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/Drive: The Escort Goes to Rally

MK1 Ford Escort Rally Car

MK1 Ford Escort Rally Car

With all this talk of old school and retro cars, including my previous post on Ken Block hooning a MK2 Ford Escort, I couldn’t help but notice an upcoming feature on /Drive. My favourite Youtube channel announced a two-part episode where the MK1 Ford Escort’s Aussie owner, Sandy takes his beloved car back into rallying. If you love rallying this should be an interesting feature as they’ll show exactly how they set up the car for rally and how they ran.

Check out their preview below.

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DC Shoes Presents Ken Block Ragging A MK2 Ford Escort

Ken Block - 1978 MK2 Ford Escort

Ken Block – 1978 MK2 Ford Escort

Gargling Gas loves Ken Block’s hooning abilities, especially his Hoonicorn ’65 Mustang. Yesterday’s post involved a nostalgic reflection on the tin boxes my Grandfather drove me around in, one being an Austin Metro, the other a MK2 Ford Escort. I recalled a video of Ken Block hooning a MK2, which led to a rather silly mind’s eye image of my Grandfather ragging his sandy coloured MK2 like Block style.

30 years on, the legendary MK1 and MK2 Escorts’ prices are soaring, and the simplistic and lightweight, RWD car is still the preferred choice of chassis to learn the art of rally in.

Check out Block and the 1978 MK2 Ford Escort rally car – I can’t remember where I read it, but I’m sure Block does this from time to time, man and machine stripped of computer aids, a pure way of honing reflexes and skills.

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Mini Monster Metro

Austin Metro

Austin Metro

The car pictured above is everything Gargling Gas isn’t – pathetic, weak and helplessly slow. However, this post came to be (or will come to be) out of a combination of nostalgia hailing back to when I was around four-years-old, and one of my favourite rally cars.

Aside from the colour, the cute little gold car above is identical to the one my Grandfather owned, the fifth Metro to leave the production line and the first painted bronze. He owned a MK 2 Ford Escort before it, and even though I was still learning to tie my shoelaces at the time, I understood this Metro car wasn’t as cool.

However, it was – much to my delight – the first car I managed to sit in the front of whilst moving, a memory I still cherish. I think it was around the time seatbelt laws were introduced as my parents never let me sit up front, but my Grandfather, well he was easy to manipulate. I begged and begged and eventually I broke the old man, and before he’d even walked around to open his door, I was all strapped in. I marvelled at the open space and the fact I was so close to the controls.

“Don’t tell your mum and dad,” he said.

“I won’t,” I replied.

And I didn’t.

Austin Metro

Austin Metro

So what about the rally car? How could this little tin box ever hope to race, let alone compete with the likes of Audi, Lancia and Peugeot on the world stage of Group B?

1985 MG Metro 6R4

1985 MG Metro 6R4

The monster above is the mighty 1985 6R4, a compact weapon of mass destruction. Whilst the family runaround possessed around 60-bhp depending on engine choice, the 6R4’s 3.0-L V6 delivers over 400-bhp.

The 6R4 started off well, only Lancia bettering them, but after mechanical gremlins throughout 1986 and the fact Group B rally was banned due to a series of accidents and spectator deaths, the lunatic Metro ended up competing in rally cross at the hands of privateers.

MG Metro 6R4

MG Metro 6R4

Another interesting fact about the little boxy car is its link to Jaguar – the 3.0-L V6 found in the 6R4 was given two turbochargers and put into the XJ220 supercar.

I think the fact my Grandfather owned and ferried me around in a Metro is the reason I love the 6R4. They took a popular British runaround loved by the blue-rinse brigade and turned it into something capable of messing the overalls of a seasoned racer.

Just listen to how furiously angry this little Metro is once it’s in full race mode…

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WRX STI Smashes TT Course (on four wheels)

If you follow Gargling Gas you’ll know I’m a big fan of the Subaru WRX – I’ve owned two and currently drive a slightly modded Prodrive WRX. They are fast, relatively cheap to maintain and reliable given their performance and great handling – after all, their technology (yes, all WRX owners will tell you this, on more than one occasion) has been tried, tested and developed in the WRC.

Anyway, enough of me going on and mentioning the great Colin Mcrae and Robert Burns as there’s another name making the headlines in the auto world.

Three-time British Rally champion, Mark Higgins set a new lap record of the Isle of Man TT course in a stock US spec 2015 WRX STI (pic above), albeit it with additional roll-cage, race harness, fire suppression system and modified springs and dampers. Renowned worldwide as the superbike road course where mistakes aren’t forgiven and deaths are common, Higgins previously set the lap record in 2011 driving a (you’ve guessed it) Subaru.

I say mistakes aren’t forgiven, but Higgins must have had the gods looking over him in 2011 when he made a spectacular 150-mph save. Check out the footage below and watch just how much he jostles with the steering wheel to keep the rocket from slamming into the walls. In an interview after, the Manx driver claimed the only way out of that situation was to simply floor it and power his way out of the drift.

 

The guy has real skillz, agreed?

This time round Higgins completed the 37.75-mile (60.7km) death run in 19:26, just over half a minute quicker than 2011. The impressive package from Subaru averaged a staggering 117.510-mph, staggering because the course isn’t exactly racetrack smooth.

As soon as any video footage is released, you’ll find it on here.

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What Exactly Is Gymkhana?

For those of you familiar with the concept ‘gymkhana’, the names Ken Block and Tanner Foust will automatically spring to mind, their glamorous smoke-fest performances used to promote big brand energy drinks during the X Games.

However, the original gymkhana has been taking place for years in the Eastern parts of the globe, particularly in Japan – other countries like South Africa and Europe also had their derivations, although it wasn’t called ‘gymkhana’ outside of Japan.

Gymkhana’s roots lie within the Japanese sub-genre drifting (balancing a car between over steer and correction so it travels sideways), only it’s more technical and complex. The sport originated in parking lots in 70s, something that could be done with an unmodded car, making use of the minimal environment.

Somewhat different to Ken Block’s exploits, the original gymkhana course could be considered a scaled down track littered with cones, tires and barrels (obstacles) that need to be negotiated using a series of manoeuvres. Put simply, a gymkhana event eventually evolved into a time/speed event with a start/finish line, everything in between an obstacle course for cars.

To negotiate the obstacles, manoeuvres such as 180s, 360s, figure of eight turns and slaloms need to be perfectly executed to complete the course in the fastest time. Drivers need an immense amount of car control, using techniques such as left-foot braking, hand braking, drifting and sliding. Not only do drivers need to execute the perfect moves, they also need the ability to concentrate and memorize the course.

We now see a much more evolved version of the concept thanks to other countries such as America and Australia catching on and their motorsport drivers bringing it back home with them.

112_0906_20z+ken_block_rally_subaru_impreza_WRX_STI+side

WRC driver Ken Block started making videos and posting them on YouTube. He tagged his concept ‘Gymkhana 1’, and thanks to its incredible success, it spawned many more, and attracted a lot of worldwide attention.

So what’s different with Ken Block’s concept of gymkhana than that of its origins?

Well first up, Block uses a rally car with twice the horsepower and a much longer course. His first video was created with a budget, although he was supplied with a rally-prepped Subaru Impreza STI and a video crew. By the forth and fifth videos, he had a Hollywood budget and drove his WRC Ford Focus rally car boosted to 600-bhp.

5_Rigged_1814_reference

Why the massive HP when the original gymkhana originated in parking lots with stock cars?

It all boils down to the entertainment factor. Extreme horsepower means manoeuvres can be performed with more flare and tire smoke. To spin tires on tarmac and get a car into such a state of unbalance as to perform these evolved manoeuvres takes serious power – to maintain momentum and link a series of manoeuvres together seamlessly also takes power.

2011-Ford-Fiesta-Ken-Block-Gymkhana-4

The old school fanatics might not like this Block chap taking the name away, but the way I see it, it’s created a fantastic genre of gymkhana, bringing it to the attention of the media and shedding light onto what was an almost underground form of motorsport.

Thanks to the likes of the X Games and the big sponsors, we now get to see 600-bhp rally-prepped cars and world famous drivers providing some amazing entertainment. Before, we could only watch rally cars tear through a forest or kick up dust along rally stages; now we get to watch pro drivers perform on what is nothing more than a giant parking lot. Check out Gymkhana 5 below…