Ken Block, Hoonigan Racing and Ford Performance won’t return to the FIA World Rallycross Championship in 2018.
Ford Performance announced Wednesday that it will exit the series following the conclusion of the 2017 championship, according to Motorsport.com. The American automaker partnered with Hoonigan ahead of the 2016 season to launch its first factory-backed rallycross campaign — running M-Sport prepared Focus RS RX racers — to coincide with the release of the all-wheel-drive Focus RS.
The decision to walk away from WRX likely stems from Ford CEO Jim Hackett’s plan to refocus the company to prepare for success in the future. Dave Pericak, Ford Performance global director, claims the manufacturer doesn’t want to continue pumping money into the program given that rallycross is set to undergo big changes — WRX plans to introduce electric cars to the series by 2020, and Red Bull Global Rallycross is expected to do so in 2018.
“To continue in WRX would have required the development of a new race car, and with so much discussion happening around the future of rallycross from a powertrain package standpoint, it made sense for us to pause until it’s better defined,” Pericak said in a statement. “Rest assured, we remain absolutely committed to hot hatches and all things performance and think rallycross has a bright future.”
In an Instagram post Wednesday, Block revealed that his 2018 plans include Gymkhana Grid races, stage rallies and more of his Gymkhana-style videos. Although he doesn’t know what his teammate Andreas Bakkerud will end up doing next season, he acknowledged that “someone is going to be landing themselves a very, very talented driver next season!”
Well, today is a tough one for me. Ford Performance and myself have announced that we will not be continuing our World Rallycross Championship race program after the end of this current season. It's been a tough two years of developing the Focus RS RX rallycross car, and I've learned a ton from that process – as well as from my teammate Andreas Bakkerud. I'll still be racing in 2018, but I'll be going back to doing some stage rallies, Gymkhana GRID races, plus more rad video projects with Ford as usual. As for Andreas, I wish him nothing but the best of luck next season. He's been an exemplary teammate, and has ended up becoming a very good friend of mine as well. Someone is going to be landing themselves a very, very talented driver next season! I'd also like to say a BIG thank you to my entire Hoonigan Racing team for their relentless effort and dedication these last two years. We've had some great experiences, and I'm both proud and thankful for all of the hard work you've all put in to help this program.
During his time as a full-time WRX driver, Block — despite finishing P3 and P4 in his only previous races in the championship — has struggled, reaching the podium just one time, finishing 14th in 2016 and currently sitting ninth with one round remaining. Bakkerud, however, finished third in 2016, with three wins and six podiums, and heads into the final round of 2017 in fifth-place.