Friday Video | Even closer to the edge – Ken Block’s Climbkhana

What’s the best way to tackle the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb? With a 1,400hp twin-turbocharged Ford Mustang, obviously.  
KB Climbkhana (C) Hoonigan Racing

ESM doesn’t quite know what to make of Ken Block. Here’s clearly an immensely talented driver, and proficient businessman, yet success in top-level motorsport has eluded him.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. He’s built up an empire from DC Shoes, and created a number of toys to play with, like the latest Hoonicorn V2 Mustang.

In his latest video in the Gymkhana series, Block reenacts the epic Climb Dance short film created in 1988. In it, legendary WRC driver Ari Vatanen set a new record at Pikes Peak, when the course was still predominantly loose dirt and gravel.

Kenny B had the benefit of Pikes Peak being paved all the way to the top, but that doesn’t stop it still being an epic drive. Climbing some 4,720ft along a track measuring over 12 miles, Pikes Peak requires skill and concentration to master. Oh, and bravery, for when you get a little too close to the edge:

Is it more dramatic than the record-setting run by Sébastien Loeb in 2013? Undoubtedly. Is it as achingly cool as Ari Vatanen’s 1988 effort? Hmmm, we’ll let you be the judge of that…

Image: (C) Hoonigan Racing

Opinion – Should we get that excited about the 2017 WRC Polo?

With changes afoot for the 2017 World Rally Championship, why is EngageSportMode’s editor failing to get excited about the prospect of a 380hp Polo?

2017 Volkswagen Polo R WRC Concept

Here’s the deal. I’ve owned five different Volkswagen Polos in 14 years, including an R-Line and two different GTI versions. As such, it’s fair to say I’m something of a fan of VW’s supermini offering. I’ve also been into rallying since I was – to engage James May mode – a small boy, and have been mightily impressed with Volkswagen Motorsport’s complete domination of the WRC for the past three years. So why on earth am I not excited and entranced by the 2017 Polo WRC Concept show above?

The press release details should be whetting my appetite, even if the artwork rendering isn’t. The promise of more power – up to 380hp – in a lighter, wider, more extravagant body should be welcome news to any petrolhead. They’ll even be allowed to use an electronic centre differential to control the transmission of power, and the overall aim is to make the cars far more spectacular than before. With huge spoilers, flared arches and a ginormous rear wing the promise is certainly there. But what does that mean for us mere mortals who have to drive normal roads cars, and don’t get to play with WRC machinery? Probably very little. (more…)

Friday Photo – Colin McRae 20 years ago

Right now the cars competing in the 2015 Wales Rally GB are probably somewhere around Special Stage 3. But on this Friday Photo we’re looking back to the final round of the World Rally Championship two decades ago.

World © LAT Photographic

Back in 1995 rallying was teetering on the edges of still being an endurance motorsport, with the Network Q RAC Rally covering some 317 competitive stage miles that year. It followed a route that ran from Chester, to Leeds, up into the Scottish Borders and then back down to Wales; a total distance of almost 1,500 miles across four days. Compare that to the 192 stage miles that the Wales Rally GB will cover this year.


More importantly, the 1995 RAC Rally saw Colin McRae battle teammate Carlos Sainz to take victory and with it claim the World Rally Championship. It was the only time McRae would ever win the title, although he would finish runner-up on three other occasions. But it wasn’t just winning the Championship, but doing it in the UK, in a straight fight with twice World Champion Sainz that made it even more special. Throughout his career McRae was susceptible to throwing away victories from pushing too hard but, somehow, he managed not to that year.


Hyundai’s New Generation i20 WRC Car – Now due 2016

Although Hyundai has only been in the World Rally Championship with the i20 since last year, there’s already a new version on the way. It just might be a little later than planned.

2016 Hyundai i20 WRC 001It did seem somewhat strange that Hyundai would introduce a rally version of a car already nearing the end of its production lifespan. However, it’s safe to bet that Hyundai Motorsport intended to use the old i20 as a development car for the new version. Such development is taking a little longer than expected though – the team had wanted to debut the new car this year, but Monte Carlo 2016 now seems the likely date.

2016 Hyundai i20 WRC 002

Recent testing undertaken in Spain. Yes, it does snow in Spain.

But we do have initial pictures of the new i20 WRC car and, interestingly, they’ve gone for the five-door version. Although not quite as sexy as the three-door ‘coupé’ version, we imagine the five-door must have higher torsional rigidity. Or rally drivers just prefer the extra practicality for their shopping. Who knows.


Friday Photo – Toyota Yaris WRC

Yes, we know last week’s Friday Photo was a WRC car too, but this is an exciting new one. So here you are; Toyota’s return to the World Rally Championship with the Yaris supermini. Toyota Yaris WRC 001Don’t get too excited just yet; it’ll be another two years until the Yaris WRC officially hits the dirt in the 2017 World Rally Championship. For now, the excitement is purely the official announcement that one of the sports most successful manufacturers is making a comeback, having been absent since 1999. In fact, just to remind us all of how long it’s been, Toyota even included a photo of the new Yaris WRC car next to its forefather; the championship winning Corolla WRC:

Toyota Yaris WRC 002

Perhaps most striking is how big a modern supermini is, compared to a family hatch from 16 years ago.

The specifications are, of course, WRC standard with a 300 bhp 1.6 litre turbocharged engine powering all four wheels, via a sequential gearbox. Built in Germany by Toyota Motorsport Gmbh – who currently prepare the TS040 Hybrid sportscar racers – the Cologne workshops are also the place which services the Lexus LFA supercar too. As such, there’s no doubt that Toyota’s preparation for 2017 will be anything but meticulous. A number of European rally rounds will be entered in the coming two years, with Eric Camilli and Sebastien Lindholm being joined by Stéphane Sarrazin on driving duties.


Friday Photo – 2015 Volkswagen Polo R WRC in action

By the time you read this, the 2015 Rallye Monte Carlo will already be under way, with the cars somewhere in Special Stage 5 right now. After two years of dominance, Volkswagen decided to refresh the conquering Polo R WRC with a new colour scheme. Here are the photos of it in action on shakedown for the Monte earlier this week:

2015 VW Polo R WRC 001

After two years of white, blue and silver, the change to a darker colour palette makes the Polo R WRC look even more aggressive than it already was. The Red Bull sponsorship is also a lot more obvious than before, and there’s no mistaking what Volkswagen model it is with the huge ‘Polo’ emblem in the front air intake! It’s also noticeable that Volkswagen Motorsport has dropped the prominent ‘R’ branding from the car. Perhaps they’ve become sick of people, like ESM, asking why there’s no true AWD Polo R street version being made!

Either way, it’s still a very good-looking WRC car. Can Volkswagen make it three successful years in a row? We’ll just have to see!

Friday Photo – Volkswagen Polo R WRC at 2014 Wales Rally GB

This weekend marks the final round of the 2014 World Rally Championship; one which Volkswagen has pretty much dominated proceedings throughout. What better way to celebrate than with photos of mud splattered Polo R WRCs from yesterday’s shakedown. 

Volkswagen Motorsport have dominated the year heavily; they had the Manufacturers’ championship wrapped up by Rally Australia with three rounds remaining. Prior to this weekend, the Wolfsburg make had more than twice the points of the Citroën team in second place.

It’s also been a similar story in the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championship, with Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia claiming those respective titles after the last round; Rally Catalunya. Their closest rivals were, naturally, their Volkswagen Motorsport team mates.

Rally Great Britain (Wales) 2014

Say what you want about the state of modern WRC, but you still cannot deny the sheer efficiency with which Volkswagen has controlled the series for the past two years. As this post goes live, the cars will be somewhere out on the Hafren Sweet Lamb stage. Ominously, the three Polos topped the time sheets in Thursday’s shakedown, so we expect them to be near the front today. It also means we’ll be awaiting more Polo R WRCs covered in mud, like those in these pictures from Volkswagen Motorsport.

Editorial – Let’s not pretend motosport isn’t dangerous

It’s been difficult to escape the news about the deaths on the Jim Clark Rally this past weekend. But the reactions of some leave a lot to be desired.

Neil Simpson - 2014 Jim Clark Rally - via headlineauto.co.uk

It’s rare that national level rallying makes headlines with the mainstream media. For it to get a mention on local news is often an achievement in itself. More often the only time motorsport gets any coverage is when something goes wrong, like it did this weekend. The deaths of three spectators is an awful tragedy, and the media reaction has predictably been huge and overbearing.

However, what got to me more was a comment on Twitter, which went along the lines that people should think carefully about making tweets of condolence in relation to the Jim Clark Rally, as it brought negative attention to motorsport. The sentiment seemed that we should essentially gloss over and ignore what had happened, with the idea that if we’re lucky everyone will ignore it and move on quickly. Such a view is at best incredibly naive, and at worst callous and insensitive.

Anyone attending a motorsport event, be it rallying, touring cars, motorbikes, whatever, will usually be met with a sign stating “MOTORSPORT IS DANGEROUS” somewhere. It’s an inescapable reality, and one that cannot be ignored. The simple fact is that motorsport always has been dangerous and, despite the best efforts of organisers, always will be slightly dangerous. As a concept it is inherently risky; moving objects travelling at speed, in close proximity to inanimate objects, is obviously always going to involve some degree of danger. That, in part, is what makes it exciting and what makes people want to go and watch it.

We cannot, as motorsport fans and enthusiasts, simply bury our head in the sands and hope the wider public don’t notice. This incident has been all over the front of the BBC News website since it first happened; a few heartfelt tweets from concerned people is hardly going to bring more attention than there already is. (more…)

Volkswagen takes 2013 WRC Drivers’ Championship

He might have only needed one point, but Volkswagen Motorsport’s Sebastien Ogier wasted no time in wrapping up the WRC Driver’s title on his home turf. 

VW WRC Ogier Title 001

With a third place on Rally France’s ‘Power Stage’ on the opening night of the event, Ogier cemented his grasp on his first World Rally Championship by making impossible for his nearest rival to mathematically beat him. With co-driver Julien Ingrassia alongside him, Ogier did just enough to end Sebastien Loeb’s grip on the trophy which has lasted for the past nine seasons.

Rally France 2013


Volkswagen WRC – One point, one day from winning drivers’ title?

By this time tomorrow we could see the World Rally Championship mathematically won by Volkswagen Motorsport’s Sebastien Ogier on home soil tarmac at Rally France.

VW Polo R WRC 001

Unlike most rounds of the World Rally Championship, Rally France will open with the ‘Power Stage’ which gives drivers the chance to win additional championship points. With Ogier needing just one point to claim the Drivers’ title, third place in tomorrow’s Power Stage would be all he needs to make his championship lead unbeatable.

Victory on the 4.55 km Strasbourg special stage would also give Ogier the green light to go into battle against that other rallying Sebastien, nine-time title winner Loeb, competing in what is expected to be his last WRC event. Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito has told the media that “we no longer need Séb to play it safe to earn more points” due VW’s convincing 48-point lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship. Ogier is certainly fired up for a weekend fighting Loeb in the Alsace, saying that his perfect weekend would be to “win the championship title and then come out on top in the duel with Loeb.”

So, in 24 hours time, we could see a new World Rally Champion continuing the theme of the Drivers’ title being won by a Frenchman named Seb. Just this time he’ll be behind the wheel of a Volkswagen Polo R WRC. EngageSportMode will be watching with bated breath to see if the 6R Polo can confirm its WRC credentials, so check back soon for news on whether Ogier succeeded in wrapping up the 2013 title.