Ken Block returns to the World Rally Championship in Argentina this week. The South American event is the Monster driver's first outing since he crashed his Fiesta RS WRC heavily in testing in March.
Q. What have you been doing for the last eight weeks?
Ken Block: I had this time of the year blocked off because my wife was expecting our third child and having been around for the birth of the first two I wasn't going to miss the third, so I left that part of my schedule open. It was difficult, though, watching those rallies happen and being away from it. But it was a good time to step back and enjoy everything that was happening at home.
Q. And how is everything at home?
KB: Great. We had a boy, his name is Mika Tre Block. It's been good to be around there, but suddenly the time is coming to get ready for Argentina, so I started working on the training and watching coverage from previous events.
Q. Do you have the same Fiesta as the one you shunted in Portugal or is this a new car?
KB: I believe it's the Portugal car repaired. It was great to get back in the car. It takes a little time to get back into things after such a big crash, but I was so excited to be driving again. Last time I was in there I was upside down, so I was happy to see it the right way up again. This is a tough event, though.
Q. Have you driven the Fiesta since Portugal?
KB: No, not at all. I was supposed to use it at a promotional event in London, but because it was still being fixed I was back in the Focus. The first time I drove the Fiesta again was at shakedown here yesterday. It definitely helped me getting back in a car when I was in London, just sliding the car around was good for me. But it's been a while since I was in the Fiesta.
Q. What's your approach to this event?
KB: I'm driving a little more conservatively. But that's nothing to do with the crash. Like I said, this is a tough event and I'm driving to finish the event – I need to get to the end here. I'm driving cautiously to finish, not because I'm scared. Things like the Portugal crash don't affect me like that, I've gone through enough to know that I love what I'm doing and there aren't too many situations that would deter me from what I'm doing.
Q. This is your first time on this event, what makes it difficult for a rookie?
KB: There's a huge variety of terrain here. It's kind of like Portugal, with a lot of turns over the crests and things like that, but there are a lot more rocks and places to break the car here. Being here for the first time is tough. I've never been in this country before, so writing the notes has been quite difficult.
Q. What do you think of the asphalt sections of the route?
KB: I can see what the organizers are trying to do, trying to mix the route up a little bit. Some of them are quite tricky, especially the sections on the first day. By the time we get there, the tires will be destroyed, but equally, I think this shows the skills of the rally driver, that we can come down the mountain on the gravel road and then drive a two-lane road and go flat-out. The difference between the gravel section of the Condor stage, it's so twisty and then the asphalt is so quick.
Q. What's a good result for you here?
KB: I would like a good top-10 finish. But my biggest goal is to drive well. I need to get some miles, I've missed out on a lot of miles this season.
And I need to carry on from where I was in Mexico. When the car was doing well in Mexico, the stage times were closer than they have ever been to the other Fords. I was still 1.1 or 1.2sec per kilometer off Mikko [Hirvonen] and Jari-Matti [Latvala], but Mexico was the first event I had been back to, which felt good. Right before that crash [in Portugal], I felt I was moving somewhere and getting better.
Q. This event is usually pretty busy with spectators, have you seen many?
KB: Are you kidding? It's insane! I've never seen so many spectators on the recce or at a shakedown for an event. The fans here are so enthusiastic, they're just screaming at me, but they're all really polite. There are some places where they are enthusiastic and rude, but here they're just great. I'd heard the stories of 1.5 million spectators out watching this event, but it was a surprise to see them before the rally had even started.
And there seems to be a particular appreciation for what I do. We were about to start one stage on the recce in the middle of nowhere and there was a guy standing by the side of the car and he started waving at me, then he acted like he's a car and started doing some donuts around his friend. I laughed, waved and said thanks. Here the compliments are really heartfelt. It's just cool.