One of the exciting prospects we had heading into this year’s World Rally Championship was the two media circus drivers who would compete. Both Kimi Raikkonen and Ken Block had mega hype surrounding them as they announced their plans to compete at rally’s top flight, but the true question up to this point is who is the biggest of the media juggernauts?
Kimi Raikkonen came over to the Citroen Junior Squad after a successful stint in Formula 1. The Finn would capture the 2007 championship during the first year of his Ferrari contract. However, after that title, the champion who was widely regarded as one of the fastest in the sport would fall on very hard times. Some (including myself) think that the troubles experienced by Kimi were self induced. His work ethic was terrible and he was just flat out lazy. This teamed with his unwillingness to speak with the media or really work with the engineers saw his stock drop like Wall Street. In the off seasons Kimi began to tinker with rally. He would enter a number of amateur events and express his desire to compete in the WRC at some point in his career. That point came a lot sooner than what many had figured when Ferrari ended the contract a year early after signing Fernando Alonso to partner Felipe Massa at the Italian marquee. After failing to secure a ride with another championship caliber team, Kimi made the announcement that he would be on sabbatical for the 2010 season. It was then indicated in the press that Kimi had come to terms with Citroen on a seat that would have him compete for the Citroen Junior squad. The media instantly grabbed onto the prospect and the media madness that was Kimi WRC was born. Unfortunately for Mr. Raikkonen, times have been very tough in the early stages of his WRC career as he would crash out of not only a local event in the Citroen, but also the first two rounds of the championship. After a short break however, it would appear that the Finn is starting to pull himself together and is running rather quick times.
Ken Block has participated in a number of extreme sports throughout his life but has always had a passion for rally cars. He began his career in 2005 and has been going strong every since. Ken would utilize the Subaru WRX STi for nearly his whole career until just recently when he switched to Ford. None of this success may have been possible had it not been for the Gymkhana videos that have been released. These videos made Ken a petrol head icon, that teamed with his action sports clothing company DC and the relationship with Monster have forged this new Monster World Rally Team. This team not only contests the WRC but also the Rally America championship where it all began for Ken. His driving style matches attitude: Flat out all the way! Working with Colin McRae years ago also helped the American refine his trade.
So here we are…two major media giants that have made there names and faces known in rally’s top flight. So who is the biggest media circus? That honor I have to say goes to Ken Block. There is a key point between the two that stands above the rest of these fine gentleman’s accomplishments. Ken and the Monster World Rally team have American arrogance that naturally attracts the media and fans alike to the team. Kimi has been the crazy guy in the F1 and rally paddock but is more of the status quo when it comes to rally. A conventional Citroen C4 with a livery that is nothing eye popping. Ken on the other hand has a status quo car with a livery that launches off the car at the fan. The team’s party attitude clashes with a number ideals in the WRC and leaves the fan and media guessing as to what the team will do next. While Kimi has the party attitude down, his team is very much about business and furthering their rally program. While the Ford team also wants to further their progress, they are not willing to sacrifice fun and excitement to do it. The world media has turned their focus to Ken and away from Kimi as the American becomes the first to challenge for the WRC championship. The brash American arrogance is a breath of fresh air into a sport that is on life support already. One thing that remains constant is the fun that will be had by all as these two battle it out on stage.