fact, Monster is going into their second year of doing a series of events in Europe and I'm going over again for their final event.
So that sort of stuff is adding on a lot this year. But hey, I really am stoked that I have such a great set of sponsors and a lot of great fans and I can go out and do this stuff around the world. It really is truly quite enjoyable and hopefully I have a little better results for this year. I won some national rallies here last year and got silver at X Games so I'm hoping to do better than that this year.
And so far this year, unfortunately, I've had some bad luck in Rally America series, but I did have my best-ever finish in the WRC with a seventh overall at WRC Mexico a couple weeks ago.
What can you tell me about the next "Gymkhana" video? What stage are you at in planning, and what sort of time frame do you set for yourself?
We're actually in the process of planning two of them (laughs). Both of them are in the rough stages of planning. But my biggest problem was Gymkhana 5 was so good that it's going to be hard to ever beat that one. The fact that we were able to take over a city like San Francisco and do everything I did, it's just going to be hard to beat that.
But we're trying to go a couple different new directions with it. Still all the same type of driving, but just some different concepts and I think what we have going on is really good. I think we'll probably look at a fall launch of the first one and the other one would come out in early 2014, either January or February.