Kenneth Paul Block: The Rally Racing Legend
Kenneth Paul Block, born on November 21, 1967, was an accomplished American professional rally driver renowned for his thrilling performances. His career was filled with remarkable achievements and contributions to the world of motorsports. Tragically, he met his untimely end in a snowmobile accident in January 2023, but his legacy continues to inspire racing enthusiasts around the globe.
Early Life and Introduction to Racing
Kenneth Paul Block, commonly known as Ken Block, had a passion for speed from an early age. He made a name for himself as a versatile athlete, participating in various action sports, including skateboarding, snowboarding, and motocross. However, it was in the world of rallying that he truly shined.
Ken Block’s rally journey began in 2005, when he joined forces with the Vermont Sports Car team. They prepared a 2005 Subaru WRX STi for Block, marking the start of his national rallying career. In his debut event at Sno*Drift, Block showcased his potential by finishing seventh overall and fifth in the Group N class.
Throughout the 2005 season, Block’s talent shone brightly as he achieved five top-five finishes and secured third place overall in the Group A class and fourth place overall in the Rally America National Championship. His impressive debut season earned him the title of Rally America Rookie of the Year.
The following year, in 2006, Block and his teammate Travis Pastrana signed a sponsorship deal with Subaru, becoming the renowned “Subaru Rally Team USA.” Block continued to impress, competing in the inaugural X Games rally event at X Games XII and securing a bronze medal. He also finished second overall in the 2006 Rally America National Championship.
In 2007, Block participated in X Games XIII, earning a silver medal, and continued his performance in the Rally America National Championship, where he finished third overall. Additionally, he ventured into the international scene, competing in the World Rally Championship events, including Rally Mexico and Rally New Zealand.
By the end of 2007, Ken Block had amassed an impressive record of 19 podiums and 8 overall victories in rally events.
2008 saw Block receiving a brand-new 2008 Subaru WRX STi, which he used to compete in the Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs of the Canadian Rally Championship, securing his first Canadian rally win. He later participated in the Rally New York USA competition, finishing in first place. Block also took part in X Games XIV, tying for third place due to issues with his car.
Continuing his rally career, Block competed in the 2008 Rally America National Championship, finishing second overall with a spectacular victory in the final event. His performance in the Lake Superior Performance Rally (LSPR) stage was particularly outstanding, securing the second overall position.
2009 marked Block’s appearance in a segment of the popular motoring show Top Gear, further cementing his status as a racing icon. He also filmed the renowned “Gymkhana 2” YouTube video, which garnered significant attention.
2010 witnessed a significant shift in Block’s career as he parted ways with Subaru and joined Ford. He entered the World Rally Championship as part of the Monster World Rally Team, driving a Ford Focus RS WRC 08 alongside his long-time co-driver Alex Gelsomino. This historic move made him the first American driver to campaign for the World Rally Championship. Additionally, Block continued his participation in the Rally America Championship and the X Games.
In 2011, Block secured victory at the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood (Rally America) for the fifth consecutive time, breaking a record held by John Buffum. However, during the 2011 Rally de Portugal in Faro, Portugal, Block and Gelsomino rolled their Ford Fiesta RS WRC, requiring a hospital visit. Fortunately, both emerged unscathed.
Block’s consistent performance continued in 2013, where he earned his first six points for the championship during the Mexican rally, achieving an impressive 7th overall finish.
In 2014, Block’s sponsor Castrol made a return. He participated in the WRC located in Catalunya, Spain, finishing 12th. Despite this being his second-to-last season at the WRC, his impact was lasting.
Ken Block’s talents extended to rallycross, where he demonstrated exceptional skill in various competitions.
At the X Games, Block achieved the following results:
- 2006: 3rd place (Bronze)
- 2007: 2nd place (Silver)
- 2008: 3rd place (Bronze)
- 2009: 7th place
- Rally Racing: 10th place
- RallyCross: 7th place
- Rally Racing: 11th place
- RallyCross: 13th place
- 2012: 2nd place (Silver)
- Foz do Iguaçu: 8th place
- Munich: 2nd place (Silver)
- Los Angeles: 6th place
- 2014: 12th place
- 2015: 11th place
In American rallycross, Block competed in the Global RallyCross Championship from 2011 to 2015. He finished as the runner-up in 2014 and secured third place in 2013, accompanied by multiple wins and podium placements.
Block returned full-time for the 2018 Americas Rallycross Championship, achieving two podiums and ranking fourth in points.
In the realm of European rallycross, Block claimed third place in the Norway round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship and won the Norway round of the European Rallycross Championship in 2014.
Ken Block’s Gymkhana videos became a sensation on YouTube, attracting millions of viewers. His daring stunts and precision driving captivated audiences worldwide.
In 2009, Block featured in a segment of the popular BBC show Top Gear, where he showcased his Gymkhana-style driving on his stunt course at Inyokern Airport in California, alongside James May and Ricky Carmichael.
Block’s Gymkhana series, which began with Gymkhana 2, continued to captivate audiences with each release. The videos featured Block navigating various challenging courses in his high-performance vehicles with incredible skill and style.
Ken Block’s passion for racing and his incredible contributions to motorsports will forever be remembered. His legacy lives on through his inspirational performances and the impact he made on the world of rallying and rallycross.