While most people know Ken Block through his decade-long stretch of Gymkhana videos, my experience with him predates all that. I first met him in 2006 at the SnoDrift Rally, which was part of the Rally America series back then. It was just a quick "hello" as I picked up posters from Subaru's table at Saturday service in the small Michigan town of Atlanta, but he was as humble as he was fast on the slick stages.
I was fortunate enough to have dinner with him and the Ford team in 2010, also at SnoDrift. We talked about Mk II Escorts, plans for Gymkhana 3, and he was absolutely cool when the restaurant botched everyone's food order. I was flattered when he remembered me in 2013, back for another icy start to the Rally America season at SnoDrift. I enjoyed his Gymkhana adventures, but I knew Block as a rally star – launching a career at an age most drivers retire, then winning dozens of events. It's hard to think of another person who so thoroughly melded the worlds of racing, marketing, and social media to become an international star.
Gallery: Ken Block At Sno-Drift Through The Years
His sudden passing on January 2 certainly shocked the motoring community. The Motor1.com team sends condolences to his fans and friends around the world, and especially to his wife Lucy, and their children. We had more than a few conversations today about some of our favourite Ken Block moments, and we'd like to share some of them now.
You won't find a prouder dad than Block, sitting in the passenger seat of his Escort Gymkhana car while his daughter Lia, age 13 at the time, learns to hoon like her father.
Block's first EV experience was actually driving a Mustang Mach-E, but his partnership with Audi opened new doors for future Hoonigan antics. He'd ultimately work with Audi engineers to create the monstrous S1 Hoonitron, which he then piloted around Las Vegas in his last Gymkhana video. But it started with some car park practice in a standard RS E-Tron.
Block's first Gymkhana video dropped in 2008 and went viral beyond imagination. It will always be the go-to clip for Block fans, but the follow-up holds a special place in our hearts because, unlike most sequels, it wasn't disappointing in the least.
Touring London With Matt LeBlanc
While not an official Gymkhana video, the 10-minute Top Gear clip helped the famous motoring show transition into the LeBlanc era with plenty of tyre-smoking action courtesy of Block and the Hoonicorn Mustang.
Do you want to see a genuine kid in a candy store? Block's partnership with Audi literally opened the door to some of the most iconic race cars of all time, including Walter Roehrl's Audi Sport Quattro S1 E2.
With a garage full of fast Fords, Block and the Hoonigan team travelled the world to film five different cars in five locations. It's arguably Block at his peak in the Gymkhana fold, and it also marked the passing of the torch to Travis Pastrana.