Block returns to NZ Championship
- 27th September 2007, 7:23pm
Fresh from victory at the penultimate round of the 2007 Rally America Championship, high-flying Californian Ken Block returns to New Zealand's premier rally competition.
Winning last weekend's Rally Colorado, Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino now take a lead in the standings – heading off Subaru Rally Team USA team-mate Travis Pastrana. Block's attention now turns to this weekend's final NZ championship event at Nelson.
"I dedicated the Colorado Rally win to Colin McRae," said Block after the podium ceremony.
"It was an honour to call him my friend and I truly enjoyed the few times I competed with him. He is my biggest inspiration in rally and always will be."
"I will be missing Colin's Service of Celebration because of the Nelson Rally, although, hopefully, my wife will be going for me. I think Colin would have wanted me to go rally in honour of him instead of visiting a church in Scotland."
With precious days between the hemisphere separating contests, Block says he hopes he can sweep aside his past New Zealand results and repeat his northern hemisphere form at the Nelson event.
"It's been a very rough year for me down in New Zealand. I have crashed in every event so far, including the rally car/snowboarder shoot at the Snow Park filmed just after Rally New Zealand. Luckily, my year is going much better in the US Championship, where I've had two wins, five podium placings and the silver medal at the X Games."
Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino believe New Zealand's high-level of competition have helped improve their racing skills, but it has been a bigger challenge than they planned.
"It's been much more difficult than I imagined going from my US car [an Open Class Subaru STI, which is similar to Group A] to my Group N car in New Zealand. It's a totally different type of driving and car setup and it's been very difficult adjusting to it at every race with only small shakedown stages. But, it's been a great experience and I have truly enjoyed my visits to New Zealand!"
With the Nelson event using hard forestry based roads, the event covers nine gravel stages on Sunday (September 30). Driving the 'Monster Energy Drink' Subaru Impreza WRX STI Group N car, run by Palmerston North team RallyfaNZ, it is identical appearance-wise to Block's American Championship car. Block is also supported by Subaru of America, Fram and DC Shoes.
Arriving into the country on Friday morning, the 39-year old businessman from Rancho Santa Fe has a background in motocross, skateboarding, snow-boarding, and now world level rally competition. A self-confessed 'adrenaline junkie', Block is renowned for his successful 52m jump of a Subaru Impreza car late in 2006.
Pic: Ken Block in action at last weekend's Rally Colorado.
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