Newry, Maine - As the owner of a rare classic vehicle, I have enormous respect for the enthusiasts who take their irreplaceable classic race cars out and drive them the way they were intended to be driven.
And that definitely includes Ken Block, whose collection of Ford rally cars includes an ultra-rare 1986 RS200 Evolution and a 1991 Escort RS Cosworth. Or it did, until the New England Forest Rally in Maine at the weekend, when the Cosworth crashed and burned. Literally.
Footage from Block’s helmet cam shows the car oversteering into a tight lefthander, hitting a rock that just happens to be exactly on the apex of the corner, and flipping twice before landing on its wheels with flames already visible from under the bonnet.
What follows is a chorus of bleeps as Block and navigator Alex Gelsomino scramble to get out of the car before the flames reach the cabin, and the car burns out completely.
Block later explained exactly what happened in an Instagram post:
“We were running in 3rd overall in the New England Forest Rally (with a gear box problem), pressing on to finish Stage 4 when I turned into a tighter left corner and downshifted.
“The box didn’t shift when I wanted it to (because mechanical issue), and when it finally did, it threw me into the inside of a corner and into a big rock. That rock sent us rolling over twice. We landed on our wheels, and I was ready to get going again because we were shiny side up.”
“Buuuut as you can see, a fire started REALLY quick. Alex and I got out safely, but the car thoroughly burned right there on the stage.”
While I regret the loss of the iconic rally car - a real favourite of Block’s - I’m very glad he and Gelsomino got out safely. As Block’s Hoonigan team commented when posting the video on YouTube: “A reminder to everyone who races, that when it goes wrong, it goes wrong very fast.”
I’ll certainly be bearing that in mind the next time I’m out on my own 40-year-old classic.