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Thursday, 01 September 2011 00:00

Ken Block

Written by Kristie Bertucci | Photos By MWRT/Scott Dukes – www.dukesphotography.com
Some guys have all the luck…DC Shoes founder/Rally Racer/Gymkhana king being one of them! Not only does he have the coolest job in the world, racing rally cars and busting moves in his Gymkhana videos, but he's now able to put gaming consultant on his already very impressive resume. Creating his Gymkhana videos for pure personal enjoyment has now propelled him and the driving style into the video game realm with DiRT 3.

Gearing up to release his fourth Gymkhana video and setting off the first ever Gymkhana World Tour, Block is pumped to see the highly popular new racing style featured in DiRT 3—something he was hands-on with since the series' second installment.

Block was asked to be one of the main testers and developers for the third game because of its addition of Gymkhana to its racing modes. "Basically, DiRT 3 takes all the best stuff from game two and makes it better and more fun," he describes. "It's incredible for me as a driver to see what I started to do just for fun become something bigger and make its way into a video game. It's done so well that playing DiRT 3 is just as fun as actually being in the driver's seat of my Gymkhana car."

"Man, the game incorporates things that I can only dream about doing in real life. But actually doing them would either be really expensive or very dangerous. I'm satisfied with being able to bust them in the game…for now!"Taking what Block has done in his videos and Gymkhana competitions, game developer Codemasters was able to integrate his Gymkhana expertise and take it even further by creating situations and racing abilities that Block can't even do now! "Man, the game incorporates things that I can only dream about doing in real life," he laughs. "But actually doing them would either be really expensive or very dangerous. I'm satisfied with being able to bust them in the game…for now!"

Still in awe that some random videos he posted online for fun grew so big that one of the biggest driving games in the world wanted to incorporate it into their virtual racing experience. "It's been an amazing time working with the guys at Codemasters!" he says. "It was a lot of fun and I couldn't have asked for a better time. I got to go out to England a few times and really learn about the gaming world. I'd love to continue the relationship and create more exciting and fun games."

Besides being able to have some fun with DiRT 3, Block is taking his rally racing skills to new heights with a bigger and broader schedule for World Rally Championship races and events in his all-new Monster Energy Ford Fiesta RS WRC. That's in addition to his involvement in the Summer X Games, Gymkhana GRID and select RallyCar and RallyCross events across the nation.

"This year, I'm doing nine of the 13 WRC events. I have yet to do a full season. But it's a huge learning experience going from a small national racing association like the Rally America Championship to a bigger worldwide one, so I've been really working hard to get better and keep improving," Block confesses. "But this year, I've only done three events and had a tough time at every single one."

So far, his worst one was in the WRC's Portugal Rally, where the car stepped out on loose marbles and he couldn't get it back in line, causing him to then roll over about five times during a practice run. "I was actually really mad in the middle of the crash," he says. "I was upside down and really pissed 'cause I knew this was going to make it where I didn't race the weekend…but that's racing and those things happen."

Other races included Mexico (one of his favorite rallies in the world) and Sweden, but he had mechanical problems at both, resulting in a less than expected WRC season for the moment. "I've got the skills, work ethic, but it's the technical stuff that's not working for me right now." Despite the roadblocks, he's optimistic that things will change during the rest of the season and is hitting the remaining races for the season with a plan of attack.

Ken Block

"You have to be smart about how you approach each event, if you don't have a game plan, there's really no way to improve. Rally racing is really serious business, and I work very hard at it. A plan in place helps a lot."

Rally may be serious business, but Gymkhana is nothing but serious fun for Block. He describes rally racing as being very intensive and requiring one to drive as quick as one can over a span of several days and a couple hundred miles. On the other side of the spectrum is Gymkhana's race events/stunts, which consists of a relatively easier course that can be conquered after one or two test runs.

"Rally and Gymkhana take totally different mindsets. I get to drive the car as aggressive as I want and really enjoy muscling the car around, whereas being in a rally car is more about competitiveness, and making every second and move count. You almost have to drive at a perfect speed and path to really rank high. One's totally carefree while the other really brings out my competitive side."

It may seem as if Block always lives life in the driver's seat between Rally Racing and Gymkhana, but in reality, airplanes are where he says he spends most of his time, traveling to various sites, promotional events and the like. But it's while he's in the driver's seat of either his murdered-out 2011 Ford SVT Raptor at his home in Utah or his European-spec Ford Focus RS is when Block turns off race mode and becomes a regular driver.

"I've had my eye on the Raptor for quite some time, but waited until Ford put a bigger motor in it than the original 5.4-liter one past versions had. You need a good 4x4 vehicle living in Utah, and Ford did a great job on the truck in terms of factory features."Living in Utah, the Raptor comes in handy when the weather gets nasty, something Block likes to take full advantage of. "I've had my eye on the Raptor for quite some time, but waited until Ford put a bigger motor in it than the original 5.4-liter one past versions had. You need a good 4x4 vehicle living in Utah, and Ford did a great job on the truck in terms of factory features."

Block especially likes the suspension and wider stance of the Raptor, which allows him to really go out and have some fun, either in the snow or sand. Happy with everything stock, Block only added some 20-inch KMC Addict wheels and went for a stealth black look with a matte black wrap.

Whenever in So. Cal, Block likes to take his green 2010 Ford Focus RS out for spins, since it's the one car he doesn't get much time in. When Block signed his deal with Ford, asking for a Euro-spec RS (which stands for "Rally Sport") was first on his list.

He does admit that despite its minute size, the Focus RS is actually a fun car to drive. "The green is Ford's standout color that they made especially for Europe when they first brought out the car," he explains. "Ever since I first saw that car in all the press and marketing materials, I wanted one. It also just so happens to match the Monster Energy green, which is perfect for me and my sponsors. It's one of the best performance cars in the world so I was really stoked that Ford was nice enough to bring one over from Europe for me. It's really the perfect fit all around!

Again, Block enjoys the original factory settings and praises Ford for making a great car right off the production line. All that was added were a set of KW Variant 3 coilovers, Pirelli P Zero Trofeo tires and 19-inch Volk Racing VR.G2 wheels.

"I'm not someone who likes to do a lot of things to their car unless it really needs it," he admits. "The stereo systems in both cars sound great. I love the nav and SYNC systems, too. Both cars work exceptionally well, and I'm happy with them straight from factory, with the exception of some minor changes to make them look the way I wanted. For right now, both are staying the way they are, with no plans on adding more mods anytime soon."

Between his two daily driver toys and his Rally and Gymkhana Ford Fiestas, Block is living the life any car enthusiast would love to have. "I'm a lucky bastard who gets paid to go out and drive cars this way, so I'm going to do it as long as I can."

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