A short life and eternal legacy: 3 of Ken Block’s most significant influences on automotives
January 2, 2023, marks the date of a tragedy many of us will never forget. Kenneth Paul Block, celebrated rally car driver, entrepreneur, and car enthusiast, passed away at age 55 during a snowmobiling accident in Northern Utah. Left behind are his wife, Lucy, the couple’s three daughters, and fans that traverse the domains of rallycross, extreme sports, the video game industry, and more.
We could write endlessly about Block’s innumerable achievements, but in the wake of his death, our goal is to drive home one crucial fact: Block was a pioneer. His legacy, while exceptional, encompasses far more than rally driving and entrepreneurship. Below, we’ve listed 5 of Block’s most significant influences during 55 short years on the earth.
1. He influenced a generation
If anyone could single-handedly influence a generation, it was Ken Block. He played a monumental role in reshaping car culture at a time when younger people were drifting away from cars and towards technology. Then, Block entered the scene. One of the most important parts of his legacy was re-engaging younger audiences with automotives and racing. Dominik Wilde, motoring and motorsport journalist, stated it perfectly: “It didn’t really matter which side of the fence you landed on – if you weren’t a car fan, you were a Ken Block fan instead.”
2. He was a trailblazer for automotive influencers
Let’s time travel back to 2008, where (virally speaking) it all began: a 4-minute, 26-second Gymkhana Practice video. It featured Block tearing through an obstacle course at an abandoned industrial site in a 2008 Subaru WRX STI. The video not only quickly went viral, but launched his infamous Gymkhana YouTube video series, which has over 500 million views – making it one of the most viewed series in the history of YouTube. While Block didn’t invent the concept of car stunts, his unique blend of originality, driving dexterity, and brand-building instincts made him, quite literally, a viral success – and pioneer for car enthusiast influencers that followed in his footsteps.
3. He pushed the car film industry into the mainstream
Finally, number 3. The automotive marketing space would not be what it is today without Ken Block. He pushed what was, at the time, a traditionalistic industry into the viral era. He was far more than an award-winning racer; he was a visionary with the business acumen and creative itch that influenced people to care about racing at a time the automotive industry needed it most. Block intrinsically knew what it took to revitalize an industry. As others tried to force new ideas into a template of, what was at the time, standard media, Block’s team created their own sandbox. Ultimately, it became a sandbox that everyone wanted to play in – and it changed the way automakers approached their marketing efforts to this day.
What we hope you take away from this blog
Among mainstream audiences, the name Ken Block elicits thoughts of his Gymkhana rally-car-stunt driving series, position as co-founder of DC shoes, and founder of Hoonigan clothing brand, which evolved into the Hoonigan Race Division and ran his various motorsport programs.
With that said: talent, accolades, and businesses aside, Block had a gift that should be recognized and celebrated as part of his legacy alongside the rest of his achievements. His natural ability to create authentic, meaningful connections. It was evident in his relationships with audiences, fellow racers, fans, and the family he was deeply devoted to until his untimely passing. Block connected with and united people in a way no other racer in history has.
Rest in peace, Ken. We will not let your legacy be forgotten.