Dinner with Ken Block, Gymkhana coming to Top Gear and a surprise Fiesta at Sno*Drift 2010 *UPDATE

Ken Block/Ford Fiesta at the 2010 Rally America Sno*Drift – Click above for high-res image gallery

The initial motivation for this piece was a pre-Sno*Drift dinner with Ken Block and members of the new Monster World Rally Team last Thursday, followed the next day by a ride in the shotgun seat of Block's new Fiesta rally car. As for the ride along, we were anticipating some no-holds-barred, looking-through-the-side-windows-to-steer, make-the-media-guy-puke action, but as is so often the case with most things regarded as insanely fun, some last-minute rule interpretations ruled out the scheduled media rides.
Whether or not there was some friction between Ford's media efforts and the Rally America staff was unclear, but it was all moot anyway when the Fiesta's broken suspension bits took Block out of the action late Friday, after just seven stages. At least the dinner went off without a hitch, save for some discrepancy with the waitress on whether or not a chicken Caeser salad was actually ordered by yours truly. If you're confused right now, you're not alone.

Ford assures us there wasn't any friction between the Blue Oval and Rally America, at least outside the normal race day jitters experienced at any event such as this. According to Ford Racing, Rally America was "awesome to work with" and given the crazy-icy conditions for the event, we can understand both the extra concerns for safety and the need to keep the playing field leveled.

We did have a chance to noodle around inside Block's cranium for a couple hours though, and we learned he'll be headed to the Top Gear studios in April to film, among other things, an all-new Gymkhana session with the rally Fiesta. The new car is actually the same Fiesta Rallycross car that Marcus Gronholm piloted up Pikes Peak last year, though the 800 horsepower has been tuned back to something in the 330 range. We also learned the new car has a healthy torque advantage from his old ride, and as good as Subarus sound with a tight exhaust, the Fiesta has a delicious wail that sounds suspiciously like the WRC-spec Focus he'll be campaigning in Mexico next month.

Is he excited about driving in the World Rally Championship? Absolutely, but he also confessed to having virtually no seat time in the Focus thus far, which Block describes as "night and day" from the Fiesta. It would've been nice to see the Fiesta again on Saturday, or any sort of Monster World Rally Team presence for that fact, and there were certainly an abundance of fans who would agree. Instead, the Fiesta team packed up the broken car and headed south in the wee hours of the morning, leaving the rest of us with nothing but Red Bull to drink.

That is, until another Fiesta showed up...

[Driving shots of Fiesta: Mike Prouix/www.worldrallysport.com/Rally America]

No, it wasn't in the rally, or even part of some official pubic relations initiative from the Blue Oval. Remember Ford's Fiesta Movement campaign this past summer? Turns out a select few members still have their cars, and Bryan Redeker-AKA Agent 22-took his to Sno*Drift just for the fun of it.

"When I heard that Block had broke, I kept waiting to hear his people outside the hotel room, trying to scavenge my car for parts," Redeker joked Friday night.

The "non-Ken Block edition" Fiesta was quite a hit among the Sno*Drift attendees, and though we've seen plenty of Fiestas on the auto show circuit, spying this one on the icy roads around Atlanta, Michigan just made us more excited for its debut later this year. We didn't get a chance to ride along with Redeker either, but that didn't stop us from nabbing shots of the car at rest and in action.

Of course, should the Monster World Rally Team come calling for another media ride, rest assured that we'll take the challenge. In the meantime, enjoy this up-close look at Block's new ride, and the soon-to-be-available Fiesta it's based on.

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