Ken Block: “The Goal Is To Win The Championship”
When Ken Block took the checkered flag in the 2013 Red Bull Global Rallycross season finale on the Las Vegas Strip, it was both an affirmation of his talent and vindication against his critics. Block’s speed was apparent all season—he posted 11 heat wins in 13 attempts—but more than once, bad luck in the final kept him from earning the victory. The win, his first in GRC, was especially sweet, as his 2012 season ended in Las Vegas with a cockpit fire robbing him of what would have otherwise been a surefire victory.
In 2013, Block was often the toughest competition for eventual series champion Toomas Heikkinen, posting a third place finish in the standings with podium finishes in Munich and Bristol. Confident in his Hoonigan Racing Division squad, and with many of his top rivals moving to new organizations, the Head Hoonigan in Charge enters 2014 as a clear championship favorite. After dropping a brand-new, digital camo-themed look for his famous #43 Ford Fiesta ST, he took a few minutes to chat about the upcoming season:
The numbers don’t lie—you were pretty much the fastest driver in GRC week in and week out in 2013. You led the series in heat wins and your seeding results were better than anybody else’s. How have you and the team been working in the offseason to keep the Fiesta at the front of the pack?
My team and I have stuck with the same game plan as last season. We’ve made some changes here and there, but for the most part our plan of attack is very much the same as in 2013. We’ve got a great car and setup that we’re happy with.
You ended last season on a high note with your first GRC main event victory in Vegas. Now that you’ve broken through, do you have any more confidence going into this season? Is there anything that you did differently in Vegas that you can apply to this year’s events?
There’s nothing I did differently in Vegas compared to other events last year, I just finally had some first corner luck go my way and I was able to move from that and drive to the best of my abilities. I’d had a lot of bad luck at other events during the season, despite those heat wins and qualifying results. In Vegas I was finally able to translate that speed into a win.
You’ve got a strong connection with Top Gear, and we know you’re stoked about racing at Top Gear Festival Barbados. What would it mean to you to back up the Vegas win with a win there, especially with it being this year’s season opener?
It’d be awesome to come out of the first race of the season with a win. That’s definitely the goal and it’s what I’m working towards with my training and testing. I’m feeling confident that we’ll be in contention for first place in Barbados.
This year X Games will move from Los Angeles to Austin and the Circuit of the Americas. How excited are you about getting to race on part of a Formula 1 track?
I’m a big fan of Austin and I really like the Circuit of the Americas facility. I’ll miss L.A., only because that’s been the home of X Games for so long and a lot of my friends live there and are able to come out and watch the racing. But I’m excited about racing on the best possible tracks. If Austin has an amazing track, I think it’ll be a great weekend.
Of the many other new markets on the 2014 schedule, which one are you looking forward to visiting the most?
Probably New York. I love getting to the city when I can and my wife does too, so it’ll be a nice stop for us.
There have been a lot of driver and car changes this offseason, making you one of the few top drivers to return to an essentially unchanged program. Do you feel like that gives you an early season advantage, and if so, how important will it be to capitalize during the early part of the year?
Absolutely. Like I said, we’ve got a great program from last year that we’re very happy with. For us we’re building upon experience and knowledge we’ve already gained. A lot of the other teams and drivers have to start from scratch, which certainly helps us have a bit of an advantage at the start of the season.
You were a big part of another Manufacturer’s Championship for Ford in 2013. Now that some of your former Ford teammates have moved on to other brands this year, what will it mean to take on an even more important role in keeping them atop those standings?
I was happy to help contribute to Ford’s Manufacturer’s Championship last year and I’m excited to be helping them chase that title again this season. It’ll certainly be a bit more interesting with a more diverse field, but I think Ford has a good shot at taking it home again in 2014.
Last year you ran for titles in both GRC and Rally America—we know that cutting back on the latter this year was tough, but how will focusing on a single championship win and racing for individual victories everywhere else help you this season?
It wasn’t too difficult to focus on both championships last season. I love them both, so it’s not like I wasn’t excited for every race weekend! I’d be doing the same thing this season, but I’ve got some conflicts on the calendar with Rally America events, so unfortunately I’m only able to contest one full championship this season, which is GRC.
You were fifth in series standings in 2012 and third last year, so you’re certainly trending upward. How would you rate your chances of winning it all in 2014?
By that math I should be able to make it to first this year, right? Ha! So, just like last year, the goal is to win the championship. I think I’ve got the car and the team behind me to make it happen, so I’m feeling good going into this season.
Image via Hoonigan Racing Division (1)
Photo credit: Larry Chen (2, 5); Matthew Kalish (3); QBA/QNIGAN.com (4)