DC Shoes co-founder and gymkhana star, Ken Block, dead at 55

DC Shoes co-founder and gymkhana star, Ken Block, dead at 55

Not long before this issue of 911 & Porsche World went to press, the motorsport world was shocked by the news of Ken Block’s passing. The rally driver, gymkhana star and ‘Head Hoonigan in Charge’ died near his ranch in Woodland, Utah, in a snowmobile accident. He was fifty-five.

Block co-founded skateboarding and snowboarding footwear and apparel brand, DC Shoes, in 1994 and used his fortune to realise a long-held ambition to compete in international rallying. His driving career kicked off in earnest in 2005, competing in Group N in a specially prepared Subaru WRX STi, though his best-ever finish would come eight years later, when he scored seventh overall at the Rally México.

Though Block’s rally career didn’t hit the dizzy heights he’d hoped for, he achieved greater success in rallycross, both in the USA and mainland Europe. This led to the development of his now legendary Gymkhana series of films, combining elements of racing, rallying and drifting in flamboyant style with eye-popping stunts, including jumps, 360° spins, parking boxes, figure-eights and other advanced manoeuvres. It was this series of films, running from 2008 to 2018, which gained Block much wider recognition for his skills behind the wheel, helped by increasingly lavish production values, best exemplified by Gymkhana Four, filmed on the Universal Studio backlot.

After a decade of producing Gymkhana films, Block switched his attention to Climbkhana, where he once again wowed audiences (primarily on YouTube) by taking on some of the world’s most challenging hill climbs, such as Tianmen Mountain (China’s most dangerous road) and Pikes Peak. Though he spent most of his career heavily associated with the Subaru and Ford brands — as demonstrated by the various Impreza, Fiesta, Escort, F-150 and Mustang Gymkhana machines custom-built to his specification — he recently forged an association with Porsche products, not least through the build of Hoonipigasus, a 1,400bhp hill climber, which started life as a 912. Built by the team at BBi Autosport in Huntington Beach, California, specifically for Block’s 2022 attempt to conquer The Race to the Clouds (and subsequently showcased in the July issue of 911 & Porsche World), the car came hot on the heels of Block’s participation in the 2022 East African Rally, where he partnered with 911 rally car preparation outfit, Tuthill Porsche. As founder of the Monster Rally Team, Block also devised Gymkhana GRiD, an irregular singleweekend competition — each time hosted in a different country — inviting winners and runners-up of WRC, Formula G, various drift championships and rallycross to go head to head in a Gymkhana contest. Most recently, after a billion views across ten wildly successful Gymkhana films (setting the current bar for automotive action movies), Block returned to the series driving an entirely bespoke machine developed and built by Audi. Armed with the 800-volt, twin-motor, all-wheel drive S1 Hoonitron EV, Block’s team arranged to shut down large areas of Las Vegas for filming. In the wake of his death, as a mark of respect, the number forty-three will be retired from this season’s World Rally Championship.

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