Ken Block Launches M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5
A variety of blue ovals will descend on New England next month as the perpetually sideways Ken Block and his Hoonigan Racing Division help launch the new M-Sport Fiesta R5. The rally car will see action for the first time in the mostly-wooded New England Forest Rally.
Taking the helm of the R5 will be American driver Ramana Lagemann, supported by Canadian co-driver Nathalie Richard. “I have followed the Fiesta R5 since its inception, and I have been impressed with how successful the platform has proven to be,” Lagemann said in a press release. “Now, with this 2000 cc version, M-Sport has developed a car that is well suited to North American stages. I had the opportunity to test it recently, and aside from the awesome chassis capability and balance inherent in all R5 Fiestas, I was amazed by the engine’s responsiveness and torque.”
A former factory driver for Subaru, Lagemann recently opted out of regular participation in the Rally America series, but maintains a quick pace, as is evident by his appearance in the 2WD class at the Olympus Rally last month, where he took a win in a BMW M3 with co-driver Chrissie Beavis.
“It’s been a few years since I competed in a proper AWD rally car, and I’m well aware of the time it will take to get fully up to speed,” Lagemann said. “My goal is to take everything step by step in a measured approach, and produce a solid result for the team.”
Meanwhile, Block will also participate in his “Hybrid Function Hoon Vehicle,” which is designed to be adapted for either stage rally, rallycross, or the ever popular Gymkhana events. "I’m excited about partnering with M-Sport at NEFR this year," said Block. "I absolutely love my Ford Fiesta HFHV that we’ve built, but the idea of a car like the R5 that’s potentially just as quick, isn’t made up of one-off parts and features a lower operating cost is definitely an appealing prospect!”
Continue reading for the full story.
Why it matters
Rally is traditionally a sport that’s appreciated in Europe but flies under the radar in America, so it’s quite nice to see a little rally love come stateside. Ken Block and Hoonigan Racing have done a good job in raising visibility of the sport in the U.S., whether its stage rally or rallycross, and this partnership helps to bolster those efforts.
M-Sport, for those of you who don’t know, is a U.K.-based race team that participates in numerous rally events around the world.
M-Sport, for those of you who don’t know, is a U.K.-based race team that participates in numerous rally events around the world. Founded in 1979 by former WRC driver Malcolm Wilson, M-Sport is best known for its efforts in the World Rally Championship.
Joining the partnership is the U.S.-based Team O’Neil. Founded by five-time North American Rally champion Tim O’Neil, the organization runs a rally school out of Dalton, New Hampshire, and supports a large number of cars in Rally America events. It also hosts the NEFR.
Finally, there’s Hoonigan Racing Division. Previously known as the Monster World Rally Team, HRD competes in a range of series, including the WRC, Global RallyCross Championship, FIA World Rallycross Championship, and obviously, Rally America.
It’s quite the lineup of support, which means Lagemann should have the tools necessary to do well. Complementing this is his extensive experience racing through the New England woods. The NEFR was host to Lagemann’s first rally win in 1999, not to mention his first national win in 2006. “I consider NEFR to be my home event, and I have many fond memories of it,” he said in a press release.
Rounding out the Ford roster in New England will be Lucy Block, Ken’s wife, racing a separate Fiesta R2.
Of course, it never hurts to pad your odds. Also making an appearance will be a double-dose of Aussie talent in the form of Brendan Reeves and Anthony McLoughlin running an M-Sport-prepped Fiesta R2. The 2015 Ford Fiesta R2 should prove to be equally as competitive, as Max Vatanen managed to bring home a class win in the car’s debut appearance in Portugal last month for the fifth round of the 2015 WRC season.
Reeves has extensive experience in Rally America events, taking the 2013 2WD title alongside his co-driver sister Rhianon Gelsomino with five wins in as many starts. "NEFR is an amazing event and Anthony and I are privileged to be a part of the M-Sport team," Reeves said. “I can’t wait to see what we can do with the new engine platform.”
"This is a great chance for us to work with Ken and the Hoonigan Team and introduce these new cars to the Rally America audience,” said M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson in a news release. “Both Ramana and Brendan know the rally well and hopefully we can offer support to Ken to get the Ford oval back at the top step of the podium."
Rounding out the Ford roster in New England will be Lucy Block, Ken’s wife, racing a separate Fiesta R2. Mrs. Block has years of experience in Rally America, which should make for quite the interesting event.
For added drama, the audacious infusion of Ford talent poses a challenge to Subaru Rally Team USA driver David Higgins and his co-driver Craig Drew. The duo have managed to take five wins in the first five rounds of the season, and with only three rounds left, they are well on their way to a perfect season. The last time that happened was in 1987, when John Buffum went undefeated for the entire year. For over a decade, the British-born Higgins has enjoyed monumental success in American rally, winning his first U.S. title in 2002 and several back-to-back championships since then. Can he overcome the blue-oval onslaught for perfect results in 2015?
The New England Forest Rally is the sixth event on the 2015 Rally America calendar and is scheduled to take place July 17th and 18th. Rally headquarters is located in Newry, Maine. The race will offer 120 competitive miles held over two days, and will include a return to the smooth and twisty sections first used last year, as well as the classic Sturtevant Pond/Fish Pond stages.
FoMoCo’s Fiesta has been around since 1976, and since then, it’s been the platform for numerous motorsport competitors. The first came in 1979 when Roger Clark, supported by co-driver Jim Porter, and Ari Vatanen, supported by David Richards, entered two examples of the supermini in the Monte Carlo Rally. The car features a front-engine, FWD layout, with a low curb weight, nippy handling characteristics, and torque-filled motor. For the NEFR this year, the R5 piloted by Lagemann will come equipped with a 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine as developed in-house by M-Sport for rally competition outside FIA homologation. Meanwhile, Reeves’ R2 will have a 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine, while Mrs. Block’s R2 will have a 1.6-liter inline-four engine. Finally, the HFHV comes with a 2.0-liter four-banger.
Read our full review here.