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Ken Block headed for full FIA World RX season

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Ken Block’s cross-continent racing tour, season 2016, will include a full season in the FIA World Rallycross Championship.

Block will have Ford Performance factory support for the Hoonigan Racing Division entry, in a usual Monster Energy-backed Ford Fiesta ST.

The news, however, means he won’t return to the domestic Red Bull Global Rallycross for a full season as he has in years past. Conceivably, he could still make one-off appearances.

The full release is below:

Hoonigan Racing Division, in conjunction with Ford Performance, is pleased to announce that professional rallycross driver, Gymkhana star and Head Hoonigan in Charge, Ken Block, will extend his factory partnership with Ford Performance to pursue the 2016 FIA World Rallycross Championship.

“For a big portion of my career I’ve maintained a mixed focus and kept a diverse race calendar, but now I’ll be focusing myself fully on one single championship,” said Block. “I’ve been stoked with what my team and I have accomplished so far with my Ford Fiesta ST racecars and I’m excited to see what we’ll be able to do next season with factory support. It’s going to be a very exciting 2016 and I can’t wait to get started. Thanks again to Ford for being an awesome partner.”

Block stands out as one of the top competitors in the world of rallycross and is among the winningest drivers in GRC, coming within five points of winning the 2014 championship. In 2015, Block scored three events wins, led the championship for 10 of the 12 rounds and was the leading points contributor in helping Ford secure its fifth GRC Manufacturers Championship.

In 2014, Block competed in his first World Rallycross round in Norway, where he celebrated a podium finish (third) in his maiden event. He then followed up with an appearance at the 2014 French round, finishing fourth overall and setting the fastest lap of the event. With his renewed partnership with Ford Performance, as well as their factory support, the team’s goal is to compete for a world title.

“I’m stoked to be able to compete for an FIA World Rallycross title!” said Block. “I’ve really enjoyed my past six years racing with Ford and to renew my relationship with them moving forward, as well as receiving an increased level of involvement from Ford Performance, to compete for a World Rallycross Championship, well, I couldn’t be happier!”

“The past year we have been working hard to celebrate Ford Performance as a global brand serving enthusiasts with world-class products and motorsports fans with on-track success around the globe,” said Dave Pericak, Global Director of Ford Performance. “In looking at the great success we’ve had with Fiesta ST in the Global Rallycross Championship—29 race wins and five manufacturers’ championships the past five years—everyone felt the time was right to take on a new challenge of the FIA World Rallycross Championship.

“Ken is more than a driver or a partner to us, he’s a member of the Ford Performance team. He continues to be an advocate for enthusiasts around the world and we engage him frequently in product and motorsports discussions,” Pericak added. “We know Ken’s team is the right one to help us pursue our goal of winning an FIA World Rallycross Championship title and tell the Ford Performance story. Ford and Ford Performance are global brands, just like Ken, so it’s a great match for all of us involved.”

Block and Ford Performance will begin their pursuit of a World Championship when the 2016 WorldRX race calendar kicks off in Portugal, April 16 and 17. Be sure to tune in between now and then however, as there will be plenty more announcements in the near future.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.