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Ian Davies: “Ken Had Driven Two Laps With The Inside Of The Car On Fire”

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Ken Block was far and away the class of the field in the Global Rallycross Championship season finale at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. He posted the fastest qualifying time, won both of his heat races, and started on pole in the final. After a year of trials and tribulations, it looked like this was finally going to be the race that saw Block make it to victory lane.

But, as chief mechanic Ian Davies explains, “it’s motorsport.” In other words, it’s not just about how well the mechanics set up the car, or even how well the driver drives it—there’s a non-human element as well, the ability of parts to withstand the stress that comes with a rallycross event. Unfortunately for Block, as shown in the video above, the car began to smoke on the second lap of the final, eventually turning into a terminal fire that ended his day.

Here, Davies explains how the weekend went in his own words, from Block’s late arrival to the track to just how much of the car the team saved by telling Block not to finish the race:

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

You guys were running lap times at SEMA that nobody else could even touch. Not even some of the ERC competitors who were there were that fast, and points leader Tanner Foust was a good three tenths behind all race. Did you make any specific changes in car setup to better suit the track?

I think our whole car suits that type of track. Our car was designed for that type of track. The idea of European rallycross is some gravel, mixed with asphalt. What we’ve been seeing at the NASCAR circuits has really been one gravel corner with a lot of straight line asphalt stuff. I just think that our being based on a World Rally car, certainly the gravel aspect suited us, and we were able to get the car to handle very well on both surfaces. We were quick through the gravel, but certainly—I was talking to Tanner (Foust) there, and he was saying that Ken’s line, he was able to hold a line through turn one that nobody else seemed to be able to hold.

So, you know, we do set our car up for individual circuits. We set our car up for that circuit, having looked at it and walked it, but Ken dialed in. Ken was in the UK doing a Monster gig the weekend before, so Ken actually didn’t arrive until Monday. He didn’t have any of the free practice on Sunday, and he got into things quite quickly.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

It was pretty apparent to everybody that you guys were the class of the field. How confident were you after qualifying that this was finally going to be the weekend where you came out on top?

Yeah, I mean, it was ours to lose, wasn’t it? We’d won everything. We were quickest in seeding, we won both our heats, we were on the right side of the grid, we have a car that gets off the line on par with the others. We knew if we could get into the first corner first, that you could almost stack everybody else behind you. It was just looking like it was going to be our day.

Unfortunately, it’s motorsport. You’re never sure of that win until the checkered flag. After about three, four laps, what happened was, we found out since that we had an exhaust problem, an exhaust crack. And you’ve seen the flames that come out of the rear of that car when it jumps. That flame is going down the exhaust system, came through and ignited, got the transmission tunnel hot, and ignited the paint on the inside of the tunnel. There are certainly pictures out there of the fire inside of the car.

Ken was on the radio, and it just wasn’t safe for him. He drove several laps with it burning his leg, and he just had to pull over. It wasn’t safe to continue.

Image via Ken Block Facebook

In other words, when Foust finally got by about halfway through the race, it wasn’t a clean pass on a fully-functioning car.

Yeah, we had this problem after about two laps from the start. So Ken had driven two laps with the inside of the car on fire and his breathing was becoming an issue. The breathing of the paint inside such a confined space was giving him a huge issue, and he wanted to know if it was safe for him to continue for a couple of laps, and it wasn’t. It was the right decision.

The damage to the car is minimal at the moment—there is some wiring work that needs doing over the winter. If we had carried on we could have lost the entire car.

I was confident that SEMA was going to be our race. I was confident that Vegas was going to be our race, how we performed. It’s rallycross. We have learned a tremendous amount this year as a team. We never stop learning. We work as hard as, if not harder than any other team out there in doing what we do, analyzing and trying to sort of take the small steps forward sometimes. We always go forward; we never go backwards.

—Chris Leone

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  1. […] finish was thwarted after mechanical issues at SEMA; Davies has said that Block drove in the final with the inside of the car on fire. Here, he talks about the importance of strong qualifying, coming back stronger next year, and how […]

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