Ken Block surpassed even his own expectations by winning Rally Barbados at his first attempt in a factory-fresh M-Sport-built Ford Fiesta Rally2.
Britain’s Robert Swann (Ford Fiesta WRC), Jamaica’s Jeffrey Panton (Ford Fiesta WRC) and local Barbados driver Dane Skeete (Subaru Impreza S12B WRC) were acknowledged as the pre-event favorites thanks to their equipment advantage.
But it was Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino that prospered on an unusually treacherous event.
Rally Barbados is traditionally held at the end of May or the beginning of June but was postponed to late October and early November in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That meant instead of the bone dry roads competitors were used to, the stages were sodden and very difficult to conquer without mistakes.
Swann, who was chasing his first win in Barbados, led the rally after Saturday’s nine stages ahead of Panton, with Block just 11.3 seconds behind in third overall and the head of the FIA R5 class.
Sunday’s final day caused anarchy, as defending winner Skeete broke a driveshaft in his Subaru and retired while erstwhile leader Swann ran into trouble and slid wide on a corner in conditions he described as “just like glass.”
Swann’s misdemeanor elevated Panton into the lead and with three stages left to go, holding a seemingly comfortable 18.68s advantage over Block.
However, Block came back fighting and first drew to within 0.61s when one of the axles broke on Panton’s WRC Fiesta.
Block consequently overhauled Panton on the penultimate test to take the lead with just one stage remaining. It was a lead he wouldn’t relinquish as he took his second rally win in as many starts after a class win on last month’s Rallylegend.
“Coming down here and having to race three WRC cars in a car I’ve never raced before I thought was a really big challenge,” Block said after the final stage.
“But we were just getting quicker and quicker over the weekend, they had some issues, and it was a really challenging rally, so we just did our work and it kept paying off.
“It worked out really well.”
“I think I even won the second to last stage today so, man, it was a great event for us, [a] great learning experience, but to come away with the win, did not expect it.”
Panton eventually slid to third, 35.6s shy of the win with Swann finishing in second place, 9.5s back from Block.