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A tribute to Ken Block

1 year ago

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Dan Prosser | Ti co-founder


3 January 2023

One way to get the true measure of a man is to pay attention to who says something at the end. Nobody would claim Ken Block dined at motorsport’s top table – he entered 24 rounds of the World Rally Championship and recorded a best result of seventh – but so far this morning I have seen tributes to him from Jenson Button, Petter Solberg and Sébastien Loeb, drivers who took their seat at that table long ago. 

Block earned their respect with his easy-going character and ready smile, but mostly with his driving. Because while he wasn’t the fastest of them all down a special stage, he did things in cars that few ever thought possible. He shut down the streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles to leap and powerslide between houses and office blocks. He was the ultimate precision driver, jumping, drifting and spinning his custom-built machines over or around travelling obstacles, against the water’s edge and even in front of a moving train. 

A tribute to Ken Block

His Gymkhana video series became a global phenomenon. There aren’t many artefacts from the world of cars that transcend the core audience to find a much bigger one: the F1 documentary Drive to Survive is one; Clarkson, Hammond and May era Top Gear is another. There are a number of films that have done something similar. For me, Ken Block’s Gymkhana videos belong right up there with them. 

Aside from his showmanship, Block was a formidable competitor. He finished runner-up in the Rally America series several times. He won rounds of the Global Rallycross Championship and scored podiums in the FIA World Rallycross Championship. He drove a 1400bhp, four-wheel drive Ford Mustang through LA like it was a child’s plaything. Not bad for somebody who didn’t drive competitively until after his 35th birthday. 

A tribute to Ken Block

What I liked about him most was his very obvious passion for rallying. He often spoke of his admiration for Colin McRae, Sébastien Ogier and others, the handful of guys who did it best. He loved the discipline, never pretended to be better than he was and seemed profoundly grateful to get to call himself a rally driver at all. 

He leaves behind a wife, three children and millions of fans who wouldn’t have taken an interest in cars or motorsport were it not for him.