Ken Block has described his return to US rallying as “one of the weirdest races I’ve ever been involved in” as the majority of the frontrunners faced trouble in the single-night event.
The Head Hoonigan In Charge of Hoonigan Racing made his first American Rally Association National series start in over a year last weekend on the Southern Ohio Forest Rally, a rally he had never competed on before.
But Block finished second behind Barry McKenna after a close battle with Subaru Motorsports USA driver Brandon Semenuk.
Semenuk and fellow Open class competitor Joseph Burke also faced challenges. Semenuk hit an exposed concrete block on the final stage while Burke was tripped up by the same hazard, swerving into a ditch to avoid it and retiring with a blown tire.
Travis Pastrana also exited the event on the second of six stages due to a dramatic fire.
“It was one of the best nights of racing for me but also genuinely one of the weirdest races I’ve ever been involved in,” Block told DirtFish.
“Not only like the COVID-19 thing, but Travis’s car burning to the ground, Joseph Burke having his issues, you know, both these guys.
“I was battling with Semenuk, and he was doing a great job in his first event in that new car, and Barry, both of them hit a rock probably a mile, mile and a half from the end of the last stages, and so, [that could have] potentially took both of them out.”
The event, condensed into a single night because of coronavirus restrictions, was hit by rain before it began. That proved to be beneficial in keeping dust low, but it also meant that the stages were constantly evolving.
“The line kept cleaning throughout the event, so I felt like we kept getting more and more grip through the entire event,” added Block. “We’re really lucky we got the rain today because the dust would’ve been really terrible.”
Another evolving aspect of Block’s rally was the set-up of his Ford Escort RS Cossworth. Block and his Hoonigan Racing Division team prepared the car on the pre-event test stage, and by the end of the rally Block was the pacesetter.
“It was an insane night, the car felt really good, we made some changes through the event to the Ford Escort ‘Cossie’. I kept getting quicker and quicker, including the last stage run was my fastest run of the night.
“It felt great to be back out on gravel stages, especially these [which] are really good.
“Mainly I wasn’t getting the drive out of the tight corners that I wanted, I was getting some understeer. So we just kept changing the car to try and get me to drive out of those corners better.
“I’ve never driven this rally before, so we tried to set up the car on the test stage the other day but it was really, really loose and didn’t have the hairpins so I needed to adjust the car for the hairpins and the tighter corners as we were going though the event.”
Block hasn’t completed a full US rally schedule since 2013, preferring to make one-off appearances all-over the world.
So far in 2020 he has competed on Rally México as well as the Southern Ohio Forest Rally, and he is still eyeing further outings despite the constant calendar shuffles.
San Marino’s Rallylegend in October is the next stage rally on Block’s original 2020 schedule, while Rally Barbados has been moved from May to October 31-November 1 and Rally New Zealand has been canceled altogether.
“It just worked out well with the schedule,” Block said of his decision to compete last weekend. “But also I heard how great the stages were, that these were some of the best in America.
“We’ve got some changes to the schedule. I haven’t finalized everything yet but we’re working it out. Looks like I’ll still be able to do a full schedule of seven or eight events like we planned.
“Another great thing is that the organizers are starting to adapt like they did here in Ohio to the [COVID-19] situation, and still be able to put on a great event. I really appreciate ARA, and the organizer here in Ohio to be able to put on a great event.”