It’s with great sadness that we report the death of Ken Block, who passed away following a snowmobile accident at his ranch in Utah. Block, 55, was a proper car guy and full-on motorsport enthusiast, and it was that enthusiasm, perhaps more so than his on-track successes, that made him famous and a hugely captivating individual.
His high-profile career began as the co-founder of the sportswear brand DC Shoes. He started the company in 1994, which specialised in producing footwear for action sports such as skateboarding and snowboarding – sports that he himself competed in. DC Shoes was bought by Quicksilver for around $90 million in 2004, and from his share of the proceeds, Block kicked off his dream of a career in motorsport.
In 2005 he competed in Rally America. With several top-five finishes and fourth overall in the championship, he took the Rookie of the Year award. The following year he competed in the first X-Games rally event, finishing on the podium. His profile was elevated further in 2007 when he took part in several rounds of the World Rally Championship, and in the Rally of New Zealand he was on the pace in Group N with a couple of top-five stage finishes.
Along with Block’s rallying, he also competed in Rallycross championships, where his talent delivered more silverware. He took part in series around the globe, including the X Games, the Americas Rallycross Championship and the World Rallycross Championship. Highlights included winning the Norway round of the European Rallycross Championship in 2014.
Despite his successes, Block’s results in competition weren't ultimately what distinguished him as an international figure. After all, he was up against some of the best drivers in the world – the true greats of the sport – and he was perhaps always going to struggle to achieve the ultimate heights against such prodigious talents. He was great himself, though, albeit in a different way. What made Block so appealing was his pure love of motorsport and the joy of simply being a part of the competition. His passion was infectious, and he raised the profile of rallying around the world by introducing it to a much broader audience.
His access to this audience was due to the legion of fans he's already accrued beyond the traditional motorsport fraternity. He starred in his first YouTube Gymkhana video in 2008, which lead to a series of videos that were all expertly produced and filmed with increasingly dramatic stunt driving. He also made the first of three appearances on Top Gear in 2009, when he took James May on a Gymkhana-style mega-drifting run around a course laid out at Inyokern Airport in California. His Hoonigan channel on YouTube has over five-million subscribers and combined, its videos have totalled hundreds of millions of views. To give you an idea of his popularity, his 2010 Gymkhana video had collected seven-million views in its first week.
The message posted on the Hoonigan website sums him up perfectly. It reads, “It's with deepest regrets that we can confirm that Ken Block passed away in a snowmobile accident today. Ken was a visionary, a pioneer and an icon. And most importantly, a father and husband. He will be incredibly missed."
His passing really does leave a huge void in the world of motorsport - but more than his professional achievements, the man, the personality, and the excitement he brought will be missed by many.
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