Remembering Back: Ken Block Ride Along

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By: Patrick Rall

We don’t always have the opportunity to write articles detailing all the adventures that we have as editors. Sometimes though, it’s fun to reflect back and think about those days.  This particular article details my ride with Ken Block at the 2010 SEMA Show.

My ride with Ken Block in his Gymkhana 3 Ford Fiesta

While attending the 2010 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, I had a chance to go
for a ride with rally racing superstar Ken Block in his new Gymkhana 3
Ford Fiesta. 

For those unfamiliar with Ken Block and his cars, they are heavily
modified for the most abusive off-road racing in the world, while also
offering incredible on-road performance.  His Gymkhana 3 Fiesta looks
like the standard issue c-segment hatchback covered by Block’s
distinctive black, white and green paint scheme but it features a
turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making over 650 horsepower, sending the
power to the ground by means of an advanced all-wheel-drive system.

The location of my ride-along with Ken Block was right out in front
of the Las Vegas Convention Center in a fairly small area of the parking
lot sectioned off with concrete barriers, scattered with orange
construction barrels serving as obstacles.  Since the outdoor area of
SEMA is free to spectators, the area around the temporary racing surface
was packed 10-deep with screaming fans who came out to see Ken Block in
action, which only made the whole experience that much more exciting.

I got in Ken Block’s car with my helmet and fire hood on and as the
mechanics inspected the car (as they did after every run), Ken Block
said hello and made some small talk ““ then the hood was slammed shut,
the car was lowered from the jacks and a crewmember slapped the hood and
gave Block the thumbs up.  Block turned to me and I also gave him a
thumbs up and before I had looked back forward, we had ripped out of the
shoot that started the run.  Within seconds, the super modified Ford
Fiesta was rocketing along the side of the tarmac area, hurdling us
towards the first corner of the square race area at speeds that made me
think “we aren’t going to make this turn””¦and with a yank of the e-brake
handle, the car was sideways, nearly scuffing along the wall as the car
made the tight turn and accelerated along the long paved area.  After a
few more hair-raising turns inches from the interlocked concrete
barriers, Block began doing a series of hairpin, e-brake assisted turns
around the construction barrels before heading into a series of “donuts”
that got tighter and tighter around one of the barrels until he hit it
and knocked it out of the way ““ bringing on an even louder cheer from
the crowd.

I’ve never experienced anything like this before with g-forces
pinning me to the seat of Ken Block’s Ford Fiesta rally car as it is
ripped back and forth along the tarmac area, frequently making
impossible turns around barrels and through water-barriers located in
one corner of the race area.  As he slowed the car down and entered the
cool down and inspection area where another member of the media was
waiting for the ride of a lifetime, I shook Ken Block’s hand and thanked
him for an incredible experience.

Never in my life have I been involved in an automotive experience
that left me so packed full of adrenaline and for everyone out there who
has watched Ken Block compete, it really is as crazy in person as it is
watching it on television.

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