Rally maniac Ken Block confirms plans to race in New Zealand
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Ken Block, one of the world's most loose and courageous (and yes, maybe sometimes crash prone) rallying megastars has confirmed that he will compete in the 2019 International Rally of Whangarei on May 4–6.
Block made the announcement as part of his Cossie World Tour; a string of international events that he will embark upon with a newly built Ford Escort Cosworth RS. The hit-out in Whangarei will join a long list of interesting events, which include the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Gymkhana Grid, and more. Full details of Block's globe-trotting 2019 calendar can be seen above in his Hoonigan video release.
Of course ... the Escort Block competes with won't be the mad-as-a-hatter machine attached to much of the press surrounding the announcement. That machine was sadly burned to a well-done crisp in just its second competitive outing when issues with reliability came to a head mid-stage.
Queue the depressing image of an Escort totally gutted by flames.
In its absence, Block says that he and the Hoonigan team are going to be building an Escort with more modern inspiration to its design. A car that embodies the logic of "if the Ford Escort RS Cosworth came out today, what would the current world rally team do with that car with an aero package?”
We interpret that and the subsequent couch chat in Block's release video as a not-too-subtle nod to an Escort that'll come with a much more wild aerodynamics package, with greater similarities to the current World Rally Championship crop than the Escort's Group A rivals of the '90s.
Block also says that it'll be more modern and reliable in its mechanicals. Expect it to produce similar power to the 298kW of power and 550Nm of torque that the char-grilled Escort once produced from its WRC-spec 2.0-litre engine, but with much more advancement elsewhere.
“I was genuinely surprised with the reliability issues that we dealt with with this old car,” said Block in the Hoonigan release.
“It’s not that there was something wrong with it, its just that race cars get old. If you’re going to race a car a lot, you want something reliable."
Block of course has raced in New Zealand a bunch of times. This isn't a surprise of course, given that the 51-year-old has said on plenty of occasions that New Zealand's gravel roads are among the best in the world. And a lot of this love stems from 2007.
As a relatively fresh face to the world of rallying and with only two years of competition behind him, Block came to New Zealand some 12 years ago to take part in four rounds of the New Zealand Rally Championship in a Group N Subaru Impreza (coated with the now familiar backing from Monster).
“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 a long time," he told Driven in a 2015 interview.
“I learned a lot coming here back then. [...] 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."
Naturally Block's returned to New Zealand numerous times since, most recently in 2015 when he was able to win the International Rally of Whangarei in a Ford Fiesta. He also took part in Rally Otago that year, only for a mechanical failure to deny him a chance of victory.
“We are ecstatic at the news Ken is coming to rally in New Zealand again and be a part of the NZRC," said Chairman of Rally New Zealand Peter Johnston.
"We look forward to welcoming him back, and it’s a real treat for motorsport fans to have a competitor as exicting and with such a fan following as Ken Block.”