Block’s plan to defeat Semenuk to his first ARA title

Experience of the STPR stages gives the Hoonigan driver an edge over his championship rival

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Ken Block enters the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally this weekend in a good place – second place.

Second place in the American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National championship, that is. And while the Head Hoonigan in Charge would much rather be in first place, he still finds himself in one of the best positions to win a US rally national championship that he’s ever been.

He’s got plenty of wins, plenty of accolades, and plenty of amazing cars. Yet with all that, a national championship has remained just out of his grasp.

Four times now Block has found himself second in points at the end of the US rally season, and now just four points separates him and the title heading into the final two events of the season.

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Five points more than Suabru’s Brandon Semenuk spread across the next two rallies is all it would take to put Block at the top of the leaderboard, securing that elusive ARA National title.

But what does the path look like for Block if he wants to make up that small deficit? Well, DirtFish asked him after his win on the previous round, the Ojibwe Forests Rally, and the hardest step is likely the first.

“Well, STPR, it’s one of the most challenging rallies in the entire championship,” Block said.

“It’s very fast, it’s very loose, and there are giant trees right on the edge of the road. So recce’s just going to be really important.”

But it’s not just the conditions of the rally that make it a difficult one for Block, it’s the time gap since his last entry.

He might have been victorious last time out on STPR, but that was also nine years ago. And it was in a car that was nowhere near as advanced as the Hyundai he finds himself in now.

But thankfully for Hoonigan, the crew isn’t going in blind.

“We have video from past recce, and from past races that will be looking at, but yeah, that’s going to be a big one and a tough one to prepare for.”

Still, Block has a small leg up heading into the event, as Semenuk has yet to experience a stage at speed.

While no stage experience in nine years isn’t that big of an advantage over no stage experience at all, if he can hold it together for STPR, Block stands to be in a good position to drive the nail in the championship coffin on the Lake Superior Performance Rally.

“Luckily,” Block explained, “going into the last rally of the year, LSPR, of the three top drivers I’m the only one that did it [last year].

“Alex [Gelsomino] and I were able to come away with the win there, so we have good recce, we have good race video on it, and hopefully, if it comes down to it, we’ll have a little advantage there.

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“Just a little bit, but we’ll see. It’s rally, crazy stuff happens.”

As far as the car, the setup, and all else goes though, Block says “there’s no rabbits” in the hat left to pull out in his battle against Subaru.

“We’re all driving flat-out, we’re doing the best that we can, and it’s a tight championship.”

And in the end, isn’t flat-out driving and staying on the road what it really takes to win a championship?

Words:Mason Runkel