KEN BLOCK was very busy at the Gymkhana GRiD finals.
As well as competing in the event in his Hoonigan Ford Fiesta ST RX43, he was always being interviewed for TV, signing autographs or doing doughnuts around Ilias Psinakis, the Mayor of Marathon, where the event was being held.
But despite this he still took time out to chat with journalists and I managed to ask him a few Irish related question and give him a lesson on how to pronounce Donegal properly.
Here’s what head Hoonigan had to say:
DL: Ken, your favourite car is the Ford RS200 and I saw that you had paid a visit to Northern Ireland to drive one of Enda Garvey’s cars. What was it like to drive a 700bhp RS200 with slick tyres in the wet?
Ken Block: A nightmare LOL. Nah, the RS200 is by far my favourite car in the world.
I say that as I have a Ford logo on me, but I’ve loved that car long before I was sponsored by Ford.
The RS200 is by far my favourite car in the world
It’s just like that whole Group B era was such a classic time in rally.
Our cars today on stage rallies are way faster than the Group B era but it was kind of like the meaning of that time and the fact that they were pushing the envelope of what was possible and the RS200 was right at the end of that. It was one of the cars that was so specifically designed and built for that level of rallying and it was just disappointing to reach its full potential, you know.
So for me to go out to drive there with my friend Enda in Ireland on narrow lanes in the wet, it was a joy and a nightmare all at the same time. But I really, really enjoyed that.
DL: Enda has a few RS200, did you buy one off him or did Enda try to sell you one? I saw a wide-bodied one with gold wheels that was beautiful.
KB: Eh no, I haven’t bought one of his, they are very dear to his heart. Some day I will definitely own one though.
But it was very cool to have my first ever drive in an RS200 in such a difficult situation like that but it was a lot of fun.
DL: My last question, are you any closer to competing in Ireland? The last time we spoke you said you would love to take part in the Donegal International Rally. Is that still a possibility sometime?
KB: Yeah, I would still love to do that.
it was very cool to have my first ever drive in an RS200 in such a difficult situation
This year is actually the first year in my career that I have not done one stage rally and that can’t happen again ever so I need to get back to doing some stage rally even if it’s just a couple a year. So Donegal is one that I think is a classic rally, one of the best in the world and one that I’d really like to do.
Ken pronounces Donegal, ‘Danegall’ but after hearing me say in it, he gives it another shot and gets pretty close so I told him it’s okay, we’ll teach you the lingo and just to clarify I say ‘Donegal’ one last time so he know exactly how to say it in the future. And finish by telling him that we’d would love to see him in Ireland competing in stage rallies.
Gymkhana Grid European Gauntlet Finals in Athens, Greece
Monster revving loony party
THE 2016 Gymkhana GRiD finals took place last weekend.
And the Monster Energy athletes were out in force, Triple FIA World Rallycross Champion Petter Solberg, reigning GRiD Champion Luke Woodham, World RX racer Reinis Nitišs, multiple X-Games medalist Liam Doran, and Gymkhana GRiD founder Ken Block all made history at the fifth edition of the Gymkhana GRiD: European Gauntlet Series Final.
And representing Ireland were drifters, Shane Lynch and Buttsy Butler, making up what I like to call: ‘The Monster Revving Loony Party’ as over the course of five days these guys redlined their cars, burnt rubber and at the end of the incredible event they left behind a stack of smoking tyres that was almost as high as the Acropolis itself.
Celebrating half a decade of full-throttle tyre-slaying mayhem, Gymkhana touched down in the historic town of Marathon in Greece for its 2016 showdown.
The big news is that after a fire-spitting roster, 55 cars went head to head and against the clock, and it was Petter Solberg and Luke Woodham who emerged victorious in the AWD and RWD classes respectively.
Shane and Buttsy were competing but didn’t make it through to the Top 16 battles but they are both showmen and before the action kicked off on Sunday they arrived on track to bring the heat to the thousands of fans and do what they do best — kill all tyres!
Buttsy was driving the JDM Garage Nissan S15 that has a 700bhp supercharged V8 under the bonnet and Shane was in his new weapon of mass destruction — a n Audi R8 that was converted to RWD for the event.
Shane did a burnout in the R8 that was so intense you couldn’t even see his car for smoke and likewise Buttsy smoked out the rest of the arena in the S15 with the whines that could be heard back home.
Even with the event occupying its usual late-October slot in the race season, come race day the sun scorched through the cloudy autumn Athenian sky, lighting up the grandstands filled with fans who had swapped the dusty banksides of the Acropolis rally for the amphitheatre-style tribunes around the tight GRiD track.
Reigning Gymkhana GRiD champion Luke Woodham and UK-based hotshoe Adam Elder carved through the field to go head-to-head in an epic battle in the final, with the split between them in the first run amounting to only 300ths of a second.
By run two, Woodham managed to pull ahead slightly, beating Elder to the finish line by a margin of only 1.64 seconds.
Fellow UK racer Danny Cross scorched to the finish line to defeat ‘Croatian Crusher’ Marko Palijan in his signature E30 BMW to round out the top three of the rear-wheel drive category.
In the AWD class it was a true clash of the rallycross titans; Petter Solberg, Liam Doran and Reinis Nitišs all pushed through to the final battles, after some of the most horsepower and smoke-filled runs Gymkhana GRiD has ever born witness to.
In a shock plot twist, reigning series champion Dmitrij Srybnyj was eliminated in the great-eight-quarter final stages.
Another surprising exit came in the form of series founder Ken Block, who had been in contention for the podium, setting some of the fastest times all weekend, when he was eliminated by Doran in the semi finals.
The day culminated in an epic battle between reigning FIA World Rallycross Champion Solberg, and multiple X-Games medallist Doran; both World RX racers, both armed with huge horsepower Citroens, and both drivers out with a point to prove.
In a haze of burning rubber and smoke, Petter just nosed ahead, and the rest as they say is history, but only by 1.75 seconds.
Reinis Nitišs rounded out the podium with two super solid runs, facing off against the head Hoonigan in charge for third place.
GRiD RWD TOP 10
1: Luke Woodham - Nissan S14
2: Adam Elder - Nissan S14
3: Danny Cross - Nissan S14
4: Marko Palijan - BMW M3
5: Apostolis Kyriakoudis - S14
6: Anastasios Charkas - V8 M3
7: Christos Chatzaras - BMW M3
8: Christos Saitas - BMW M3
9: Martin Hjermitslev - R34 Skyline
10: Andreas Bakkerud - MK2 Escort
GRiD AWD TOP 10
1: Petter Solberg - Citroen Xsara
2: Liam Doran - Citroen DS3 WRX
3: Renis Nitiss - Lancer Evo X
4: Ken Block - Ford Fiesta RX43
5: Dimitrj Sribny - Subaru Impreza
6: Panos Kirkos - Lancer Evo
7: James Stephen - Subaru Impreza
8: Jonathan Buck - Subaru Impreza
9: Andy Stephens - Subaru Impreza
10: Maris Neiksans - Lancer Evo X