On Monday 2nd January 2023 (US time) family, friends and the motorsport community lost Ken Block.
A founder of action sports footwear brand DC Shoes, Block went on to compete in American rally championships, the World Rally Championship, World Rallycross, the Baja 1000 and the Classic Safari Rally.
However, what he gave to the world was far more than just another competitor on an entry list.
No, he made driving cool again, aspirational.
Thanks to his and the Hoonigan media company’s Gymkhana videos – Block co-founded Hoonigan with Brian Scotto and merged the company with Wheel Pros in 2021 – he became a household name.
The highest view count of a single Gymkhana video was the fifth, set in San Francisco. As it stands, it’s been watched over 113,000,000 times.
The series spawned spin-off Gymkhana productions such as Climbkhana and October’s Electrikhana, a Hoonigan YouTube channel, an Amazon Prime TV show and merchandise.
Diving video games were also a huge part of the Ken Block brand. He understood the importance of gaming to reach a more engaged and youthful audience, benefiting gaming and motorsport.
Starting in the mid-’00s and running up to the present day, here’s the over-13-year legacy Ken Block leaves to racing games.
DiRT 2, DiRT 3 and DiRT Showdown (2009 – 2012)
Following Colin McRae’s untimely death in 2007, the seventh entry in his eponymous video game series created by Codemasters would feature Ken Block’s Subaru on the cover.
A tremendous honour for the American, who got to know McRae through the Scot’s showmanship at the US-based X Games rally competitions.
Both Block and compatriot Travis Pastrana – who recently teamed up with Hoonigan for two Subaru-themed Gymkhana videos – were voiced rivals in the game alongside their vehicles being present and names as AI rivals.
Block’s partnership with the series continued with 2011’s DiRT 3, which featured his WRC-specification Ford Focus and the Gymkhana Ford Fiesta – the latter appearing on the game’s cover.
It also added a Gymkhana game mode and online multiplayer options – such was the cultural impact of the YouTube videos at the time.
This took a step further a year later, with DiRT Showdown. Once again, a Monster Energy-sponsored Block Ford was on the cover, but this time the spin-off title ditched the stage rally approach, instead focusing on more stylistic driving types.
FIA World Rally Championship and WRC 2 (2010 – 2011)
During Block’s time in the World Rally Championship, his various licencing arrangements meant he didn’t appear in every official game during the years he competed.
But he was in some often-overlooked rally titles, namely Italian developer Milestone’s releases between 2010 and 2011, during a period he completed 16 events, first in a Focus and then in a Fiesta.
Despite competing in at least one WRC round in 2012 and 2013 he was sadly missing from the related games. In 2014 and 2018 he entered the Spanish WRC rounds, but in both cases, there wasn’t an official WRC game released in those years.
Need for Speed (2015)
Block then had a brief dalliance with Electronic Arts and its reboot of Need for Speed. Launching on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, ‘Need for Speed’ was created by Ghost Games – these days called EA Gothenburg – and featured live-action cutscenes, for which Block played himself.
All alcohol, even at parties and bars, was replaced by incongruous cans of Monster Energy…
As an up-and-coming street racer, you drove ever-tricked-out cars around the dark streets of Ventura Bay. Block appears alongside fellow Monster Energy Athlete and Formula Drift champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. in a scene where he explains a desire to race instead of eating tacos.
Key, however, was his inclusion on the game’s cover and, following a post-release update, the ability to drive his epic Hoonicorn – a heavily modified Ford Mustang first seen in the seventh Gymkhana video.
“It’s that special mix of fast-pace, raw speed and over-the-top fun, which has made the Gymkhana series a success, and something the Need for Speed games capture really well,” said Block in 2013, when he became a brand ambassador.
Forza Horizon and Motorsport (2016-2021)
A third switch to a major driving game series followed soon after, with the Hoonigan Car Pack downloadable content for Microsoft’s Forza Horizon 3
An updated Hoonicorn appeared here, alongside his modified Ford Escort RS1800 Mk2.
It also provided an insight into an expanding Hoonigan brand outside of purely Ken’s activities – with other modified vehicles included in the pack, showcasing an aesthetic the media outlet represented.
12 months later, the same Hoonicorn and Escort were part of the Forza Motorsport 7 line-up, plus Block was featured in the game’s advert spots, and a year after that, Forza Horizon 4 – although this time joined by the cars from Gymkhana 10 as DLC.
The Ford Escort Cosworth Group A, 2017 WRC-spec Ford Fiesta, another new variant of the Hoonicorn, the Ford Focus RS RX rallycross machine (in standard and Gymkhana 10 forms) and the Ford F-150 Hoonitruck. Block’s personal RS200 was also available.
For 2021’s Forza Horizon 5, his upgraded, wide-track-‘Cossie’ was a centrepiece – you drive it in the Showcase event ‘On A Wing And A Prayer’ against a plane and a pack of motocross riders.
It was soon after this, however, that allegiances changed once again.
CSR Racing 2
Mobile drag racing title CSR Racing 2 is massive., downloaded by over 73 million players.
In 2021, the latest Hoonicorn once again appeared in a video game as part of a new multi-year partnership and was playable within a special Block-themed event at the end of that year.
“Racing my daughter, Lia, in the game makes this campaign so fun to me, and I look forward to sharing my passion for racing with the CSR2 gaming community,” said Block at the time.
Then in 2022, to tie in with the launch of the aforementioned Electrikhana – the first in a series of videos in a partnership with Audi that sadly will now not be finished with Block behind the wheel – the unique S1 Hoonitron was also part of a limited-time event in the portable title.
Just last week, 26th December 2022, the game announced that his SVRSR Hoonipigasus – a striking p 1,400bhp pink Porsche designed to compete at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb event – was available to drive. It now sadly rounds out Block’s gaming legacy.
Ken Block is survived by his wife Lucy and three children. He will be sorely missed.
Featured image: Ken Block, Lånkebanen, Norway, World Rallycross 2014 – Motorsport Images