Yesterday we saw Ken Block put up a picture of the countries he will race in this year. Today the announcement was made: He will do the full World Rallycross Championship with factory support from Ford. Can he challenge Petter Solberg, Timmy Hansen and Mattias Ekström for the title in 2016?
Of course, people will always make fun of Ken Block with his youtube viral videos and former crashiness in the WRC and GRC. The last couple of years he has shown more consistency, and rather than being the crasher he’s become the crashed. He had a great chance at taking the 2015 GRC title before getting problems at the same time that the VW’s found pace. After being in the GRC since pretty much the beginning, getting a new challenge might be one of the reasons for Block moving to a different series. He states that this will be a year that he will focus on only one series, which implies that you won’t see him in GRC this year. I won’t rule out X-Games though, but that might be the only time you can see him race in the US this year. Rally America is another possibility.
Block is no stranger to the World Rallycross Championship though. He did Norway and France in 2014, finishing 3rd in Hell and 4th at Loheac. Both are extremely good results considering that both events had around 40 entries. Rallycross of course requires a bit of luck, but Ken also had the fastest laptime in France. I’ve always included Block as one of the drivers in GRC with a level high enough to compete in WorldRX. Tanner Foust has shown that it is possible for an American to win events in Europe, and he nearly won the European Championship a few ears ago.
So far it’s not much news regarding the car and team Block will use, but he is already working together with M-Sport (responsible for the Ford WRC team). M-Sport has built his Fiesta RX car the last two seasons, and has also supplied cars to other teams in the GRC. Based in England, it must be a goal for M-Sport to show their rallycross cars in Europe as well (yes, see update below)? Ford has been one of the most common rallycross cars the past 40 years, and recently they’ve used the Fiesta together with OlsbergsMSE. Rumors are that they will use Block and M-Sport to show the new Focus RS racing, and M-Sport has already used the nitrous blue on their Fiesta WRC. The Focus would be bigger than most of the competitors in WorldRX, but it has been raced before in the hands of Belgian privateer Jos Jansen. The Saabs of Per Eklund has also been competetive the recent years, so the Focus could still be small enough for rallycross.
Such a factory effort often means a two-car team, but this hasn’t been mentioned yet. Former WRC-driver Chris Atkinson seems like the hottest candidate for the job right now. Who would you like to see join Block and his team?
Norwegian rallycross driver Andreas Bakkerud was confirmed as the teammate of Block today. Bakkerud has competed in all previous rounds of WorldRX, and is the third highest scoring driver in the history of the championship. The 24 year old has three wins in the World Championship, as well as two wins in the European Championship (pre-WorldRX). This means that he is moving from Swedish-based OlsbergsMSE to M-Sport built cars run by Hoonigan Racing Division. There’s still not certain what model they will run, but it seems important that he has experience from the Fiesta.
Suddenly Ken Block winning the World Rallycross Championship got more realistic, but it’s likely that will happen in the teams cathegory. Ken also mentioned on his facebook page that it is a two year effort. Exciting!