Automotive icon Ken Block dead at 55


Rally legend Ken Block died from a snowmobile accident Jan. 2 near his ranch in Utah. Some of his accomplishments included being named Rookie of the Year in the Rally America Championship and becoming the first American to compete in the World Rally Championship. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Nicholas Maes, Contributor

Rally legend Ken Block passed away from a snowmobile accident that occurred Jan. 2 near his ranch in Utah. A pioneer in both business and racing, Block was most known for his stunts that have been immortalized under one word: Gymkhana. Drifting through stunts, Block captured the attention of millions around the globe. 

A co-founder of DC Shoes and later Hoonigan Industries, Block sold his shares in DC Shoes to focus on Hoonigan Industries. A major factor in the company’s growth, Block pushed the envelope for what is possible in the automotive world.  

Beginning his rally career in 2005, Block was named Rookie of the Year in the Rally America Championship that season. Block would then go on to race in Subarus from 2005 to 2010, Fords from 2010 to 2015 and most recently Hyundais. He expanded out of the American Rally circuit to race in the World Rally Championship (WRC), becoming the first American to do so. Block would also go on to accumulate five X Games medals throughout his career, one being a silver from the Golden X Games Barcelona RallyCross in 2013. 

While competing in WRC,Block spent his time working on what we know as the Gymkhana series. In a partnership, first with DC Shoes, and later with the Hoonigan Racing Division, Block created over ten Gymkhana videos. Although some of the videos were given different names to reflect certain aspects of the content, the idea remained the same, complete the course as fast as possible.  

The locations for the Gymkhana series varied from cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit and Guanajuato, to more extreme locations. Block’s Climbkhana videos took place at Pikes Peak in Colorado and Tianmen Mountain in China. Both roads have a reputation for being dangerous at high speeds. The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is the second oldest race in America, only behind the Indianapolis 500. The climb has 156 turns, a total distance of 12.4 miles, and ends at the 14,115-foot peak. Block drifted through obstacles on his way up the mountain, and the Climbkhana video is under ten minutes from start to finish. 

Block’s most recent video in the Gymkhana series was released under the name Electrikhana. With the rise of electric vehicles, it was only right   Block be the one to take an electric car and thrash it in Las Vegas, Nevada. Taking Audi’s new S1 platform and giving it the Hoonigan touch, the EV was dubbed the “Hoonitron.” Paying subtle homage throughout the video to Audi’s rich rally heritage, the bi-motor, all-wheel drive and 800-volt powertrain sends it like no other Gymkhana before.  

The Gymkhana series is included on Amazon Prime as the Gymkhana Files, which give a behind-the-scenes look at the work that went into creating a Gymkhana video. Unfortunately, the Gymkhana Files does not include Block’s more recent Gymkhanas’.Block’s untimely death shocked the auto world. Blocks’ impact on the racing world and beyond is insurmountable, as he received countless tributes following his death. Most recognizable for his use of a 1965 Ford Mustang (dubbed the “Hoonicorn,”) in his Gymkhana videos, it is clear to understand why President and CEO of the Ford Motor Company Jim Farley released this statement regarding Block.  

“He inspired generations of automotive enthusiasts, and in the process, he came to inspire all of us at Ford Motor Company as well,” Farley said. “He personified the joy of driving, drifting and racing. He had a boundless imagination for creating special cars and special moments. Our hearts go out to his family during this time, and we mourn his loss together with the community he fed with his vigor and spirit.” 

Block is survived by his wife and three children. 

Nicholas Maes is a contributor and may be reached at