Autos

Ken Block Redefined How We See Cars – Road & Track


The car film universe exploded over the last decade. YouTube did for car films what MTV did for music videos. An entire industry was built by people finding how far they could push the envelope with fast-moving machines on screen. Nobody came close to doing it as completely as Ken Block. He brought a perfect balance of art, speed, information, and business.

That last element is where Ken and his team at Hoonigan destroyed everyone else. His Gymkhana videos quickly became a viral sensation and helped to launch the car film industry into the mainstream. Working in the industry, my team always looked at Gymkhana films as the benchmark of car porn entertainment. Although it was always a disappointment to discover ideas we thought up as original, the Hoonigan team executed in secret nine months earlier for the latest installment of the Gymkhana series. Ken’s team turned these car films into a business that was at the forefront of new and social media. Not commercial, but this hybrid arena of branded/advertorial content, mixed in with some great editorial. He, along with Brian Scotto, are true pioneers in space.

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The masses knew Ken for his driving skills, but a big part of his legacy was his ability to engage and attract a younger audience to racing. Here’s the funny thing about what Ken was able to achieve: He was a great driver, and much credit to him for competing on the same stage as greats like eight-time World Rally Champion Sébastian Loeb. But where Ken lacked in speed in professional events, he cleaned house when it came to exposure and the business of racing. Block’s talent and marketing savvy enabled him to stand out in the industry and secure partnerships with various automotive sponsors and brands. He played in a different league than everyone else when it came to the business of content and automotive. He developed the perfect product for car manufacturers and industry-adjacent sponsors, all while still building the Hoonigan universe. Whereas everyone kept trying to force new ideas into the template of traditional media, Ken and his team created their own sandbox — one which everyone eventually wanted to play in.

As a result of his many talents and diverse interests, Block wore many hats – both literally and figuratively – and had a long list of sponsors and partnerships. He was known for his ability to bring the right people together and build strong, successful teams, and his influence and impact on the industry was undeniable. He worked as a driver, an entrepreneur, while also having a creative itch that influenced people to give a fuck about cars. It was the perfect Venn diagram for what the automotive industry needs in an era where young people don’t care about getting their driver’s license as much as they used to. That itself is a huge threat to one of the biggest industries on the planet.

In his life and career, Ken Block inspired and entertained millions of people around the world, and his contributions to motorsports and entertainment will be remembered for years to come. An inspiration to not just people like me playing with cars and cameras, but also to those who love seeing man and machine doing things we’ve never seen done before.


J.F. Musial is a New York-based producer and director of automotive programming. He founded TangentVector, the automotive-centric production company that spawned /DRIVE. He now makes content for automakers, media companies, and racing series like WEC and F1, and documentaries like APEX: The Story of the Hypercar.



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