Something really amazing happened this past weekend in the world of auto racing. It's the automotive equivalent of an American walking on the moon. Did we hear about it? Not really.
But Ken Block scored points in the World Rally Championship. And before you start hating on me for being a Ken Block fanboy, which I guess I am, think about this for a minute.
More Americans have walked on the Moon than have scored points in the World Rally Championship.
It's easier to talk NASA into letting you launch into space, land an orbiter on the moon, and return to Earth, than it would be to do what Ken Block did this past weekend at WRC New Zealand with his rally car. I think we lose sight of this sometimes given the number of companies attached to his name and shouting their message at the same time. But the one thing that shouldn't be overlooked is how rare this all is.
Ken Block is racing in the WRC with the U.S. flag proudly displayed on his roof vent. And he is scoring points.
World Rally Championship points! I think this is cool. And my friends are quick to point out there isn't a lot we can be proud of on a world stage these days. While that's a topic for another day, they have a point. Americans, as a whole, kind of suck at racing. We just do. When was the last F1 champion? Mario Andretti in 1978? And before that, I think it goes back over 50 years to Phil Hill. How is it possible that in half a decade of post world war II Grand Prix racing, we have only two world titles? We have won over 2,500 Gold Medals at the Olympics but not one World Rally Championship title.
The real question is why are we so bad at international motorsports? It is true that if you want to race in circles, we are the country to beat, but when was the last time other countries felt pressure from a truly American team on a grand scale? The Ford GT program of the late 1960s?
This makes me appreciate Ken Block even more for trying. For knowing he wont get the same amount of practice time as the factory Ford drivers but going after it anyway. For wanting it more than the people telling him it's not possible. Sure he's playing with a few extra zeros, but his motorsport dream isn't that far from your's or mine. I don't know how long Ken will keep representing the U.S. in rally, but I know this is his first year running WRC Finland, which is supposed to be amazing. I want to go see it in person. I want to see Ken tear up Ouninpohja. Arguably the most famous stage in rallying.
Many of the top drivers own property or houses along the stage they love it so much. Ken hits his jumps flat out which is wild to see in person.
The other reason I'm going is to see Chris Duplessis. One of the fastest American rally drivers we've seen in years. He's won numerous U.S. 2WD rally championships and has worked at Team Oneil Rally School since I think before he could drive. Chris earned the opportunity of a lifetime when a competing rally school, Dirtfish, sponsored him for the WRC Academy, a development program for future rally drivers.
But you have to be under the age of 25, which I believe means this will be Chris's only chance to make a name for himself on the world stage. He might be our country's best chance at producing a future world rally champion.
My point is that it's ok to cheer for someone that's not on the podium every weekend. Even if they are in a top car, on a well-funded team. Sometimes the odds are stacked so highly against you that simply being there and competing is an amazing accomplishment in itself.
And scoring points along the way? I bet it feels like walking on the Moon.
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