Ken Block must feel terrible. He flew into Heathrow from the US last night and then drove to the hotel inside Milton Keynes Stadium for a kip, only to discover that there was a football match on.
Early this morning, he’s already in the Silverstone paddock, hoodie up, cap and sunglasses on and can of energy drink in hand.“I think it’s about three in the morning,” he says.
This wouldn’t be a good time to talk to most racing drivers, but Ken Block isn’t most racing drivers. His hood and sunglasses frame a face that beams a broad smile, a silver tooth shining. Even if you’re as tired as hell, if you’re Ken Block, showing us how best to muck about in a drift car producing well over 800bhp is not going to make for a bad day.
Where it differs is that it’s set up softly so that Block can transfer the weight around more easily on asphalt to alter the car’s handling balance. It’s also longer, which makes the “all-wheel-drive drifts or powerslides” that Block specialises in more benign and spectacular.
Block is keen to emphasise the ‘all-wheel drive’ part of this, because the drifting scene has kind of taken custody of the word ‘drift’ to mean something preserved for rear-wheel-drive cars. That’s not what Block does, although, good lad that he is, he does have a Mk2 Ford Escort, which he “keeps breaking because it was built for asphalt”, so he would quite like another one that he could better use on dirt.
Block pops out for a sighting lap of Silverstone’s national circuit, which begins on the old start-finish straight and runs through the fast right-hander at Copse before heading down to the Maggots/Becketts complex, where it turns sharp right off the GP circuit, cutting back straight up to the slow Brooklands/Luffield section, from where the lap begins again.
The best section for pulling massive slides will be the left at Brooklands and into the more than 180deg Luffield right-hander. This means I’ll get to see Block initiate a slide through one corner, transition to a right-hander and then see how he gathers it up on the exit. Which, when all is said and done, are the main things to know. So I strap in next to him.
Because the Hoonicorn weighs, I’m guessing, about 1500kg, I’m expecting it to be fast. What I’m not expecting is the noise, which is stupid of me, because it’s a 6.7-litre V8 on throttle bodies, makes 845bhp, is barely silenced and revs to 8300rpm. Of course it’s loud, to the extent that, even through a helmet, the air pressure makes your ears hurt.