TO THE US RALLY STAR THEY’RE FUN — EACH AND EVERY ONE
Over the past four to five years American Ken Block has made his name as a bloke who can make a rally-based car do amazing things in various situations.
The self-styled “Hoonigan” has more than five million follows on his Facebook page due to his video exploits at the X Games, RallyCross and various Gymkhanas.
The high-profile dirt/tarmac racer originally cut his teeth in traditional rallying style and was back Downunder at the opening round of the New Zealand Rally Championship in Whangarei.
Block’s first visit to our shores was back in 2007 for the International Rally of Whangarei (which is also the opening round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship), and he also raced here when New Zealand hosted a round of the World Rally Championship.
Block decided to rearrange his schedule this year and make room to get back to the place he came to eight years ago to cut his teeth in international rallying.
“When I was first here in 2007 I was only in my third year of racing and was a bit of a novice,” said Block after clinching the first round of the NZRC.
“I came here [back then] to learn, and what I discovered the most was that you guys have such incredibly great roads here and I’ve wanted to come back for such
Ken Block slipping and sliding during the event he particularly enjoys —the Rally of Whangarei.
“I was last back here in 2012 at the WRC event where I finished inside the top 10, but it was this event [Rally Whangarei] that I wanted to do again.”
The Californian is so enamoured of racing in New Zealand he’s extended his race programme here to incorporate the second round of the NZRC at Rally Otago, May 9-10.
Domestic competitors can rest assured that Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino will not be taking valuable championship points away with them. He’s said he’s just here to get some race kilometres under his belt and not mess up the domestic championship.
“I was able to fit it [the Whangarei and Otago rallies] into my calendar this year and I’ve come away with a win at the first one. It feels really good and I’m really pleased we managed to get down here and the next one is in Otago.
“This rally was the first stage event I’ve done in about six months so I took it a bit easy in the beginning. The team was great and it all worked well. When I first came here I was blown away by how fast the Group N drivers were. There was Richard Mason, Emma Gilmour and the young buck Hayden Paddon.
“I learned a lot coming here back then and it’s really nice to be able to come back and compete with such a great competitive field,” he said.
Block has raced all over the world in WRC, Rally America, RallyCross and many more categories, and reckons the Kiwi roads are right up there with the best.
“I genuinely believe the New Zealand roads are the best stage roads in the world. So I was really, really stoked to be able to fit this into my calendar and come back. Hey, I really love the country and the people as well, and it’s great to be able to be in a nice place, but I’m here to race cars,” said Block.
Despite all his other adventures, Block is a stage rally driver and it is at the heart of what he likes to do.
“I’m lucky I get to do a lot of fun things, and to be able to come here and race on these fun roads is what I love to do,” he said.
“Deep down I’m still a rally driver and always will be.”