Kenyan Motorsports Shattered By Demise of Daredevil Racer Ken Block

Nairobi — Tributes continue to pour in for legendary American racing star and YouTuber Ken Block who passed away on Tuesday after a snowmobile accident near his Woodland ranch in Utah.

News of the 55-year-old’s death reverberated thousands of miles in Kenya where he left lasting memories during his debut in last year’s East African Safari Classic Rally during which he finished 19th overall following a navigator error.

The American had always dreamt of pitting his wits and skills behind the wheel on the world-renowned Kenyan Safari terrain, an opportunity that presented itself when he drove a Turthill Porsche at the biennial Safari Classic’s 10th edition.

Those who had interacted with Block during his visit to Kenya were distraught and could not help but recount their encounters with the Hoonigan Racing Division driver.

Kenya National Rally Championships (KNRC) and Classic driver Raaji Bharij described himself as lucky and privileged to have rubbed shoulders with Block.

“You’re an absolute legend. We will all, of course, remember the Gymkhana videos and the entertainment you gave us… but some of us were lucky to meet you, and race with you and what we will all remember is how down to earth and friendly you were and at heart someone that just loved anything with an engine strapped to it. Go well dude,” Bharij wrote on his Facebook page.

East African Safari Classic, organisers of the the main and mini classic events, also eulogised the American, expressing their heartbreak over Block’s demise considering he had purposed to compete at this year’s edition.

“It was an honour and joy to have him compete in the East African Safari Classic rally and we were looking forward to his return this year. We are sending our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Ken Block as well as the entire team that has worked with him,” they said.

Similarly, Tuthill Porsche, manufacturers of his car in which he competed at the East African Safari Classic Rally, expressed their shock at the turn of events, revealing they were hoping Block would race at this year’s event.

“There are times in life where you meet exceptional people… Ken was one of them. Today, those that were at work gathered for a few moments to reflect. We send our condolences, love and best wishes to his family. We hoped he would take part again and once again, do it with Tuthill Porsche,” rally driver and the company’s director, Richard Tuthill, said.

The World Rally Championships (WRC) Safari Rally Kenya, organisers of the annual global motorsport event, paid tribute to Block as a legend of the game whose accomplishments will remain tattooed in history books.

“We deeply mourn the loss of legend Ken Block who graced our country for the 2022 East African Classic Rally. Legends never die… your memories will forever live,” they said.

A classic experience

Navigated by Alex Gelsomino, Block clocked 02:35:52.7 hours to take Day One overnight lead ahead of Kris Rosenberger and partner Nicola Bleicher also in a Porsche 911 timed 02:36:44.1.

At the end of the rally, the American was over the moon as he spoke of how the Classic Rally had brought him into contact with the best sights and sounds Kenya has to offer.

“Nine days, 8 stage wins (out of 22), and almost 18 hours of racing on stages (that’s more than the entire US rally championship all combined!), and Alex Gelsomino and I have finished our first-ever East African Safari Classic Rally!” he said.

Block added: “From the vast competitive distance, to the unusual race stage obstacles (giraffes, camels, motorcycles, zebras, elephants, trucks, etc), to the beautiful Kenyan countryside views, to the challenging stages – this has been an absolutely incredible race and experience. While we didn’t get the outcome we hoped for (6 punctures and a mistake by my co-driver cost us a lot of time and penalties), the experience was one I will never forget.”

Block was a race driver for Rally America and Global Rallycross, and earned wide renown later in life for his “Gymkhana” video series on YouTube.

The 10-part series, in which he performed daring racing feats, earned him nearly two million subscribers.

Block also co-founded the skate-wear clothing brand DC Shoes and was the brains behind Hoonigan Industries.

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