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Block: "I was worried for Lewis Hamilton"

  1. He showed James May the meaning of a strong stomach. He showed Lewis Hamilton how quick his Fiesta is off the line. He showed the world how much he enjoys the simple, brutal pleasure of burning through tyres. It’s safe to say we consider Ken Block to embody many of Top Gear’s most sacred philosophies.

    In fact, we invited him down to Barbados as part of our TG Live Festival last month, where he lined up against Lewis Hamilton - some Formula One driver, we think - and created quite possibly one of the coolest things we’ve ever seen.

    So, as Mr Block prepares for another extraordinarily busy season of all things sideways, caught up with the Monster Energy rally star to talk all things drifty. And top of the list was, of course, the next and hotly anticipated installment of his groundbreaking Gymkhana series…

  2. Hi Ken! How are you?

    Ken Block: I’m doing great, thanks.

    TG: You’re gearing up for the X Games in Austin. How’s it all shaping up?

    KB: I’m actually feeling really confident. Texas tends to have more dirt than usual X Games events, which makes it better for me because I come from rally. There are 20 competitors for this event too, so it should be very interesting. I’m working towards my first gold in an X Games event with every fibre in my body. That’s the goal.

    TG: You’re running on part of the Formula One track. Tempted to leave a set of smoky 11s for people like Hamilton to pick up when they arrive later on in the year?

    KB: [laughs] Yeah, I might just do that.

  3. TG: Speaking of which, how was it racing against Lewis Hamilton at Top Gear Live in Barbados?

    KB: Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been a huge fan of Formula One. I’ve been to a few Formula One races and hung out with the teams, met Lewis, Kimi, Michael, most of the guys. I’m just a really big fan of those guys and their talent, what they do, the art of building a Formula One car.

    So for me to be out on the track with one of those cars… honestly, it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. And to have Lewis’s car screaming next to me, completely drowning out the noise of my car - drowning it out for me that is, sitting in my car with my helmet on - was great.

    The funny thing is my car is actually quicker off the line than Lewis’s, because it’s got all-wheel-drive, so it was kind of fun to beat him to the first corner. That was pretty cool.

  4. TG: Any hairy moments in the duel with Lewis?

    KB: I was on race tyres that are not really meant to slide in that way. The first couple of times I pitched the car sideways to do what I do, the tyres acted completely different to what I’ve been familiar with. A couple of times I even went off the track and into the gravel unexpectedly, but luckily I was able to recover with no issues.

    It was quite fun being on the same track as Lewis, but I was more worried for him than anything, because if we had any sort of miscommunication, you know his tyres failed, he’s gonna get the bad end of it. I don’t have those big exposed rubber things that he does.

  5. TG: Be honest, you let him win, didn't you?

    KB: [laughs] Well, the first time we went out I was running the Rallycross course and he was driving the long course, so I actually won the first time. Then the second time we were just playing around. It’s not really an apples-to-apples comparison. He can’t really do my track with the jump and the dirt, and I don’t have the speed that he has on the long straights.

    But it’s something that the Top Gear boys asked us to do, and you know what? I would gladly do it again.

  6. TG: Even though you had a bit of a terrifying 'incident' with the kerbs during the Global Rallycross race?

    KB: The worst injury was to my ego. I should have won that event, but just got impatient. I took a line that I thought was safe, and we’d been running over the kerbs all weekend to varying degrees, but that time it caught my skidplate and got me airborne.

    It wouldn’t have been a big deal if I hadn’t been side-by-side with someone else, because then I caught his car and it made me roll. No injuries for me, the car got some damage and had to be sent back, but it was more of an ego bruise than anything for me.

  7. TG: Talk to us about Gymkhana 7, Ken. We need to know Things.

    KB: I’ve been working on it for about a year and a half. I’ve got quite a different idea for this one, it will be by far one of the most unique ones I’ve done. It’s a great concept, and goes back to the simple raw pleasures of Gymkhana 1. It’s gonna be really good - I can’t really tell you too much about it just yet because I’d give away a lot.

    It’s a huge challenge, but a fun challenge. I make an amazing form of entertainment where I get to go out and burn rubber off tyres. It’s really quite a special thing that I get to do, and I genuinely appreciate it, so if all the fans keep watching I get to keep making them.

    TG: What’s the theme behind Gymkhana 7?

    KB: Well, Gymkhana 6 went back to the roots in terms of one location, and it was really the ultimate course, but here when I refer back to Gymkhana 1, I mean it was more simplistic and raw. And more about the raw power of a car and what I do with it, being wilder. It’s quite a fun concept, but it’s not as strict as say, when we went to Universal Studios and played around with the concept of just being at a studio. It’s more wild and fun than that.

    The only clue I can give you is that we’re shooting this fall, and it’ll probably come out in November. It’s been something that’s taken a lot of work to get this far.

    Read Top Gear’s complete guide to Gymkhana

  8. TG: Will you be using your Fiesta or the RaptorTrax?

    KB: [laughs] Aaaah, a Gymkhana video with the Raptor would be quite funny. It’s definitely not with the Raptor - I want to do something like that with the Raptor soon but not for Gymkhana 7. We’re just using the Fiesta.

    In fact I’ve shot a video with the RaptorTrax [pictured] up in Canada where we filmed for four days in three feet of snow. That video should be coming out in October. We’ve got some incredible stuff.

  9. TG: You're doing Global Rallycross, X-Games, World Rallycross...

    KB: … and on top of that I have a few rounds of rally in the States, and the Monza rally at the end of the year with Valentino Rossi. I’m really looking forward to Rallycross though. All the Rallycross I’ve done in the States has been on tracks that they have to build. They fit them in around Nascar tracks for example, or the one we’re on this weekend in Austin is on top of part of the Formula One track. It’d be cool to go to Europe and race on these tracks specifically built for Rallycross.

  10. TG: You ever thought about racing in any other series?

    KB: A lot of different organisations have asked me to come and do different events, but I don’t have enough time to do what I want to do in the sport I love. So until I can find more time or get bored with what I’m doing, then no I won’t venture off and do anything else.

  11. TG: Who do you see as your successor?

    KB: Wow. Nobody’s ever asked me that before. I guess it would be my son. He’s only three, but you can’t start ‘em too young, right?

    TG: Quite right. Finally Ken, do you sleep with your race overalls on?

    KB: Absolutely not!

    TG: Great, thanks for your time Ken, and good luck!

    KB: Seeya…

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