How to drift, with Ken Block

Saturday, November 19th, 2016 - autos, cars, motoring, news

Source : How to drift, with Ken Block

Ken Block, king of sideways, invites us to ride shotgun at Silverstone for tyre-smoking, drift-tastic fun in an 845bhp, all-wheel-drive Mustang called Hoonicorn


Ken Block must feel terrible. He flew into Heathrow via the US last night and also also also then drove to the hotel inside Milton Keynes Stadium for a kip, only to discover of which there was a football match on.

Early This specific morning, he’s already within the Silverstone paddock, hoodie up, cap and also also also sunglasses on and also also also can of energy drink in hand.“I think This specific’s about three within the morning,” he says.

This specific wouldn’t be a Great time to talk to most racing drivers, however Ken Block isn’t most racing drivers. His hood and also also also sunglasses frame a face of which beams a broad smile, a silver tooth shining. Even if you’re as tired as hell, if you’re Ken Block, showing us how best to muck about in a drift car producing  well over 800bhp will be not going to make for a bad day.

How do you know Block? via his Gymkhana videos? Probably. There have been seven of them, each more ambitious than the one before and also also also featuring Block performing extraordinary drifts and also also also slides in increasingly ludicrous cars and also also also landscapes.

More than 27 million people have seen the latest one. In all, these videos have been watched 0 million times, and also also also they’re great value for sponsors like DC Shoes, which Block co-founded.

Gymkhana will be like a regular motorsport event in its own right – although without the potential racing pitfalls of crashing, breaking down or not being shown on the telly much. within the same way of which Red Bull runs its own air race and also also also soap box events, Gymkhana will be not just great to watch however also a great marketing exercise.

To suggest of which’s why Block drives cars, though, would certainly be to misunderstand him. Competition will be what inspired him and also also also today’s drifting scene “all stems via rallying”, he says, eyes widening as he talks about the reasons why he started off driving competitively within the first place – first in Rally America, later within the entire world Rally Championship and also also also currently in Global Rallycross. Colin McRae was a year younger than Block, however McRae’s driving will be how Block has ended up where he will be today.

Today, of which’s driving a one-off Ford Mustang called the Hoonicorn around a circuit of which he has never seen before. The Mustang began life as a 1965 notchback, however there isn’t much left of of which. This specific currently incorporates a whomping V8 within the front, driving through a 50/50 four-wheel drive system like of which of the rally cars Block will be more accustomed to, so This specific isn’t without similar driving characteristics.

Where This specific differs will be of which This specific’s set up softly in order of which Block can transfer the weight around more easily on asphalt to alter your vehicle’s handling balance. This specific’s also longer, which makes the “all-wheel-drive drifts or powerslides” of which Block specialises in more benign and also also also spectacular.

Block will be keen to emphasise the ‘all-wheel drive’ part of This specific, because the drifting scene has kind of taken custody of the word ‘drift’ to mean something preserved for rear-wheel-drive cars. of which’s not what Block does, although, Great lad of which he will be, he does have a Mk2 Ford Escort, which he “keeps breaking because This specific was built for asphalt”, so he would certainly quite like another one of which he could better use on dirt.

Block pops out for a sighting lap of Silverstone’s national circuit, which begins on the old start-finish straight and also also also runs through the fast right-hander at Copse before heading down to the Maggots/Becketts complex, where This specific turns sharp right off the GP circuit, cutting back straight up to the slow Brooklands/Luffield section, via where the lap begins again.

The best section for pulling massive slides will be the left at Brooklands and also also also into the more than 180deg Luffield right-hander. This specific means I’ll get to see Block initiate a slide through one corner, transition to a right-hander and also also also then see how he gathers This specific up on the exit. Which, when all will be said and also also also done, are the main things to know. So I strap in next to him.

Because the Hoonicorn weighs, I’m guessing, about 1500kg, I’m expecting This specific to be fast. What I’m not expecting will be the noise, which will be stupid of me, because This specific’s a 6.7-litre V8 on throttle bodies, makes 845bhp, will be barely silenced and also also also revs to 8300rpm. Of course This specific’s loud, to the extent of which, even through a helmet, the air pressure makes your ears hurt.

The acceleration will be similarly startling. The V8 idles at around 1500rpm, and also also also Block uses about 3000rpm to pull away, slipping the clutch gently. via then on, he’s flat and also also also pulls through the gears without troubling the clutch. Because This specific car uses cross-country rally gearing, This specific’s relatively short geared and also also also soon approaching the limiter in sixth.

Because your vehicle makes 120dB, Block can’t tell me what he’s doing, so I watch. He left-foot brakes towards the left-hander at Brooklands, taking what at first appears to be a fairly conventional line, if a bit wide of the approaching apex. He trails the brakes in, shifting down to third, at which point things are still fairly smooth. There’s no speedo, however I’d guess we’re travelling at 50mph or so.

however then he reaches for the tall handbrake and also also also gives This specific a quick yank, which squeals the back end wide. I look out of the side window as we pass the apex and also also also see the upcoming Luffield right-hander within the distance, at about 45deg via straight ahead.

Even though I’ve seen a few drifts and also also also slides being pulled for Autocar, I reckon Kenneth has overcooked This specific and also also also of which we’ll spin. however already he’s on full noise and also also also full ‘oppo’ and also also also the Mustang will be busy pulling itself straight.

There are a couple of seconds of This specific, the angle of attack gradually reducing, before a throttle lift unsettles your vehicle again and also also also plants the nose, which grips and also also also causes the rear’s slide to go via one direction to the additional in a perfect left-right transition. Or what would certainly be a massive fishtail if you didn’t get This specific right.

Block does get This specific right. He’s already back on the throttle again, feathering This specific more carefully currently through the longer corner (full throttle would certainly just make us pull straight; off the throttle, your vehicle would certainly spin).

Block keeps the chassis deftly poised between the two, while his adjustments on the steering wheel possess the Mustang on opposite lock, neutral lock and also also also occasionally positive lock, at which point he’ll lift to unsettle the rear again and also also also increase the angle of attack. however at all times, the tyres are beyond the point of adhesion, both laterally and also also also under power.

About 10 seconds after This specific all started off, we’re out of the corner and also also also accelerating until your vehicle has seamlessly pulled straight, and also also also only then does Block ease off. You can call This specific what you like, however by my reckoning of which’s a drift, and also also also of which I’ve never sat alongside anybody who does them better. and also also also Block? He’s still smiling.

The legend of the Hoonicorn

Block’s earliest Gymkhana videos were run in Subarus, however when he became sponsored by Ford and also also also rallied those, he moved on to near-WRC-spec Fiestas. however 2015 will be the 50th anniversary of the Mustang, and also also also of which called for something special. So, over a period of two years, his team created the Hoonicorn, using a 1965 Mustang as a base.

Look at the roof and also also also bits of the rear wings and also also also you’ll see of which some of This specific still exists, however the rest will be pretty much bespoke. There’s a full cage, which gives all the strength, and also also also a Roush-Yates 410 engine sits well back within the engine bay, behind the fabricated independent suspension.

The rear suspension will be similarly exquisite and also also also sits near a fuel tank of which needs replenishing every two laps of Silverstone. The propshaft and also also also halfshafts are all bespoke, to mate the Sadev six-speed transmission — designed for a Dakar rally raid car and also also also the only thing strong enough to cope with the punishment – to the wheels.

They’re 19in items shod with Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tyres, in a ‘Ken Block’ compound. Pirelli doesn’t make a drift tyre however does supply Block that has a harder-wearing compound than a standard tyre, which would certainly otherwise melt into the road within a few short runs.

Rallying call

Ken block grew up on a skateboard in Long Beach however found rallying with Colin McRae’s help. “I’d always watched rallying, especially Colin, on TV,” Block says. “I decided to have a go and also also also found of which I had a bit of natural talent for This specific.”

Block, 47, didn’t start competing until he was well into his 30s, however he has won plenty of individual rallies in America and also also also scored well on World Rally Championship rounds. However, the nature of what he does prohibits 1-minded, focused assault on Rally America or the WRC.

“My sponsors want me to do a lot of different stuff,” he says. “Last year we did Global and also also also some World Rallycross, some Rally America, a WRC round, my Gymkhana Grid events and also also also Gym 7.

“This specific would certainly be Great to focus on one thing, and also also also winning Rally America will be something I would certainly love to do before I stop competing.”

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