This year is off to a brutal start. A baggage handler at an airport was reportedly ingested by an Embraer ERJ-175LR turbofan, Modest Mouse drummer Jeremiah Green passed, and football fans watched as Buffalo Bills defender Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest right on the field. Here in the car world, rally driver and stunt-driving star Ken Block died after an accident with a snowmobile. It’s a sobering start to 2023, and car enthusiasts far and wide are sharing what watching cars emblazoned with that 43 meant for them.
Yesterday, most of your Autopian writers took the day off to enjoy the start of the New Year. Somewhere along the way, our newsman Thomas discovered the depressing news about Ken Block and fired off a heartbreaking report on the situation. At first, I, like other enthusiasts, couldn’t believe what I read. I even checked the calendar to make sure I didn’t teleport to April Fools’ Day. But this is real, and it’s still a shock.
Block is survived by his wife, Lucy, and his three children. As they mourn and eventually begin the process of healing, the car world is reaching out with their own stories of how the King of Send changed their lives. Log on to social media sites and you’ll undoubtedly find endless stories.
For fellow car nut Stef Schrader, it was Block’s send-it mentality that resonated with her most, and takes my heart and today’s Comment Of The Day:
The world is a bit less fun now because of Ken’s passing.
Gymkhana came out when I was a film major in college, and man, it was such a huge influence. I didn’t stick with film work, but I absolutely stuck to sending it—whenever I could, however I could. I don’t get up and finish work to pay bills—I do it so I can maybe afford to jump a beater somewhere into the air for laughs in my spare time. It felt surreal to take over Hoon of the Day at Jalopnik for a while given that all I ever really wanted to do was hoon.
On top of that, man, Block was one of the few drivers you just never heard a bad word about. Just a genuinely nice guy, and it’s been a joy to watch him support his kid’s shenanigans lately.
RIP to the king of the hoons.
An honorable mention goes to the reply to Stef from A. Barth. They discovered Ken Block in the same way that I did, through one unforgettable Top Gear segment:
“Gymkhana came out when I was a film major in college”
The first time I saw him was on Top Gear when he scared the stuffing out of Captain Slow while hooning around an airfield in the desert.
That video includes a visit from Ricky Carmichael and one of the best slo-mo multi-vehicle shots EVER.
I still remember this video even nearly 13 years later. We’ve all seen stunt driving in movies before and maybe even some live performances, but this was on another level. Ken Block’s driving was balls-to-the-wall unhinged and completely unlike anything so many people have seen before. Block seemingly gave every Gymkhana a 150 percent full send, spinning and leaping his cars about with the kind of grace of a figure skater.
What really hit home for me was what James May described as the “Eyeball Spin Dryer.” As a teenager, that was the coolest thing ever to me, and I spent countless hours trying to replicate it in video games. As an adult, one thing I like about snow is being able to take a four-wheel-drive vehicle and replicate the spin dryer in the snow.
And when it comes to off-roading, his style has inspired me to do what I might have been too scared to do. When I jump a crapbox Toyota Camry through the air, I feel like I’m experiencing just a slice of Block’s insanity. But, like with Stef, this goes behind cars. When I feel scared about doing something in life, or find myself on the fence about a decision, sometimes I think “send it” and just do it. And you know what? My life is better for trusting myself and pushing myself forward. Perhaps I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t.
And Block wasn’t just known for developing an entire system to live your life, either. Through the stories coming out online, it seems that he was an all-around decent person out of the driver seat, too. I know it seems small in the grand scheme of things, but for some, it means a lot to know that someone who inspires you is also an ally, too.
When I think of Ken Block I’ll choose to remember this photo. He was one of the first racers I ever saw support the LGBTQIA+ community. As a young ace scared of coming out, seeing one of my heroes open up as an ally meant the world to me. His light will never disappear. pic.twitter.com/SU5pQmhD3E
— Michael Klein (@michaelklein10a) January 3, 2023
I wish the best for Block’s family, and I hope his legacy continues to inspire and bring smiles to faces for years to come. Rest in peace, Ken Block.