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. 

Ford Fiesta

2014 Ford Fiesta High Resolution Exterior
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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.

Press Release

Head Hoonigan Ken Block, in partnership with M-Sport and Team O’Neil, is bringing a full squad of Ford rally cars to compete at the New England Forest Rally next month, including a brand new M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5.

Ramana Lagemann will pilot the new M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 in its worldwide debut at the 25th anniversary running of NEFR. He will be co-driven by Canadian Nathalie Richard.

"I’m excited about partnering with M-Sport at NEFR this year," said Block, who returns to the Rally America National Championship next month with co-driver Alex Gelsomino in the Ford Fiesta HFHV. "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! I’m looking forward to putting it through the paces at our test prior to the event."

The Australian duo of Brendan Reeves and Anthony McLoughlin will also join the team, campaigning an M-Sport Ford Fiesta R2 with a 1000cc three-cylinder EcoBoost turbocharged engine. Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy competitor Max Vatanen took a class win with the car in its debut at the World Rally Championship round in Portugal last month.

"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,” M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson said in a news release on Friday. “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."

The R5 boasts a 2000cc engine using the latest generation of Ford’s EcoBoost technology and was developed in-house by M-Sport for rally championships, including Rally America, where FIA homologation is not required.

“I consider NEFR to be my home event, and I have many fond memories of it,” said Lagemann, a New England local from Boston. The event was Lagemann’s first-ever rally in 1999 and the site of his first national win in 2006; he qualified for the first X Games rally that year in a Ford Escort Cosworth.

“I have followed the Fiesta R5 since its inception, and I have been impressed with how successful the platform has proven to be,” said Lagemann. “Now, with this 2000cc 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 Subaru driver, Lagemann is no longer a regular figure on the Rally America series. But he is a podium contender whenever he appears. He popped up last month at the Olympus Rally, where he topped the 2WD podium 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. I am extremely excited for this event, and thankful to everyone at M-Sport for the opportunity to help launch this incredible new car!”

Reeves was similarly effusive about the new Fiesta R2, saying: “I can’t wait to see what we can do with the new engine platform."

Like Lagemann, Reeves is a familiar figure in the premier U.S. rally championship. Along with his co-driver sister Rhianon Gelsomino, he won the 2013 Rally America 2WD title with five wins in five starts. "NEFR is an amazing event and Anthony and I are privileged to be a part of the M-Sport team," he said.

Also slated to compete at NEFR is Lucy Block – Ken’s wife – who will run a Ford Fiesta R2 1600cc.

The New England Forest Rally is the sixth round in the 2015 Rally America National Championship. Subaru Rally Team USA duo of David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew have taken five wins in five starts. With three rounds remaining in the championship, Block’s entry poses a threat to the Subaru team’s pursuit of the first perfect season in the U.S. since John Buffum’s undefeated year in 1987. The 25th anniversary running of NEFR takes place July 17 and 18 and is headquartered in Newry, Maine. It is expected to feature 120 challenging stage miles over two days of competition, including a return to the smooth and twisty stages first used in 2014, as well as to the classic Sturtevant Pond/Fish Pond Stages.

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