Ahead of his World Rally Championship return on next week’s Rally México, DirtFish caught up with Ken Block to talk WRC, Gymkhana, Cossies and Kiwis.
Q: That’s a nice programme of events you’ve got lined up…
Ken Block: It is. I still get to race some of the coolest events around and we’ve got Gymkhana GRiD and Nitro World Games. I genuinely believe I’m the luckiest race car driver in the world that I get to do these events.
Q: How much of the programme is up to you?
KB: It’s mostly my choice, but obviously there’s input from Monster Energy and Ford. Mexico’s a big market for Monster Energy, but it also happens to be one of my favourite WRC rounds – it’s great when these things align.
Q: Why are you taking the Escort to Mexico and not to New Zealand, when you did Whangarei in the Cosworth last year?
KB: The Cossie will be a great car for Mexico. For New Zealand, Ford wanted me to do an event in the [Ford Fiesta] R5 car and when New Zealand was on the calendar, that seemed like a good idea – so we picked that one.
Q: Have you tested the R5 car yet?
KB: Not yet. We’re following a test schedule and we have plans to test for New Zealand, but not until later in the season. I’m looking forward to getting in that car. And I’m looking forward to New Zealand. It’s such a cool place and the rally is special. The people and the culture in this country are great, but the roads are some of the best in the entire world. Every time I go there for a national rally or for the WRC round, it’s an amazing rally. The sport is so popular down there and that makes it even more special.
Q: Talking of popular, you’re pretty popular in Mexico…
KB: Yeah, we seem to have a lot of fans down there. When we were filming Gymkhana 10, we did one of the five segments in Guanajuato in the same location as the opening stage of the rally. That was very cool and that’s one of the reasons we’re going back there to do a meet and greet with the fans down there before the rally. When we were filming there wasn’t much time for interaction and we’re going to put that right now.
Q: You had a few issues with the Escort last year. Are you confident you’ve fixed these ahead of this season?
KB: When we started with the Cossie last year we’d done like 40 miles of testing. Last year was about the development and we had a some issues in the first couple of races. We’ve figured some things out now and we’re confident in what we’ve done. This is a 1990s race engine and what we’ve tried to do is find a bit more power and a bit more life in this engine – it’s a great fun car to drive and that’s what we’re looking for at these races.
Q: It’s certainly a popular car…
KB: It’s phenomenal – especially with you Brits. I think a lot of rally fans from over there, like me, genuinely love this car. You just have to look at it and it shouts the Nineties at you with the angular rear wing, the headlights and the hood.
Q: Is it the most popular car you’ve driven?
KB: I guess the Hoonicorn [a converted 1965 Mustang with 6.7-liter Ford V8 poking through the hood] will always get the best response. Even when I’m on rallies, people will come up to me and ask: “When are you going to bring it to a rally?” That would be cool, but I’m not really sure it would work. The Fiesta is a great, great modern car, but the Cossie is a car which really stands out. Like I said, I love the design and I love the chance to celebrate one of Ford’s best ever rally cars.
The Cossie is shown below with its new livery and updates digitally rendered by Ash Thorp