June 15, 2015 by RALLY AMERICA

• Ken Block returns to Rally America alongside Ramana Lagemann and Brendan Reeves

WILLISTON, Vt. (June 12, 2015)
– Head Hoonigan Ken Block, in partnership with M-Sport and Team O'Neil, is bringing a full squad of Ford rally cars to compete at the New England Forest Rally next month, including a brand new M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5.

Ramana Lagemann will pilot the new M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 in its worldwide debut at the 25th anniversary running of NEFR. He will be co-driven by Canadian Nathalie Richard.

'I'm excited about partnering with M-Sport at NEFR this year,' said Block, who returns to the Rally America National Championship next month with co-driver Alex Gelsomino in the Ford Fiesta HFHV. 'I absolutely love my Ford Fiesta HFHV that we've built, but the idea of a car like the R5 that's potentially just as quick, isn't made up of one-off parts and features a lower operating cost is definitely an appealing prospect! I'm looking forward to putting it through the paces at our test prior to the event.'

The Australian duo of Brendan Reeves and Anthony McLoughlin will also join the team, campaigning an M-Sport Ford Fiesta R2 with a 1000cc three-cylinder EcoBoost turbocharged engine. Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy competitor Max Vatanen took a class win with the car in its debut at the World Rally Championship round in Portugal last month.

'This is a great chance for us to work with Ken and the Hoonigan Team and introduce these new cars to the Rally America audience,' M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson said in a news release on Friday. 'Both Ramana and Brendan know the rally well and hopefully we can offer support to Ken to get the Ford oval back at the top step of the podium.'

The R5 boasts a 2000cc engine using the latest generation of Ford's EcoBoost technology and was developed in-house by M-Sport for rally championships, including Rally America, where FIA homologation is not required.

'I consider NEFR to be my home event, and I have many fond memories of it,' said Lagemann, a New England local from Boston. The event was Lagemann's first-ever rally in 1999 and the site of his first national win in 2006; he qualified for the first X Games rally that year in a Ford Escort Cosworth.

'I have followed the Fiesta R5 since its inception, and I have been impressed with how successful the platform has proven to be,' said Lagemann. 'Now, with this 2000cc version, M-Sport has developed a car that is well suited to North American stages. I had the opportunity to test it recently, and aside from the awesome chassis capability and balance inherent in all R5 Fiestas, I was amazed by the engine's responsiveness and torque.'

A former factory Subaru driver, Lagemann is no longer a regular figure on the Rally America series. But he is a podium contender whenever he appears. He popped up last month at the Olympus Rally, where he topped the 2WD podium in a BMW M3, with co-driver Chrissie Beavis.

'It's been a few years since I competed in a proper AWD rally car, and I'm well aware of the time it will take to get fully up to speed,' Lagemann said. 'My goal is to take everything step by step in a measured approach, and produce a solid result for the team. I am extremely excited for this event, and thankful to everyone at M-Sport for the opportunity to help launch this incredible new car!'

Reeves was similarly effusive about the new Fiesta R2, saying: 'I can't wait to see what we can do with the new engine platform.'

Like Lagemann, Reeves is a familiar figure in the premier U.S. rally championship. Along with his co-driver sister Rhianon Gelsomino, he won the 2013 Rally America 2WD title with five wins in five starts. 'NEFR is an amazing event and Anthony and I are privileged to be a part of the M-Sport team,' he said.

Also slated to compete at NEFR is Lucy Block – Ken's wife – who will run a Ford Fiesta R2 1600cc.

The New England Forest Rally is the sixth round in the 2015 Rally America National Championship. Subaru Rally Team USA duo of David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew have taken five wins in five starts. With three rounds remaining in the championship, Block's entry poses a threat to the Subaru team's pursuit of the first perfect season in the U.S. since John Buffum's undefeated year in 1987. The 25th anniversary running of NEFR takes place July 17 and 18 and is headquartered in Newry, Maine. It is expected to feature 120 challenging stage miles over two days of competition, including a return to the smooth and twisty stages first used in 2014, as well as to the classic Sturtevant Pond/Fish Pond Stages.

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Photo credit: RALLY AMERICA
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