I caught up with him to hear his views on the DC race weekend, the championship and, surprisingly, the state of Formula One
Ken Block Interview
Dominik Wilde: Third placed finish this weekend, you must be reasonably pleased with how everything has gone.
Ken Block: Yeah actually very pleased. We struggled a bit this weekend between me and the setup and the team so we worked really hard through the weekend and constantly tried to improve what we were doing and it worked out in the end. And really I'm battling for a championship, I've had a very good year, out of the seven events I've been on the podium seven times and won three of them so I'm really sitting in quite a good position. But it's about momentum, it's about consistency and this weekend is exactly what I needed after a bad second event there in Detroit. So to come away with a third and to gain more points on my top competitors was the goal and we really came away with that.
Dominik Wilde: And it's a big difference from this time last year where you'd been just as quick, you were often top of the time sheets but the luck wasn't quite there. You had one win but this year you've got three, how has this year differed to last year to get you so far ahead?
Ken Block: Well part of it is the team and I have worked so hard over the past couple of years, I've been the average highest qualifier the past two years before this and won the most heats but putting it altogether into wins in the final which is difficult for some reason, (I) kept getting taken out at the first corner, that sort of thing. So this year, I think the whole level of drivers at this series has actually risen, I think that's actually helped us get through these first corners and have cleaner events and so it's actually benefiting in the long run (laughs), because now all the effort we're putting in is equalising to good finish events in the final. But there's a lot of good drivers here, Patrik (Sandell) and Nelson (Piquet Jr.) drove really good this weekend and it was fun watching them battle there in the final. But really happy to be sitting in the championship lead and extending it.
Dominik Wilde: Now you're three race wins this year have all come on courses that are more road than dirt. As someone who is known as a dirt driver and has said in the past that you're a dirt driver and rallying is your passion, how have you managed to step up your game on the road to keep winning the 'road course' races?
Ken Block: Well the main thing for me is to keep learning. I know where my weaknesses are and we work on them and I just try to keep progressing more and more and the thing for me is rallycross is a mix of tarmac and gravel and I was a little bummed on this track because the gravel was basically just a straightaway with a jump in there so I think the gravel really mixes it up a bit more. If it's all tarmac racing then it's just circuit racing so for me, for rallycross, there needs to be more gravel and now hopefully the event in LA and the one in Barbados will have some more gravel, some more gravel turns.
Dominik Wilde: The big thing about this series is luck. You're never fully in control of what happens in your race but you are in the best seat in the house as far as the championship is concerned. So without thinking about what might happen with the other drivers on the track, what do you need to do to make sure that come Vegas you're still at the top of the championship?
Ken Block: It's really just about consistency, working hard to try and be one of the fastest drivers on the track, try and qualify well and really get out there and drive a bit more defensively as opposed to offensively. But it's a challenge, it's really a crap-shoot. Patrik this weekend, he didn't qualify that well, the first heat the car broke, they put together a couple of good heat races and semis today and ended up on the front row and that's just the way rallycross works. So for the drivers it makes it a bit more frustrating sometimes and difficult but for the fans it's the flipside, the unknowns sometimes makes it more unpredictable and more fun to pay attention to as opposed to maybe Formula One right now, that's a bit more boring (laughs). There's been some more winners recently but Mercedes has just had the car dialled and been so far away from everybody. I really like Lewis (Hamilton), I'm stoked at where he's at but at the same time too it'd be nice to see a bit more competitive racing.
Dominik Wilde: Well you managed to beat him (Hamilton) in Barbados last year, so maybe you should move to Formula One.
Ken Block: (Laughs) Nah circuit racing's not for me. I enjoy the gravel too much and this type of racing to me is incredible, it's really fun for the driver. It's great racing, it's great battles and the unpredictability sometimes makes it a bit tough on us but at the same time too it's just a great form of racing to me.
Dominik Wilde: In a field where pretty much any of the full time entries have a shot of winning the races, if you had to pick one guy for the rest of the season who was your biggest championship rival, who would you say was your biggest threat?
Ken Block: (Pauses) That's a tough one because there's like four guys that are grouped about 40 points behind me with (Sebastian) Eriksson who's just been consistent and Nelson who's had a couple of bad events but he's had a couple of very good events also and Joni Wiman's always a threat so some of those guys have had maybe some bad luck, there might be some good luck coming too (laughs) so for me I've just got to monitor all those guys and try and stay with them or stay ahead of them so I can continue to build the points lead.
Image: Dominik Wilde for Red Bull Global Rallycross