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Kenny from the Block

Ken Block driving his Ford Focus.
Ken Block driving his Ford Focus. REPORTER IMAGES

SURPRISINGLY it was in the world of extreme sports where Ken Block first established a foot-hold, not driving rally cars.

The American forged a long and reputable career as an accomplished skateboarder, snowboarder and motocross rider.

He was also the co-founder in 1994 of DC Shoes, one of action sports’ most successful companies in which he was able to demonstrate his flair for business.

Ten years later DC Shoes was sold and, while Block still works for the firm as its chief brand officer, he finally had the time and the resources to indulge in his passion for rallying.

He entered his first Rally America National Championship in 2005, and has tackled each season since, firstly in an Open class Subaru Impreza before switching to a Ford Fiesta in 2010.

He became Rookie of the Year in 2005 and was the Rally America runner-up the following season.

Block is probably better known though for his starring role as a stunt driver in a series of wildly successful viral internet videos. But that could soon change if his progression in the World Rally Championship continues to follow its upward trajectory.

In 2007 he jumped his Subaru 171-feet for the Discovery Channel’s Stunt Junkies show, and so began another phase of his eclectic career.

Later that year, as part of a promotional video for DC Shoes, Block slid and jumped his rally car on snow alongside pro-snowboarders at the Snow Park in New Zealand, which formed the centrepiece of a magazine cover shoot and created spectacular video sequences.

More videos were filmed in the US, featuring Block and his car performing hair-raising feats of precision driving, known as Gymkhana.

Released on to the internet, the Gymkhana videos achieved a cult following and spread around the globe. One of the films, Gymkhana TWO, was the fourth most-viewed viral video in 2009.

To date, Block has racked up more than 50 million views for his films.

A seasoned competitor in his native Rally America National Championship, Block had scant experience of the world stage when he turned up at Rally Mexico last season in a Ford Focus WRC, but he acquitted himself well and went on to contest a further six events in his striking Monster-liveried machine.

Following his late retirement from a point-scoring finish on Rallye Deutschland in August, Block got his revenge by claiming ninth overall on RACC Rally de Espana to become the first American to land a WRC point since his mentor, John Buffum, in 1988.

A car enthusiast from a young age, California-born Block was jumping and sliding his parents’ cars as soon as he could drive. He also developed a keen interest in rallying and began following national events.

FAST FACTS

Name: Ken Block

Nationality: American

Date of Birth: November 21, 1967

Car: Ford Fiesta RS WRC

Team: Monster World Rally Team

Co-driver: Alex Gelsomino

WRC Debut: Rally New Zealand 2007 (P-WRC)

Website: www.monsterworldrallyteam.com