(Motorsport-Total.com) – The shockwaves that swept through the motorsports community following the death of Ken Block told their own story of the impact he had on everyone.
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Ken Block at Rally Catalunya 2018
Because although the American’s arena of competition was the rally car, his influence extended far beyond the tarmac and gravel roads – and not only in the Formula 1 paddock, but also around the world. entire.
Block’s Gymkhana videos were legendary, as his pioneering use of social media to spread the thrill of modern motorsport was ahead of anything championship organizers, teams or drivers were doing at the time.
Pirelli planned Block’s Formula 1 debut in 2011
Former Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button perfectly sums up many people’s feelings about Block’s death. “I am shocked by the death of Ken Block,” Button wrote. “Such a talent who has done so much for our sport.”
“He was a true visionary with his unique style and infectious smile. Our sport has lost one of the best today, but above all a great person.”
Such was Block’s influence and superstar status that Formula 1 tire supplier Pirelli even paved the way for him to test a Grand Prix car a decade ago – before the plans fell through .
Pirelli wanted to combine success in the WRC and Formula 1
Pirelli had worked extensively with Block in the WRC and after his return to Formula 1 in 2011 he saw the possibility of a Formula 1 entry for Block to underline its global presence in the two main categories of the world championship.
Following a request from Rafael Navarro, then head of Pirelli’s media relations for motorsport in the United States, concerning the possibility of a Formula 1 test, it was Paul Hembery, then director of Pirelli Motorsport, who put the wheels in motion to come up with a plan.
A car was found through an agreement between Pirelli and Toyota to use the two-year-old TF109 for development work throughout 2011.
This 2009 Toyota TF109 Should Have Been Tested By Ken Block Zoom
And a date has also been set: Pirelli has scheduled a three-day test at Monza in August 2011. Lucas di Grassi was to do the tire work on the first two days of testing before handing over to Block for the final day.
Plane Block stunts in Formula 1 car?
Everything was settled and Pirelli announced Block’s test at the Canadian Grand Prix where he was excited about the opportunity. Speaking in the Montreal paddock, Block said: “I never imagined something like this would even be possible.”
“But Pirelli saw the idea of doing something unique and different with me. He’s been a great partner for everything I’ve done so far, so for me it’s been a dream come true. reality. I have so little racing experience on asphalt that it will be a great learning experience for me.”
Block’s test wasn’t just about gaining experience in the Formula 1 car, he also toyed with the idea of doing gymkhana-style stunts.
Asked about the possibility in Montreal, Block smiled: “I’ll see what I can persuade them to do. Sure, it’s a very expensive car, but I asked a few questions and they looked at me a little weird. see, what is possible.”
What finally failed the blow
A few weeks after the Canadian Grand Prix weekend, Block traveled to Toyota’s Cologne headquarters to intensify his preparations for the test.
That day he had to drive in the Formula 1 simulator to get used to the speed and demands of Grand Prix machines (especially since he had never driven a single-seater at the highest level before) , as well as a seat adjustment for the event.
And that’s exactly where Toyota and Block hit a sticking point. While his height of 1.83m was not a complete handicap, as some Formula 1 drivers were taller, his stature and body shape – and in particular the length of his legs – posed a bigger problem.
Remember, the TF109 was designed for the much smaller Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock. While Block could sit in the car to get under the roll bars, his legs were positioned to block the movement of the steering wheel.
Pirelli on the cancellation of the tests: “Has not given up”
Toyota attempted to remedy this by making some modifications to the car, but had to abandon their plans a few weeks later to clear Block for the August test due to time constraints. Pirelli kept trying to find alternatives and even looked at the options available on previous generation cars, but to no avail.
“We didn’t give up,” Hembery says today, looking back on his memories of working with Block. “But the scale of the changes would simply have been too great.”
“You have to remember that Toyota was practically dead at that time. [das Unternehmen hatte sich Ende 2009 aus der Formel 1 zurückgezogen]. They didn’t have the strength they had before. Therefore, our ability to make such changes was too limited.”
“In the end we couldn’t do it unfortunately. I know how disappointed Ken was because he was looking for thrills. The opportunity to do something like this only comes once in a lifetime and unfortunately it didn’t show up.”
Formula 1 did not want Block on the starting grid
Hembery believes that if the test had taken place, it would have been an important moment for Formula 1 to reach a new audience at a time when the sport was not as geared towards the younger generation as it is today. today.
In fact, at the Canadian Grand Prix, Hembery even had to fight for a starting grid right for Block, as F1 wasn’t convinced his name was big enough to warrant one.
Ken Block at the 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed Zoom
Fan cheers and mechanics flocking to take selfies with him proved to Hembery that he was exactly the person Formula 1 needed to achieve more – and the test would only accelerate further. more things.
Hembery: Formula 1 was ‘tired and slow’ back then
“You have to remember that when we got into the sport, Formula 1 was a bit tired and slow,” says Hembery. “There wasn’t a lot going on on the track, so I think it would have been great if Ken had done something very different, which was to drive a Ken-style F1 car on the track and figure out how he could move and run it as he would drive it.”
“It would have been a lot of fun to do it. And of course it’s very unfortunate that we couldn’t do it.” Although Hembery’s departure from Pirelli a few years ago meant he hasn’t crossed paths with Block as often of late, it hasn’t lessened the sadness of his death.
“Ken just wanted to have fun and push his limits,” adds Hembery. “He was one of the great thrill seekers who wanted to live out his love and passion for rallying and sliding in a car. As a showman, he was the best.”
“He wasn’t bossy either. He didn’t have an ego. He was like a friend in the bar: just a guy having fun. When you were with Ken, you always had to laugh and joke and smile. I’m devastated.”
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