GRC FT.L Wrap-Up – New Shoes For Fiesta STreets
This past weekend’s Redbull Global Rallycross 2015 inaugural event in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida saw Ken Block and his Hoonigan Racing Division come away with the win and overall points lead going into the next race. By all accounts it was a hugely successful and gratifying result, but the truth is the weekend didn’t begin with all good thoughts and happy feelings…
We grabbed PST east coast project manager Tom Panzarella of Panzer Performance, the keys to project Fiesta STreets, and mapped our route south and across Alligator Alley to Ft. Lauderdale. Before we left, we headed over to Panzer Performance to install a just-arrived set of fifteen52 17×8 Turbomac wheels. These are the soon-to-be-available cast version of the wheels co-designed by Ken Block and us specifically for the GymkhanaSIX video. To say we were excited to get the very first set of these new wheels on our own car is an understatement.
After a quick tire swap we had the Turbomacs mounted up, the car on the ground, and we were ready to head south. For what it’s worth, in our humble opinion the new wheels suit the Fiesta incredibly well. The design is obviously rally-inspired and even the white paint puts out a strong motorsport vibe. Finally, the extra 1″ of wheel width and more aggressive ET42 offset situate the tires spot-on perfectly within the wheel-wells, and even with our lowered KW/ST suspension, there was zero rubbing under any circumstance.
Project STreets handled the 3-hour drive to Ft.L with ease, and all the new Mountune engine goodies made what could have been a truly boring all-interstate journey loads of fun (engine upgrade article coming soon). We met KB and his guys Friday evening and used the opportunity to take a few impromptu sunset beach shots of Ken with his signature wheels. KB was very pleased with the way the wheels came out and that’s all we needed to hear.
Saturday was test and qualifying day for the GRC Lites and Supercar teams. To be 100% candid, there were few drivers or teams who thought very kindly of the track layout, and the combination of a rough parking lot surface, very few passing zones, a wooden jump ramp (that seemed to be deteriorating before our very eyes), and a seemingly random stretch of loose Atlantic beach sand, had pretty much everyone scratching their heads regarding car set-up and overall race strategy. The 93-degree Florida heat and humidity seemed to add insult to injury, with the drivers literally baking in their cars and their pit crews hurting almost as bad.
From the beginning, Speed and Foust in their VW Beetles seemed to have the car set-up and track line figured best. KB and his HRD Fiesta ST weren’t far off the pace, but as qualifying got under way, Ken’s best time put him in 7th position. Block’s Heat 1 grid saw last year’s GRC champion Joni Wiman fail to make it to the starting line (he did not get a doctor’s clearance to continue racing), leaving KB in a 4-car-only field. Less traffic on a tight course like this is a decidedly good thing, and Block used it to his advantage, finishing second.
Sunday began with twin semifinal heats, and Block won his which, when combined with his 2nd place Heat 1 finish and lap time, put him in the primo P1 pole position for the event final. With 10 cars on the track at the same time, there was a great deal of apprehension going into the final. Most of us didn’t see the likelihood of 10 cars making it cleanly through the first turn, so the prospect of KB getting the hole-shot seemed pretty much necessary.
Lap times and qualifying heats are all well and good, but the main event is where the big points are scored and it’s there where Ken Block has learned to turn things up to whole other level. Yeah, KB is our dude, but the truth is we’ve never seen a more focused, determined competitor than Ken Block. Credit his trainer Kit Cope and HRD crew chief Derek Dauncey for a good portion of that effect, but it’s KB that puts it into action.
With all ten cars staged and the event final good to go, the string of green lights saw Ken Block take control…and never give it back. From start to finish KB lead the 10-lap race, and even Scott Speed and his VW couldn’t hang with him. The hole-shot put Block in perfect position to grab the inside joker turn, and guarantee that he’d head up the wooden ramp in first position. From there, KB pulled away to what looked like a pretty easy win for last year’s overall GRC Championship runner-up.
Last year’s season opener was anything but a success (with Block ending up on his roof and scoring a DNF in Barbados), and yet Ken and Hoonigan Racing Division still finished within 5 points of the series overall championship win. Starting 2015 with a victory has Block and everyone at HRD understandably feeling incredibly positive heading into the rest of the season. And with the stress of the event fully behind them, and the effects of three days worth of relentless heat and humidity, the HRD dudes did the only thing that made sense at the time; shed their fire suits, tucks knees to chin, and cannonball into the Ft Lauderdale Intracoastal Waterway.
Congrats to KB and everyone at Hoonigan Racing Division, and thanks so much for letting us witness the awesomeness firsthand!