Q&A: Ken Block answers your questions
You may be wondering why Ken Block is pictured above with two table tennis bats in his hand. Surely there should be shredded tyres and YouTube hits filling those mitts? Well, Kenny from the Block is a big fan of table tennis. Indeed, he’s such a fan that he literally eats off a ping pong table at home. So before he was unveiling his new rallycross car to the public, we decided to challenge him to a game of Boris Johnson’s favoured pastime: wiff-waff.
Apparently, in the past he’s beaten opponents while holding an infant under one arm – a handicap we’ve yet to see in the Olympics. Still, TG.com decided to challenge him to a game and fire your questions (and some balls) his way.
He’s answered everything: who his idols are, what his favourite car is and whether he’d like to fight giant ducks or midget horses. So click through and see Ken put the internet’s questions to rights.
(And thank you all for your contributions, TopGear.commers)
AirMax: What is the most exciting production car you’ve ever driven?
It has to be the Ford F150 Raptor. It’s so versatile for snow, on road, off-road – I just love it. I have one up in the mountains where I live and whenever it’s snowing I go out and drift it around like my rally car. It’s the best daily driver I’ve ever had.
I love to abuse cars and I can do it in that because the thing has four-wheel drive and very soft suspension. You can drive it like a rally car because when you brake, the weight transfers and it’s a lot of fun to throw around. And don’t think I’m saying that because I’m sponsored by Ford, it genuinely is one of the best cars I’ve ever driven.
rishmanVR6: Would you ever consider other forms of motorsport outside rally and Gymkhana?
I’ve had lots of offers to do different motorsports. The thing is I love that you can drive so aggressive in rally and Gymkhana, but it’s still all about precision. There are other forms of precision from Formula One to off-road trucks, but Formula One to me is too precise, it’s too much of the same thing over and over.
And then the flip side of that is something like the Baja 1000, but for that the suspension and everything has to be so soft to soak up all the bumps that you lose some of the precision. So, for me, stage rally and rallycross are a nice balance of being able to drive so aggressive but still be able to have the precision. I’ve had offers to do Le Mans 24 hours, Dakar and Baja 1000 – a huge range of things – but I can’t get enough of what I’m doing as it is, so why try and diversify?
Gavinload: What is the best vintage rally car you have ever driven?
The ’78 MKII Escort – it’s so much fun. The way they handle and the sound they make is just amazing.
The_Stig_Farmer: What’s it like seeing people parody your YouTube videos and painting their cars like yours?
I take it as a huge compliment. I’m continually blown away by how much people appreciate and like the things I do. I’m always very honored that people want to imitate either the graphics or videos that I do.
Rshohet: How did your rally career as a driver start and have you got any tips?
I think that the best thing to do is go to a rally school. You can waste a lot of time and money by driving cars around not knowing what you’re doing. The best way to start is to let someone who has the experience teach you how to do it.
I’ve been to several rally schools, the main one being Team O’Neil in the States. That was the first place I ever went and I got a lot of knowledge out of them. Travis Pastrana had gone there and I thought it looked fun, so I wanted to try and drive a rally car. I absolutely loved it but also found that I had a pretty decent amount of talent inside the car and since then I’ve just been pushing to learn more and more.
Sayaraa: Please describe for me what the feeling is like when all four tyres of your car are in the air?
It’s absolutely incredible. I’ve just done WRC Mexico which features BIG jumps. It’s really enjoyable to take a WRC car and go flat out, sixth gear off a jump – it’s amazing.
Morgan-rees: What gets you motivated before an event?
Well the main thing is that I absolutely doing all this stuff. So the idea of me being able to get in a car and be able to drive all these courses at a demo is just for fun. But at a competition, like X Games or WRC, the competitive side takes over and I just want to win.
Strokemymailbox: Is everything sideways for you? Crabs walk sideways, are they your favourite animal?
Errr no. I just leave going sideways to cars. My favourite animals aren’t crabs, I own Siberian huskies as pets, so they’re my favourite.
James Russell: Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?
I would say the 100 duck-sized horses because you could sucker kick them.
John Catterson: Apart from the likes of Colin McRae, who inspired you to become a rally driver?
The biggest inspiration for me is Colin McRae. But besides that, I watched a lot of rally in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s but especially the Group B era. That was so awe-inspiring that it really caught my attention while in America and brought my attention to rally.
KeithLemon: Where did the idea behind Gymkhana come from?
The idea of Gymkhana actually came from the fact that we don’t have tarmac rallies in our championship in America. I wanted to gain more experience sliding the car around on tarmac like I saw rally drivers in Europe do. It was a way to get more experience and expand my skill set. It just turned into making videos because there was a Gymkhana championship in southern California and I had built a car to specifically go and do it. But the guy that was organizing the championship quit, so I had an amazing car but nothing to do with it. So that’s when I made my first video, which was at one of the facilities where I had done a Gymkhana event. I went back there and we filmed an event practice but we had no idea it was going to be as popular as it was.
Shazad M Ali: Do you believe Jeremy’s theory that pulling on the handbrake will make women like him? Is this why you’re constantly pulling it?
I’ve never thought of it that way. That’s pretty good, though. It’s a great theory but it was never my intention.
Marcel Dorrego: What is the most insane/scary/memorable drive you’ve ever had?
It has to be racing some of the roads and stages of the WRC event in New Zealand. The event and roads they build down there are cambered because they get so much rain and I’ve gone through corners there where I was actually laughing because it was so fun. I had such a big smile on my face I couldn’t hold back the laughter… and that was at full speed in a WRC car. There’s nothing else like it.
RolandRedTrousers: What do you think of the death of the Subaru STi and Impreza in the UK?
I think it’s too bad what Subaru have done over the last couple of years with rally. Dropping out of the WRC, pulling their performance models and their support for rally around the world is just unfortunate. I had some great years rallying with them but it’s just unfortunate that they can’t do what they used to do.
Joe Coggings: What is the best moment of your career?
That’s a really tough one but one of the most amazing moments of my racing career was racing against Colin McRae and pressuring him in to crashing. We were in a head-to-head competition at the X-Games and I was leading and he took on the extra pressure and crashed. He told me later that night that it was my pressure that caused him. And to be able to say you’ve pressured Colin McRae into crashing is just f*cking awesome. It’s one of the biggest highlights of my life.
Kari Koskinen: What was the hardest thing to adapt to in the WRC?
The speed. I could drive the car quick right off the bat, but really the biggest problem was pace notes. A lot of these guys come from championships from around the world where there’s a lot more pace note development and we don’t have that sort of development in the States. Writing my own pace notes was a big skill that I had to learn quite quickly. I still struggle with it today as I’m just not at the level these other guys are as they’ve been doing it that much longer than me. Take Peter Solberg, I have 20 WRC events under my belt and he has something like 180. I have barely over ten per cent of what he has experience-wise. I can drive the car quite quickly down the stage but it’s that whole package of stage notes and everything that truly makes a fast rally driver.
Istvan Siroki: How does it feel racing against yourself in the Dirt videogame series?
I absolutely love it. But hearing my voice is sometimes a bit scary. It genuinely freaks me out but to be able to have my car in a game is something I never thought would ever be possible. I get a good laugh each time I see it.
ButteryThunder: What do you see happening with Gymkhana as an entity in the future?
I started doing Gymkhana because I liked the competition side of it. It’s great practice and going out and being able to compete against people like Tanner Foust and Travis Pastrana is great fun. And in the future I want the series side of it to grow and I want to compete in more events. We’ve got a big series starting here in Europe and there’ll also be events in the States. It’s really fun for me as it grows because it gives me more events to go and play at.
RolandRedTrousers: Are the Gymkhana 6 gears turning in your head right now?
Absolutely. Being able to play with cars like that is something you dream of as a kid. Now I get to come up with crazy ideas and then go out and do them means that I’m always coming up with different things. I’ve got long documents of random ideas at home and it’s a lot of fun and a real creative outlet for marketing as well as combining it with what I do as a driver.