SEMA, GYM6, GRC, HRHQ – A Week in the Life of PST

Published On December 10, 2013 | By Brad @ fifteen52 | Events, Focus Block STyle, Focus STanced, Focus TrackSTer, Pirelli

While the past year has been a crazy and fun experience for all of us at fifteen52/Project-ST, some days (or in this case, weeks) were definitely better than others. Take the week starting November 3rd, for example. Let’s just say it was one hell of a week…

The annual SEMA show in Las Vegas is the aftermarket industry’s largest event. It’s a monstrous display of everything that’s right (and a whole lot that’s very, very wrong) in today’s automotive scene. All the big dogs are there; from the OEs to industry icons like Edelbrock, Garrett Turbos, etc. to many of the up-and-coming small businesses like…fifteen52. An interesting component to the event is that it is strictly a trade show and not open to the general public. In other words, SEMA is supposed to be about presenting your products to thousands of small shops and distributors with the hope that some of them will choose to offer your stuff to their customers. The expanded nature of today’s media options means that many companies still use SEMA as a venue to simply show off their latest projects and accomplishments, knowing that potential retail customers will still see (or at least read about) everything.

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With all three Project-ST Focuses pretty much complete, Pirelli invited us to bring the cars to Vegas and display them in their outside booth. Why not have them inside in Ford’s giant display area? The simple answer to that is the Project-ST campaign is considered a Ford marketing deal, and all of Ford’s SEMA arrangements are handled by a different department.

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While the average SEMA display car is probably trailered to the event, that’s just not our style. The cars we’ve built are meant to be driven and the prospect of a 4-hour road trip with all three cars together actually sounded like a good time to us. The potential for some additional road rash didn’t phase us either, since we’re plenty proud of the miles each of these cars has seen. Yeah, we were gambling a little that we’d not experience any major issues along the way, but with Las Vegas as our destination what’s wrong with a little gambling amongst friends?

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Our Pirelli hosts could not have been more gracious. We simply dropped off the cars and they handled everything. Each car was cleaned and detailed, and they even covered them up at night. We had many meetings set up throughout the week, but not having to worry about our three PST cars meant that there was also a bit of time for cruising the show and enjoying ourselves tremendously. Again, thanks so much to all the great people at Pirelli!

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We weren’t in Vegas just for the SEMA show. Ken Block and Hoonigan had a party planned. And you just have to trust us when we say you don’t want to miss a KB/Hoonigan SEMA party. This year’s was extra-special because it revolved around a private-party screening of the new GymkhanaSIX video. Held at The Palms hotel (and on the 52nd floor, of course).

All of our good friends were there, along with plenty of industry big-wigs, and the event was every bit as dope as you might imagine. By now you’ve seen the video, but chances are you didn’t first see it on a big screen. Like we did. It was awesome. Almost as awesome was the 1/8th scale RC version of KB’s RX43 Fiesta ST race car HPI Racing debuted at the party, complete with a scale version of our new TurboMac wheels and Turbofans. Oh how we love the dudes from HPI.

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After the Gym6 screening KB didn’t stay with us and party too hard because he had to get up early the next day. The Global Rallycross final event is held in Las Vegas during SEMA week, and this was to be Ken’s last chance in 2013 to win a GRC event. KB’s lack of first place finishes this year sure as hell hasn’t been due to a lack of effort (or speed) on his or his Hoonigan Racing team’s part. Throughout the season KB has consistently qualified first or second, won his heats, and posted fastest lap times; but for each and every race it seemed something would go wrong mechanically…

…Or another driver would take him out from behind. The nature of a GRC course and its infamous first turn bottleneck made some of these mishaps predictable, but still, when you look at just how dominant he’s been all year it’s really hard to believe Mr. Block was still without a win. The new GRC course for the 2013 Las Vegas final was set up across the Strip and the MGM hotel, and in our opinion it was the best layout to date. With a nice long front straight, a generously wide first turn area, and an overall design easily viewed as a whole by spectators, we all had very high hopes that this would be KB’s race. As expected, practice, qualifying, and KB’s first heat went almost flawlessly. He won his second heat and posted fastest lap as well; in other words, right on schedule. Still, the atmosphere in the Hoonigan Racing pit area just before the final was thick with tension, with even Ken admitting he felt tremendous pressure to win this thing for his team. “Week in and week out this year these guys have consistently put me in the best-prepped and fastest GRC car,” he told us, “and they deserve a win. It’s that simple.”

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There’s one thing KB isn’t and that’s a choker; the fact is more pressure seems to bring out the best in him. With the final underway, Ken made it through the first corner relatively unscathed, and within a few corners made it up to second place. In front was Tanner Foust, but Tanner had jumped the green light and we knew he’d be due for a penalty stop and go, and once that happened it was Ken Block’s race to win or lose. And this time he won.

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Actually, we all felt we’d won. The Hoonigan Racing team is like family to many of us and the joy that spread amongst us all was incredible. Usually reserved and stoic UK team members hugging and laughing…what a night.

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When the SEMA show was over we still had something pretty major to accomplish: delivering the Focus Block STyle to its patient owner in Park City, Utah. Park City is about a 5-hour drive from Las Vegas, so it made sense to include the delivery as part of our SEMA plans. We sent our guys back to LA in STanced and TrackSTer, and Matt and I drove Ken Block’s car to Utah. Park City is home base to KB and his family, and it’s also where the Hoonigan Racing headquarters resides.

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It is also a breathtakingly beautiful place. We lucked out and avoided any early-season snowfall along the way, but the mountains were already white and KB played the role of gracious host (with that GRC win finally under his belt his mood was especially good) and took the time to drive us around the area. Ken’s winter daily-driver is a Ford Raptor and we could write an article just about how awesome the Raptor is and how much Ken freaking loves the thing.

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As awesome as Park City’s outdoor scenery is, there’s some indoor scenery there that’s even better. Many of you have probably seen photos of the new Hoonigan Racing headquarters, but we’re here to tell you that in person the place is even more incredible. It’s not just the coolness of using shipping containers for office space and bright, contrasting color schemes, but rather it’s the attention to detail paid to every square inch of the 12,000+ sq-ft facility that really grabs you by the throat. From a counter top made from old skate decks…

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…to a conference table with a base made up of GymkhanaFOUR Tarmac wheels…

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…to an upstairs room guarded by a giant stuffed Black Bear…

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…to a shop area as huge as it is spotless…

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…the HRHQ is probably the most impressive build-out we’ve ever seen. And it’s there where we left Focus Block STyle. With winter looming just around the corner, we know KB’s Focus will likely spend the next few months indoors (he’s got a Raptor to drive, remember), and as you can see from the pic below it looks damn happy up front in the role of HRHQ greeter.

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Like we said, it was one hell of a week.

So with Block STyle gone to its new home, and the STanced and TrackSTer builds mostly complete, is Project-ST over? Was this the last article? If not, what’s next? The answers to those question – in order – are no, nope, and we’ll tell you soon…

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