He’s the YouTube sensation whose videos have been viewed more than 100 million times, and now Irish rally fans can see Ken Block in person when he takes part in this weekend’s Joule Donegal International Rally.
The American is the top rally stunt driver in the world with over 13 million followers on social media. But Block is a serious competitor too, having driven in the World Championship, and now he is set to compete on these shores for the first time.
He has included Donegal on a world tour with his Hoonigan Racing team and his specially built Ford Escort Cosworth has been shipped in from New Zealand where he was competing on the Whangarie Rally.
From California, Block originally was a snowboarder and owner of the DC Shoes company. But having been inspired by seeing Colin McRae taking part in the X Games in America, Block fell in love with rallying and was soon competing around the globe.
However, it was his Gymkhana videos, displaying his extraordinary car control, which brought him worldwide fame and made him a YouTube superstar.
A millionaire after he sold his shoe company, he was able to indulge his rally passion, setting up his Monster rally team – which has now become Cossie Hoonigan Racing – and has created a succession of viral videos.
He is currently on a world tour with his ’90s style Escort Cosworth, which has been updated to what he believes it would have been had Ford continued to develop it. The aim, he says, is to take part in rallies he’s always wanted to do and Donegal is one of them.
“I wanted to come because there is a great rally culture in Ireland,” he explained. “It has the best fans and the best tarmac rally roads anywhere.
“I do a lot of fun things in my rally cars but there is a serious side to it too, and I’m here to compete as well as enjoy it.”
Block will be a huge attraction when the three-day rally, the fifth round of the Irish Tarmac Championship, rolls out from Letterkenny on Friday morning.
Meanwhile, the sixth round of the series, the Ulster International, will have a new base and a new sponsor this year.
The August 16-17 event is moving to the Newry area and will be backed by local wholesaler Savage and Whitten (S&W), distributor for the Today’s group of supermarkets.
It will be known as the Today’s Ulster Rally and will also be a counting round of the British Championship.