After an 18-month absence from the World Rally Championship, Hoonigan Racing Division’s Ken Block returned this weekend, selecting WRC Spain as his single round crammed into his extremely busy 2014 race schedule.
Having not been in a WRC-spec Ford Fiesta RS since Rally Mexico in 2013 (where he finished 7th overall), Block arrived to Spain and did two days of testing leading into the event, one day for tarmac and the other for gravel since Spain features both surfaces during the event for stages.
Thursday evening saw Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino make an appearance in Barcelona for the opening ceremonies and the Super Special downtown after having been 8th fastest overall in shakedown that morning. The pair then took to the dusty hills outside of Salou, Spain for Friday’s gravel stages. Block put on a solid performance throughout the day, finishing 11th overall by the close of the day—while being only 8.2 seconds outside of cracking the top 10. Throughout the course of the day, Block drove patiently and with caution due to having not actually heard pace notes in 8 months since his last stage rally outing at Rally America’s Rally in the 100 Acre Wood (which Block won). Unfortunately, mid-afternoon on SS6, Block suffered a tire puncture and lost some time. However, after a quick swap after the stage finish, he went on to resume normal pace for SS7.
“Overall I’m fairly happy with how today went,” said Block. “I really wanted to break into the top 10 on this first full day, and I’m close, so hopefully tomorrow we can pick up the pace a bit and work ourselves in there. I’ve been doing a lot more tarmac racing as of late due to all of my rallycross racing, so I’m hoping that I'm able to transfer some of that tarmac feel and experience into this WRC chassis and move up the standings. Today was really fun though, it feels great to be back doing stage rally.”
With WRC Spain only being Block’s second stage rally event of the season, he’s keeping his overall expectations for the event fairly low. To see how he does on the first day of tarmac stages, be sure to follow along here, on Facebook and Instagram.