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Ken Block and the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST

The new 2014 Ford Fiesta ST was sitting nice and pretty on the tarmac, ready and willing to be piloted betwixt and between a small army of pylons on the big parking lot at Ontario Place.

Appealing as that may sound; we journalists assembled on that day were preoccupied with what would happen later. A few of us world be riding shotgun with Ken Block in the Fiesta racecar Block uses to campaign the World Championship Rally (WRC) series. This is also the same type of vehicle he uses for his mind-boggling, car-control videos, which are viral hits on YouTube.



Sideways salsa
When we first blasted across the parking lot, with Block at the helm, from a brake-torque launch, I couldn't believe the acceleration. It was like being shot out of a cannon. That should not have been surprising considering the 2.0L turbocharged race engine makes over 600 horsepower, and the little Fiesta only weighs 1,200kg.

After the initial shock of doing one 360-pivot after another with tires shrieking then narrowly drifting sideways alongside a concrete barrier where people were standing, I started watching how Block was making all this mayhem possible.

He could not have been calmer. His arms and legs were working fast, but in controlled, precise movements. Block's torso was completely still. He could have been playing a videogame on his living room couch.

The only aspect of his driving that appeared out of the ordinary was how often he reached for the tall lever sticking up high and to the right of the gearshift lever. Like a parking brake, it allowed Block to only brake the rear wheels, forcing them to break traction, which ultimately sent the Fiesta into those sideways salsas.

After our short, but widely exhilarating run, Block opened his door and drove around slowly for a while to help clear all the tire smoke that filled the cabin. I'm no doctor, but I'm guessing micro-bits of tire rubber are not things you want down your lungs.

We must honour those tires. For our morning of mayhem, Block's Monster World Rally Team pit crew changed two tires on the rally car for almost every run. So, about 20 tires laid down their lives so that 10 of us could experience the physics of ultimate sideways car control. We bow our heads to them, and thank them.

Ken Block et la Ford Fiesta ST 2014
Photo: Mike Goetz