Interview: Ken Block
- 3rd April 2008, 11:46am
Recently we've seen photos of you 'snowboarding' your Subaru rally car down a New Zealand mountain. How did this event come about?
After I jumped my car 171 feet in November 2006 (for the The Discovery Channel TV show Stunt Junkies), I came up with the idea to combine some rally driving with another one of my favorite pastimes – snowboarding. I’ve been a snowboarder for a long time and have loved driving in the snow since I first got behind the wheel. It was always a dream of mine to take my rally car to a ski resort and really see what I could do with it. So, we tried several attempts to set up a snowboarding-jump-rally-session in the States, but we never figured out a place to do it (in fact we got rejected from a few places).
Then, the opportunity came together in New Zealand (right after the WRC race) and I was able to join the DC Snowboard team as they filmed at Snow Park NZ in New Zealand’s South Island for DC’s Mtn.Lab 1.5 snowboard video (click here for the video trailer ).
The team and I filmed for 4 days and we were able to get some incredible footage together to make the closing part of the video. We got full access to the park courtesy of Sam Lee (of Snow Park NZ) and were able to do anything we wanted. Towing snowboarders into jumps or to obstacles behind a rally car was something that had never been done before, so I didn’t know how well the tyres would grip or how it would actually work. For the snow, I had special tyres with 6mm spikes sent in from Sweden. I had never gotten a chance to use them before since they are illegal in the US, but they worked perfectly.
I was psyched at how much the snowboarders got into working with me and the rally car. Since they normally get pulled by snowmobiles, it wasn’t too hard for them to get the hang of it and for us to sync up. The rally car ended up being amazing for towing and we were able to get some incredible footage, not only of the team, but also of some amazing sequences that involved the car.
I ended up jumping my car three times the first day off of one of the park’s existing kickers and cleared 70 feet no problem. On our last day at Snow Park, I tried to jump a small 55ft flat ground kicker. That attempt turned out to be another story. I had been pulling the snowboarders for 3 days and was used to traveling a certain speed to tow them into the jump. Although my computer said I should be going 7 km slower, I for some reason thought I should trust physics and keep my speed up. Let’s just say that is the last time I base any decision on snowboarder physics again. Here’s a link to that video.
As you can see in some of the quick clips in that video, I jumped to complete flat on that last jump. Big jumps can have big consequences! In fact, very few people know this…but, I broke my back on that last jump!
You BROKE your back?
Yes. Actually, I am pretty embarrassed about it. I made a simple mistake of miscalculating the speed by approx. 2 miles an hour. The impact almost destroyed the car and it caused some damage to my L2 vertebrae. I had it checked out and the doctors told me to take it easy… but, I had races the two following weekends! So, I bought a simple back brace and proceeded to win the Colorado Rally the next weekend, then got third overall at the Rally of Nelson in NZ the weekend after that!
There’s a great behind-the-scenes video clip about the crash. Here’s the link.
My back is finally totally healed now, but that crash is still hard for me to watch. I am still very embarrassed about that mistake!
There’s also another great behind-the-scenes clip about our whole NZ filming session. Go here to You can check it out here.
All and all I’m really stoked on how well everything transpired. The video part turned out way better than I ever imagined (special thanks to Pierre Wikberg for doing his magic with the filming and editing) and the video has been a huge success. And, overall, in all the experiences I’ve ever had, it truly was one of the funnest things I’ve ever done!
Next week, Ken tells us how he got started in rallying and what he's got in store for us in the future.
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