American driver Ken Block’s “just for fun” series of online gymkhana driving videos is an Internet sensation. The Monster World Rally Team driver pilots Fords fitted with Pirelli tires in the World Rally Championship (WRC), Rally America, and The X Games, and created a gymkhana craze when his first gymkhana video was released in 2008. Entitled: Ken Block’s Gymkhana Practice, he founded a franchise that highlights his driving prowess – and showcases how he pushes the limits of car control and maneuverability on obstacle courses. The fast, fierce and dizzying array of twists, turns, extreme acceleration, braking and drifting is almost impossibly hypnotic.
Block’s first gymkhana video, followed by his second effort – Gymkhana TWO The Infomercial – have since amassed an incredible 70 million global views and numerous awards, establishing the American driver as one of the highest-profile global motorsports stars today.
Within minutes of announcing his decision in January to join Ford Motor Company and Pirelli to run a global rally program, Block’s Facebook page was inundated with inquiries about what this meant for Gymkhana. Earlier this summer, Ken Block’s Gymkhana THREE, Part 1; The Music Video Infomercial (feat. The Cool Kids) was released, and was the first of two gymkhana videos Block prepared for GYM3. It is an evolution of the high production, marketing-based style seen in GYM2, but created as an advertisement disguised as a music video.
Block’s most recent installment in the Gymkhana franchise was just launched; and this time, fans will see him driving a specially prepared Ford Fiesta at l’Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry in France. Ken Block’s Gymkhana THREE Part 2; Ultimate Playground: l’Autodrome was launched online here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TshFWSsrn8.
“The whole Gymkhana thing started quite simply. I was looking for a way to get more seat time that involved rally-type driving, and a series for actual Gymkhana racing sprung up in California,” said Block. “I built the first car to compete in it, but unfortunately the series folded after only one event. I then had a purpose-built car with nowhere to run it, so I rented El Toro airfield to go have a little fun with my new toy and ended up making a video from the day of practice. Next thing we knew, it exploded on the Internet.”
For Block’s GYM3 video, he and his team trekked to France to the famous l’Autodrome which has elements of a professional racetrack as well as pre-built obstacles that allow for unique stunts—most notably, maneuvering the steep 51 degree banking of the high-speed oval. l’Autodrome was built in 1924 as a 1.58 mile high speed oval track; its extreme incline puts very unique forces on both the vehicle and its levels of adhesion. This adds to the danger level of all the stunts performed on the wall.
The Gymkhana THREE Fiesta was a production 2011 Fiesta before going through a conversion by Olsbergs MSE, the same group that runs Block’s Rally America program and that won gold at the X Games 15 Rally Competition in a Fiesta last August.
“Aside from gobs of usable power, the real trick in setting up the Gymkhana Ford Fiesta was building a car for tarmac that handles as if it’s on gravel,” said Block. “While most tarmac race cars are designed to grip, we need a car that will still react quickly, but handle loose, while still providing complete control; this is a very delicate balance.”
“Ken is a fantastic addition to the Pirelli family,” said Rafael Navarro, III, Director of Communications and Motorsports for Pirelli Tire North America. ”He engages consumers on so many different levels – whether it be WRC, Rally America, gymkhana, or even his apparel company DC Shoes – Ken’s performance on and off the circuit is important to us, and important to our stakeholders. He is the total package, and we look forward to growing with Ken as he continues his success in each of his ventures. Gymkhana is a series that has captured the imagination of millions of Internet viewers worldwide, and we couldn’t be more excited to be Ken’s tire of choice, both for his rally cars and now his gymkhana car.”