Ken Block steams ahead for Global Rallycross victory at Belle Isle

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Detroit – Ken Block likes racing here.

He likes winning for Ford, especially in the Motor City.

On Saturday, Block who came into town with a 31-point lead for the Global Rallycross championship, raced and won for Ford on Belle Isle.

"Yeah, absolutely, I was kind of joking with them a few days ago that I hoped I still had a job after this weekend," said Block, of Ford, with a big laugh. "I thought it was that important, you know, to come out and have a good result this weekend.

"You know, I'm battling for a championship, got a good lead in that championship, now.

"This is the third win out of five races, so things are going quite well, and happy to do it here in front of a home crowd for Ford, in Detroit."

Block got his retrofitted, factory-manufactured Ford Fiesta round the 10-turn, three-quarter-mile track 2.95 seconds ahead of fellow American Scott Speed, in a Volkswagen Beetle.

The Swede, Sebastian Eriksson, showed in third, 4.06 seconds behind the leader.

Problems with a 190-feet ramp that provides the only jump on the course, which resulted in an early end to practice on Friday, resulted in some delays, with racing running 20 to 30 minutes behind schedule.

But, especially for an inaugural event at a new venue, featuring a rally track raced on for the first time, several drivers said the difficulties did little to affect the competition.

The track, which circles the now-functioning James Scott Memorial Fountain on the island, includes the jump, which hurls the little 600-horsepower rally cars about 70 feet through the air, asphalt and concrete from portion of the track for the IndyCar Series, with fresh gravel dumped this week and smoothed over sections of that track, to provide a hybrid surface for rallying

"This is actually one of the best tracks we've had this year," Block said, sweeping problems with the jump aside.

"There's some good quick stuff, there's a nice bit gravel and a very quick technical section coming here on to the start-finish straight.

"So, I've really enjoyed it."

Several drivers said the jump created no problems in either the super car race, won by Block, or the GRC Lites race, won by Tanner Whitten.

"They definitely had a little difficulty, for some reason, building this jump," Block said.

"You know, it's one of the only times I've seen them have that difficulty. But, for the race, it held up."

Alex Keyes, who grew up in Brighton before moving to California two years ago, had some mechanical problems in the Lites race.

Starting eighth, Keyes charged to fifth by the fourth lap of the 10 lap race.

But, some racing difficulties, along with a bit of a mysterious mechanical issue, eventually dropped him a full 45 seconds behind the Whitten, at the finish.

"It was really up and down," said Keyes, 18, a budding professional racer.

"I got a good start. But, then they went four-wide, and I was about to get squeezed into the wall, so I backed out.

"And then they all crashed into the wall. I got by it because I backed out. So, that was nice.

"And then going through the joker (a segment of track tangential to the main circuit, which each rally driver must use once in the race) I was behind people, and the dirt section was really slick. So it was tough there."

Then, Keyes was passed by two drivers making great use of the joker.

"It was kind of a bummer, because this track is really hard to pass on."

Each time he made some progress, Keyes said, he would only drop back, with drivers doing what they do in the rally form – blocking heavily, intentionally banging sides and generally making it difficult on the competition.

"I was always fighting my way back, and then going through the dirt hairpin, the car just shut off."

Keyes got it started, and finished the race. But he was not at full power through the end of the race.