DEARBORN -- Ken Block, 2005 Rally America Rookie of the Year and a three-time medalist at X Games, is teaming with Ford in 2010. Block, who co-founded DC Shoes, a worldwide leader in performance skateboarding shoes and a renowned action sports brand, is driving a Ford Fiesta in Rally America and will also drive a Fiesta in the X Games. In addition, he'll campaign a Ford Focus RS on a part-time basis during the 2010 World Rally Championship season before competing full time in 2011.
Block achieved global fame as a national rally driver through his popular viral video campaigns. Ad Age named his Gymkhana TWO film the No. 4 Viral Video of 2009.
Block recently chatted live with fans on theFordStory.com and answered other questions posed by @Ford Online. Below are excerpts from those conversations.
Q. Why is driving for Ford such a good opportunity for you?
A. I get to partner with a great company like Ford. Since they are a global company, I am able to race in the World Rally Championship along with being able to race in Rally America and the X Games. They have such a good platform for me to go out and do what I want to do.
Q. What does Ken Block bring to Ford's racing program?
A. Not only can I get behind the steering wheel and do what I as a driver, I also bring a business side. When I say that, I mean that I am able to handle and direct a lot of the marketing that goes on around me and interact really well with sponsors to help them get what they need out of me as a driver. I also have great associations with brands like Monster and DC. There is a whole built-in program that I bring, as opposed to someone else who doesn't have these types of things going on. I am lucky that I come from a pretty serious marketing and business background. I love being in the car, but it’s this other stuff that actually makes it so that I can race as much as I want to race.
Q. How do you feel now moving to a smaller vehicle than the Subaru? What is your opinion of the set-up and feel of the Fiesta rally car?
A. I really like how nimble and small the Fiesta feels. It feels good at high speed, yet it turns on a dime. I feel I can have some great success with this car this year.
Q. What are you doing to prepare yourself for the WRC, since you will be driving a completely different car compared to your Rally America car?
A. It's all about seat time. I just need lots of it in the new cars. But so far, I have not had time to get back to the U.K. and drive the WRC car. I will very soon though. And I am really looking forward to it. That WRC Focus is amazing.
Q. Do you have any apprehensions about meeting the WRC drivers like Loeb?
A. I don't have any apprehensions about meeting any of the drivers – I know most of them – but I am a bit nervous about Loeb. I have never had the chance to meet him, and I have a huge amount of respect for him. He's the best ever in a rally car. Someday, I hope to have just a bit of the consistency that he has. I still crash a bit too often and need to improve on that this year.
Q. What are your expectations in the WRC series this season?
A. It is going to be incredibly difficult. This first year, I am easing into the series by running seven of the 12 events, with the idea that I am dipping my feet in so that I can jump in full time next year. The level of driving by those guys is so high, they are so used to their cars and they've been to all of these events many times. On the other hand, I am basically starting as a beginner in that series. I need the seat time. I need to go to each of these events and take my own notes. But I am going to go there and do my best. I am very realistic. We look at this as a process to get me to the right level over a period of time, and that's what we're doing.
Q. Was it your idea to produce the Gymkhana videos that can be seen on YouTube?
A. Yes. I have a car that I built for doing a Gymkhana series that was started in Southern California. When I finished the car, the guy who was running the series quit doing it. So, I had this amazing car but nowhere to go play with it. We had done a small Gymkhana event at certain airfield, so I went back there with the idea of testing and practicing to further develop the car and my skills. We filmed for one day. About two weeks later, I saw the footage and thought it was really good. So, we went back another day and filmed the rest. We put it together as a fun video to get out there on the Internet and it just took off. I never imagined that a year-and-a-half later it would have 25 million views. We thought it might have a couple hundred thousand views. I never realized people would be that blown away by it.
Q. What are your plans for the next Gymkhana with a Fiesta?
A. I have lots of ideas, but we are just now going through the process of figuring out what will work best and be the most fun. So, I can't reveal any of the ideas, but I can say that a few of them are really "out there."
(Editor's note: Block piloted his 2011 Fiesta to the quickest time last weekend in the first stage of Rally America’s 2010 season-opening Sno*Drift Rally. Unfortunately for Block, a suspension component failure in Stage 7 prevented him from finishing and prematurely ended his weekend in Northern Michigan.)