With his decade-long partnership with Ford at an end, Ken Block is spreading his wings in 2021, combining a domestic rallying program alongside a familiar ally with a couple of first-time experiences.
Starting this weekend, Block will return to Subaru for the Olympus Rally, 12 years on from his last competitive outing for the brand. The Head Hoonigan In Charge will drive a Vermont SportsCar-built WRX STI alongside long-time co-driver Alex Gelsomino and run by his own Hoonigan Racing Division, with factory support.
But that won’t be all. As well as six planned American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National outings with Subaru, Block will also be taking on the East Africa Safari Classic Rally in a Tuthill Porsche, and the gruelling Baja 1000 – his first-ever trophy truck race.
“This is going to be a wild year! I’m stoked to be back in a Subaru racing rally in America,” said Block. “And now that I’m not exclusively tied to just one manufacturer, I can go do things like race a Porsche, built by Tuthill Porsche, in Africa and take on the infamous Baja 1000 in a Trophy Truck – both of which I’ll be doing for the first time ever!”
Block made his rallying debut with Subaru in 2005 and later became a household name thanks to the first two Gymkhana videos which featured Impreza WRX STIs.
He went on to win nine times at a national level in the US with the manufacturer and made his first three World Rally Championship starts driving Imprezas, before switching to Ford for the 2010 season.
His relationship with the Detroit firm ended earlier this year, a move Block summed up by saying “we’ve decided to see other people”, allowing him to drive vehicles from other brands and no longer remain exclusive to the one company.
While a reunion with Subaru had long been speculated – and even teased in his Ford separation announcement video – Block’s first post-Ford outing came behind the wheel of a Škoda Fabia at last month’s 100 Acre Wood Rally. There he finished second behind Travis Pastrana, and later tested the factory team’s machine following the event.
I’m definitely the underdog this season. This is a completely new car for meKen Block
“It’s great to be working with Vermont SportsCar again,” he said. “I was really impressed with their latest WRX STI after testing it the day after I finished second in The Rally in the 100 Acre Wood.”
Block’s reunion with Subaru will also mark his first proper push for a US national rallying title since 2013. He will have his work cut out though – having already missed the season-opening Sno*Drift Rally Block and Gelsomino will also skip the Oregon Trail Rally season finale owing to scheduling conflicts.
“I’m definitely the underdog this season,” said Block. “This is a completely new car for me, and Travis Pastrana has already won the first two events of the year, in a race car he’s been racing for a few years now.
“So, Alex and I have our work cut out for us! I have to quickly get comfortable in an all-new car and battle against a very talented driver that already has two wins this season! But, that’s racing. We’re going to give it our all.”
New cars, new experiences
While the ARA field will be wrapping up their season in Oregon, Block will be 9,000 miles away, tackling the East Africa Safari Classic Rally, kicking off an intense three week period.
The day after the nine-day African trek is complete, Block will be heading straight to Mexico for another first time experience – the Baja 1000. For the famed off-road event, Block is teaming up with 16-year-old rising off-road star Jax Redline, who claimed fifth in the San Felipe 250 last week.
“Jax is one of the young and very talented drivers in the sport and I am stoked to be partnered with him in this big effort to go take on one of the biggest off-road races in the world!” said Block.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Block will also be returning to his long-running Gymkhana web video series after handing over the reins to Travis Pastrana last year. Hoonigan describes the upcoming 12th instalment as a “wild evolution” for the series, while Block himself has teased that the video will not only be groundbreaking but will feature him behind the wheel of another new car.
“It’s all a big secret at this point. But, there will be a lot more info on this – along with a new manufacturer partnership – which will be announced very soon,” he said. “I am very excited about this one!
“We will be pushing the levels of film and automotive technology in ways we have never done before.”