Confirmation that Ken Block will bring his brand new Ford Escort RS Cosworth to the Rally of Whangarei in May is a real fillip for the event.
The wealthy American polarises opinion among rally fans the world over, but what can’t be denied is his popularity.
It will be the second time that he has contested the Whangarei event, having won it in his Ford Fiesta in 2015 – a year he also entered the Otago Rally in the South Island.
His ‘Cossie’ World Tour will see him driving a newly built Escort Cosworth, after the car he ran in selected American rallies in 2018 was burnt to the ground after he hit a rock on the inside of a corner.
In a car that will employ ‘updated preparation techniques’, Block’s program will also include the 100 Acre Wood Rally (an event he’s won seven times), Ireland’s Donegal Rally, the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK, and Rally Legend in Italy.
It’s an ambitious program that Block says could be extended with two or three more rallies still being considered.
It’s tremendous news for NZ rallying, though, with the American joining the ever-increasing number of NZ championship competitors set to tackle the North Island stages, which also includes a round of the revamped Asia-Pacific Rally Championship.
New Zealand is in rare air at the moment, given the popularity of rallying.
Hayden Paddon may not have a seat in this year’s World Rally Championship, but he can take much of the credit for the health of the sport in 2019.
Of course, that’s not the only reason for the success. A well-run championship, stable rules and close competition also helps, but Paddon has played a huge part.
Dropped from the Hyundai team for this year’s WRC, Paddon’s name is still on the lips of those close to the sport.
WRC TV’s Colin Clark recently pondered whether Paddon could get a call from Hyundai’s bosses if Andreas Mikkelsen continues to underperform, so a WRC comeback is certainly not out of the question in the future.
Clark, interestingly, will also make a visit to New Zealand next month, where he’ll be a special guest at the Otago Rally.
“The Otago Rally has been on my bucket list for a very long time, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing NZ’s finest stages,” the Scotsman said.
His visit, and the chance for NZ fans to hear him speak at Otago Rally functions, is yet another reason to get excited about the season ahead.
Without a doubt, it’s a great time to be a rally fan in New Zealand!