Everyone knows the automotive superhero with three green slashes emblazoned across his black suit, the ultimate ‘Hoonigan’ out-doing even Batman with his insanely tuned cars. Like Batman and his high-tech cars and gadgetry, Ken Block’s Ford Fiesta (sponsored by energy drink giants Monster and DC shoes) is packed with enough technology to allow him to wear his car as a second skin; the engine, transmission, brakes and suspension can be configured to suit all terrains.
After posting videos of his Gymkhana series on YouTube, Ken Block has gained millions of fans worldwide, each ‘Hooning’ instalment more ambitious and exciting than the next. He’s also an X Games rally X medallist and has two 2nd places in Rally America. As I write this, Ken is currently 6th in WRC Mexico, and although he’s yet to prove himself as a true WRC contender, he’s making good progress compared to previous years.
Happiest on tarmac, Block’s souped-up Fiesta houses a 2.0L turbo-charged Ford Focus engine tuned to 650hp, purely because this is the sort of power a 4WD rally car needs to perform extreme drifting tomfoolery across tarmac. The Monster Fiesta is an incredible feat of technology considering its compact size and the power it produces – it’s thought 850+hp is achievable. Although Ken limits it to 650hp for more control around the 4000rpm band, 100kph comes in a crazy 1.8 seconds.
Whilst all this modern innovation is impressive and produces some incredible results, let’s go back to the late 70s to Ford’s infamous MkII Escort.
If you search through Block’s YouTube videos you’ll most likely stumble across his experience taking a MkII Escort for a spin with fellow Hoonigan Racing team mate Chris Atkinson. This makes for fantastic viewing, as Block has to wrestle a RWD car over a slippery, muddy surface, the complete opposite of what he prefers.
Back in its day, Ford’s Escort was legendary in the rally world, notching up many wins, including the RAC Rally every year from 1975 to 1979. Even today, the MkII is the car to have at amateur level, a great setup to learn the ropes in.
The MkII Block drives is the full spec 1978 model, a machine still capable of testing the best of the best. This is proven in the video when he loses the rear end on a circular section of the track. Although it’s all smiles and laughs at the beginning, you can clearly see Block concentrating when he takes it for a serious thrashing.
I think you’ll agree this is a great video clip, stripping all the modern technology away from the car (apart from the paddle shifter, if you spotted it), giving the driver a real man vs. machine hand-on experience. Both Block and Chris Atkinson obviously had a ball from the look on their faces, and to see Ford’s legend negotiate the course sideways is a real spectacle hailing back to the days of Ari Vatanen, Tony Pond and Hannu Mikkola.
Now if Block can continue driving his 2013 Ford Fiesta a little less sideways in the WRC, he may climb a few more places, although ‘forwards’ isn’t a word that crops up in Block’s vocabulary very often.