Hoonigan Racing driver Ken Block picked up from where he left off in 2014, taking victory in the opening round of the 2015 Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship, held at Fort Lauderdale in South Florida.
Block guided his M-Sport built Ford Fiesta Supercar to victory in the Las Vegas Finale last year and he carried on that form as he guided his 2015 to the top step of the podium, beating off potential 2015 title favourites Scott Speed in his Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross Beetle and Nelson Piquet Jr. in his SH Rallycross Ford Fiesta in an opening event that proved to be an extremely close affair in the confines of the Fort Lauderdale circuit, hosting its first GRC event.
Scott Speed proved that the move from the 2014 1.6 litre turbocharged unit for the Andretti GRC Beetle to the new 2015 2.0 litre turbocharged engine was a positive one as he took a heat win whilst Nelson Piquet, who led the standings early on in 2014, guided his SH Rallycross Ford Fiesta to a heat win as well.
2014 Red Bull GRC Champion Joni Wiman had a quiet start to his title defence as he took a heat win in his OlsbergsMSE Ford Fiesta, however he suffered back issues after a rough landing during the heat stages which eventually led to medical advice ruling him out of the rest of the event. Steve Arpin kicked off his first event as a Red Bull GRC driver for the legendary Chip Ganassi squad in style as he took his first heat win of the 2015 season in his Eonos-backed Fiesta Supercar.
In the Semi-Finals, Ken Block carried on his competitive form by winning his race whilst Steve Arpin continued to further impress in his CGR Rallycross Fiesta by winning his Semi Final race. Tanner Foust qualified for the Final by winning the Last Chance Qualifier in his Andretti Volkswagen Beetle.
As the 10 car, 10 lap Final got underway, Block took the lead after taking his Joker Lap and pulled out a gap over the field with Speed, Piquet and Arpin filing in behind him on the tight circuit. However Arpin’s impressive weekend ended on a bad note as he was penalised for jumping the start and served his penalty, dropping him down the field. Behind this lead group, Subaru Rally Team USA driver Bucky Lasek, Bryan Herta Autosport‘s Austin Dyne and Tanner Foust contested their fight over the midfield positions, settling this during the Final.
Block won from Speed and Piquet, with Sebastian Eriksson taking fourth on his GRC Supercar debut ahead of Foust. Austin Dyne took sixth place whilst Arpin recovered to finish in seventh position. Victor Gonzalez took eighth on his debut ahead of Sverre Isachsen and Lasek.
Block was overjoyed with his hard earned victory: “Racing these two really talented tarmac drivers was really tough!” Block said after the race. “They really pushed me and our team all weekend, and it was a lot of fun. It came down to starts, and I got lucky—I got quick on the starts, was able to put some good times in, and came out with the win. It’s a great way to start the year!”
The Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship heads to Austin in Texas this weekend for their part in the X Games.