The motorsport world mourns the loss of well-known rally, rallycross and gymkhana driver Ken Block, who died in a snowmobile accident near his home in Woodland, Utah on January 2nd. The county sheriff reported that Block’s snowmobile overturned on a steep slope. Block was pronounced dead at the scene.
Honors poured in from around the world of racing. Seven-time Formula 1 champion Sir Lewis Hamilton said: “I am devastated to learn of the death of Ken Block. Years ago we had a great time heliskiing and snowboarding in Canada. We had so much respect for each other. He will really be missed.”
Travis Pastrana, Block’s former rally teammate, said: “Ken was a friend, a rival, a mentor, a boss, a business partner and a family man who was prouder to show me pictures of his kids karting than he was it was himself a world premiere in one of the many “coolest cars known to mankind” that he regularly drove off its wheels. Ken lived life to the fullest. Cut too short like so many of the greats before him. Rest in peace mate, we will never forget you.”
A remarkable career
Block lived a remarkable life. In 1994, when he was in his mid-20s, Block was co-founded DC shoes with two partners. The durable athletic shoes became popular with skateboarders and snowboarders, and the company was sold to Quiksilver in 2004 for $87 million.
After DC, Block turned to motorsport and immediately made a name for himself as a standout driver. He started competing Rally America‘s 2005 season in a Subaru WRX STi, finished fourth overall and was named Rookie of the Year. The following year he founded Subaru Rally Team USA along with X games Freestyle motocross legend Travis Pastrana, Vermont sports carand Subaru of America.
The combination was magical. Although Block never won a Rally America Championship, he was frequently second overall, putting pressure on teammate and four-time champion Pastrana. Their rivalry helped keep both drivers up front.
“We were never far from Travis and when I attacked in the middle of the rally, Travis increased his speed even more and kept us in check,” explained Block. “We had a great time and the cars were perfect.”
Block also competed in rallycross at the X Games, American Rallycross, and European Rallycross, often finishing on the podium. From 2010 he also raced with Ford and the FIA World Rally competition Monster World Rally Team, where he became the first American driver to fight for the World Rally Championship. Block competed in the World Rally in the 2014 season. In 2014 he also competed in a single race of the FIA ERX Supercar Championship, which he won.
The Monster World Rally Team later became Hoonigan Racing Divisiona part of Hoonigan Industries. Block founded Hoonigan in 2010 to “make cars fun.” The company sells motorsport apparel, accessories and performance parts.
Additionally, Block competed in the One Lap of America, Gumball 3000, and the Baja 100 in a Trophy Truck. He held the record for the world’s fastest snow groomer built from a Ford Raptor pickup. His likeness appears in several popular racing video games.
Block has changed the way we perceive motorsport
But for all his competitive and business success, Block was best known for his series of Viral Gymkhana Videos, in which he drove a variety of vehicles performing precision drifts and stunts in Subaru and Ford vehicles. The videos garnered hundreds of millions of views and made Block an internet sensation. The videos led to one appearance on top gear and a memorable one 171 foot Subaru jump up stunt junkies.
“I wasn’t too nervous about it because if I got too nervous it would suck,” Block joked after his jump.
At the time of his death, Block was working on new projects with Audi along with his daughter Lia. He is survived by his wife Lucy and their three children.
Ultimately, Block did far more than win rallies and make videos. He basically changed motorsport culturearound the world and brought together the ethos of skateboarding and snowboarding with motorsport. Block didn’t need to win championships because his fans could see that he was world-class at his skill and that he was having the time of his life at it.
Block once said, “In life, from the simplest thing to the greatest, I want to be proud of what it is and make my claim: This is mine and that’s how I do it.”