Like a transformer, Ken Block's new 600-horsepower Ford Fiesta shreds more rubber than meets the eye across Gymkhana, stage rally, and rallycross. Block is busy this summer pushing his new car for a fresh Gymkhana video and competing off road at X Games 17. The Monster World Rally Team (MWRT) incorporated Block's diverse car requirements from three very different driving disciplines into one what Block calls his "manic beast" with mixed results.
New Beast in the Block Garage
By concentrating on one car, the MWRT doesn't need to deal with the hassle of coordinating the transportation of three different cars. Dubbed the Hybrid Function Hoon Vehicle (H.F.H.V.), the emphasis is on the second "H". For inspiration, the MWRT built the new car with Block's WRC Fiesta RS in mind. From there, parts are swapped around the upgraded Ford 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine.
While there's no sissy Prius electric engine hiding under the H.F.H.V. hood, according to Ford, EcoBoost delivers turbo performance with 20 percent more efficiency compared to conventional engines. So while the new ride has a green-tinted heart, rest assured it's still shrouded in rubber smoke and burns "rocket" fuel.
Interchangeable parts include: transmission, gearing, shocks, springs, wheels, and tires. A co-pilot seat added for stage rally. In addition to the hardware, the engine control unit (ECU) computer brain gets reprogrammed to optimize engine performance. Changes can take up to half a day.
Grain of Salt
The idea of an all-purpose hoon-mobile is fun, and the video with a retro Nintendo soundtrack is brilliant. But most of it seems more like super-slick marketing. These types of changes happen all the time.
"The cars are constantly being adapted to suit the conditions. Weather and surface conditions change more in rally/rallycross than in just about any other form of motorsport, so the cars have be changed to suit," said Ross Bentley of DirtFish Rally School and author of the 'Speed Secrets' series about car racing technique. "Tire compounds, tire pressure, brake pad compound, gear ratios, suspension spring, shock absorbers, alignment are the typical changes." Also, the H.F.H.V. will stay in the garage when it comes time for Block to race WRC because rules only allow 1.0-liter engines.
Still, the coolest feature in the H.F.H.V. is the ability to swap the position of the radiator. For gymkhana and rallycross, the radiator is mounted in the trunk, for better weight distribution. Little side panels slide open like James Bond's car. But sadly, instead of missiles, the Fiesta on steroid's panels just direct air to the radiator. For stage rally, since the car gets pushed so hard, the radiator shifts to the front of the car for better airflow.
Test One: Gymkhana Four
Anyone with a new car wants to give it a push and see its response. But this is Ken Block, the mad scientist behind the viral Gymkhana videos. He takes the expression "out for a spin" quite literally. Just after getting his hands on the new car, Block announced Gymkhana Four. Nicolas Restrepo, co-founder of LA Camera Mechanics Inc., who provides support in film production, witnessed the fun. "We shot it [Gymkhana Four] at Universal studios in Hollywood, all around the actual stages and the roads the tour tram uses as well," wrote Restrepo online. "Ken spent four days working it all out and this time it was shot with a full professional film crew. But Ken still was VERY hands on about how the final product was shot."
Gymkhana four is set to be released on Tuesday. So far so good, as the H.F.H.V. withstood its first test with Block admirably. The second test would see how the H.F.H.V. liked the taste of dirt.
Test Two: New Hoon-mobile Chokes X Games 17
Shortly after Block wrapped filming of Gymkhana four, he took his new car to compete in Los Angeles for X Games 17 in Rally Car Racing and RallyCross. This time, the Fiesta was the "little car that couldn't". Two turbo system failures, a brush with a cement barrier and one flat tire later, and the X Games were over. Hopefully, the experience taught the MWRT team about how to discipline their temperamental infant.
"This was a really tough and disappointing weekend for me," said Block in a statement. "It's always frustrating when something as small as an oil line fitting can cripple a race for you. But, mechanical issues aside, there were some positive things that came out of this event. When the H.F.H.V. was running, it was really fast. Sure, we have some teething issues to work through, but I know that with a bit more testing, this car will be on top."