When Is A Job Not A Job?
That Viral Video Guy

I live for car culture. I breathe it, I absorb it and I capture it for a living. People often ask me though, if I could drive cars for a living instead of shooting pictures of them, would I? I could never answer that question before and it’s been in the back of my mind for a few years now. As I experience more and more what the world of car culture has to offer, the answer has become more and more clear to me. I was a driver first.


I always joke about the fact that pushing a car to its limits is the most fun you can have with your clothes on – but for me it’s true. When I’m behind the wheel of a beast of a machine all my troubles melt away. I just focus on one thing – going as fast as I can.


I’ve been shooting pictures my entire life, but at one point I actually got very serious behind the wheel. I was part of a group of car-nut friends – we would all work hard on weekdays and then race our cars at local tracks or auto-x clubs on the weekends. Right out of high school it’s what I did for years. However, I eventually found myself driving less and taking photography more seriously, which has brought me to where I am now – 30 years old, camera in hand, and capturing car culture for the masses.


So you might be wondering – what does all this have to do with Ken Block? Well, at this point in my life I could not imagine dropping everything to pursue my dream of becoming a racing driver. But that’s exactly what the head Hoonigan did at 30 years of age. Having never driven a rally car up until that point in his life, Ken took that leap and he’s never looked back.


I’ve been lucky enough to follow Ken around the world for a few years now, but I completely forgot about the first time we met until he mentioned something in Spain that triggered my memory.


It was almost a decade ago, and my friends and I had entered an event called ‘American Gymkhana’ which was basically a heads-up auto-x competition with two mirrored courses and a drag racing type christmas tree. There was talk in the paddock about a hotshot driver by the name of Ken Block who was driving a 500hp Subaru.


I had my 1970 240Z ‘Ole Orange Bang‘ – all 143hp of it. I lined up for one of my runs and low and behold, Mr. Ken Block lined up right next to me.


I thought, who does this guy think he is bringing a bazooka to a knife fight? I knew there was no way that I could beat him, but I would at least try to beat his reaction time.


Well, the lights barely started to go down on the tree when I dumped my clutch and sped off into the first corner. I faulted, Ken went on green and he still beat me to the first corner. How embarrassing…


When I told him that story he laughed. Of course, we all know how it’s panned out for Ken – he’s gone on to make some of the most effective and popular viral videos in history.

Sean Already Did It

I’m not going to “beat a dead horse” as our very own Sean Klingelhoefer put it so eloquently in his Rally Mexico story last year.


Sean did a great job highlighting the dedication that Ken and the rest of his team have towards WRC and rallying in general. He also noted that whether you like Ken or not, you have to give him the respect for doing what he loves to do and with great style.


Rally De España was an especially difficult event for Ken because up until that point he had not driven in a special stage rally for eight months, let alone listened to someone yelling pace notes at him in that time.


Attacking stages and digesting co-driver calls is not like getting back on a bicycle after not riding for the better part of a year – it takes time to get rolling at full speed again.


It didn’t help that Ken had fallen ill with a high fever either – one that had probably been passed along through the traveling Hoonigan Racing Division circus that’s made up of his crew and family.


Sitting in stop and go traffic in sweltering heat in a rally car while wearing a race suit is not a great way to recover from sickness, but Ken soldiered on – this is his dream job after all.


Ken was only planning on competing in one WRC event this year, as a rally tourist. How sweet is that? Just pop by and compete in the WRC whenever it tickles your fancy.


As I mentioned in my Through My Lens article, Rally De España is one of the few rounds of the championship that consist of both gravel and tarmac surfaces, which means the cars have to undergo a complete transformation midway through the event.


Since Ken’s team have been wrenching on his Global Rallycross car all year, it was very easy for them to make the transition to the WRC machine. He only has the best in the business working with him.


While it’s important to have a strong finish, Ken’s not worried about shaving off microseconds.


He is just having a blast driving. One of the latter special stages was 50km long, and Ken said it took in some of the most fun roads he has ever driven on, going flat out for 30 minutes straight.


While higher-ranked cars always rum first on a special stage, the organizer thought it would be a good idea to let Ken go first for SS1 in Barcelona. Being a fan favorite, he was very well received.

Work Sucks

We sat down for dinner one night and Ken came up with a very simple, but great question. Why is it that the car manufacturers don’t make anything similar to his WRC car?


Of course, there will never be anything like a full-blown WRC car for the road, but it’s not like these things even have that much power with their 300hp cap.


It’s more so the whole package that goes with it, plus the development that goes into each and every car. And of course, it would be expensive and wouldn’t sell – at least not comparatively to the people movers that most manufacturers pump out these days.


As Sean mentioned in his article, Ken is bringing new fans to WRC that otherwise might never even have known about it. He is getting the younger generation back into motorsports, which is becoming more and more rare these days. It baffles my mind when I hear about Generation Y and how some of them have no interest in obtaining a driver license.


I feel like we need more guys like Ken in motorsports – someone who understand what the youth want. He’s a role model whether you guys think so or not. Who knows, maybe the next great rally prodigy could start out as a Ken Block fan – anything is possible. Heck, I didn’t even know a thing about special stage rallying until I started following Ken!


On the last day it looked as if Ken and his co-driver Alex Gelsomino would grab a top 10 finish.


That was until they got to the final stage with just a few kilometers to go. There was a small rock on the driving line, and by the time Ken saw it, it was too late. The tire slowly deflated and after a few corners it was completely shredded.


While it’s a shame that the team didn’t end up with the result they wanted, I think they accomplished what they were after. Ken had the time of his life and he made a few more fans along the way.


While I have been following Mr. Block’s antics for a while, I have never actually traveled with the entire crew. What you guys don’t see is how hard everyone works – from his race team to his manager. Even his photographer does double-triple duty pulling all nighters to get the job done.


There was a moment when we were driving to the outskirts of town for a demonstration when Ken and his guys were crammed in the back of the van reviewing edits for Gymkhana 7 for the very first time. I thought to myself, ‘This man is an absolute machine – how can he physically do so many things at once!’


So would I quit my job hunting speed to becoming a racing driver? No freakin’ way! Which reminds me of that old saying, ‘If you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life.’ Ken Block has not clocked into work since he was 30 years old. And me? I don’t think I’ve ever clocked into work…

Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto



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hmmm Kenny from the block...he needs practice at REAL stages and go bawlz deep do a whole season if you want people to take you seriously...yes he's better than me btw and i respect what he does just seems like he keeps dipping a toe in the WRC temp. waters.


And here is that exact race where you met


Great story Larry and amazing photos as always.


is that your 1970 240Z ‘http://www.speedhunters.com/tag/ole-orange-bang/‘ Larry Chen?


Good story, I think it's important to mention that the only reason Ken is able to do this stuff is because he ran a huge company for a long time: DC. Without money he wouldn't be doing any of this. That I think is the biggest example in practical terms that he can teach people. It's never too late to get into motorsport. 

Having said that, there comes a certain point where you have to look at WRC as a high level of competition where the goal is to win. Do I respect Ken for what he has accomplished? Absolutely, to a huge degree. Do I think he'll win? No. Separate issue. 

Unfortunately in motorsport you are judged on wins, not respect. I don't think the next WRC champion will be a Ken Block fan, because WRC is dominated by European drivers who are going to be fans of the guy who is winning races. They are competing and watching very young in motor sport. A lot of young kids in Europe start in karting where the name Ken Block really doesn't garnish any "oohs" and "aahs." 

How many people watch a race and root for the guy mid pack and get inspired by how mid pack he is? If you want to win, you study the greats, and while I think Ken is good I don't think he's great. Maybe the Gymkhana videos will get a kid into cars at a young age, then lead him to WRC, but once there the big names really move to the forefront. 

I hate to say it, but I think Ken and the reach he has is a fad that will eventually fade away in terms of its influence on the industry. Hopefully I'm wrong, but it's an internet trend started by a guy with a lot of money who essentially bought his way into having fun. If anything he is a business role model, not a racing role model / icon.


Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, defined "work" as "anything you'd rather not be doing."

Myself, I'd rather be trackside with a camera, running the risk of getting clipped by a rally car doing a hundred sideways, than work an office job.


@Chris Agree with you Chris. WRC and motorsport are as different in Europe to the US as are the intrinict cultures. 

Excellent article LArry. More power to Ken Block.


LavarBowers he can't afford to run a whole season anymore. It's not financially viable. Great guy and a good driver. But he's running less in WRC and more in other venues because of $$.


CharismaVian Yes it is, I mentioned this race in the article.


@alexmclark That is so funny. I got beat so badly, lol.


2xthefun LavarBowers If that's true thats kind of insane to think about how much money goes into WRC. I wouldn't even consider it a really money pit in the scope of the racing world. Makes F1 look like buying a 250 GTO compared to a 458 Challenge. Crazy.


@Chris  I have to admit, the first time I saw a kid wearing a monster energy subaru t-shirt I thought, "S**t, that actually worked!". Ken may not have won a rally in the WRC while Sebastian Loeb won 9 WRC championships in a row. However, I can only imagine how many kids around the world would have noticed or cared without Kens take on gymkhana.
Im sort of a black sheep in America. Ive never had much interest in nascar or any other American motorsports except ALMS. (I hate tudor united..mainly for the day pros) Ive only ever paid attention to Formula 1, rallying, and drifting. I remember watching a Speedvision rally recap in like 97 (I think) at 2-3 oclock in the morning because thats when they would show rallying, and Colin Mcrae had a big enough margin to give up time doing donuts for the fans.That had a real affect on 11-12 year old me that I think about to this day everytime I watch any race or rally.
 Colin won just one WRC championship in his career while Tommi Makinen won 4 in a row. The question is who had the most influence? Maybe winning isnt everything. Maybe we wouldnt be having this conversation without people like Ken. 
Racing role model? No. Racing Icon? I think the answers clear.


Larry, I think it is so funny that everyone from outside Europe thinks WRC is so new and so fun at 30 years old :))) For me is other way around, as I never saw a NASCAR race and I have never been at a drag strip. What do you prefer?


I really enjoy work, but would I quit it to become a sponsored rally and rallycross driver?... HELL YES!
Personally I'm a big fan of Block and what he does. He is being paid by sponsors to drive in the greatest motorsport disciplines (in my opinion!) in the World : that sounds pretty much like perfection to me. 

It is probably a statement of the obvious, but I would say that Block's media savvy is probably his greatest strength and greatest weakness. His huge internet presence is obviously what allows him to get backing for these motorsport programmes (and I would argue it has bought said motorsports to a wider audience) but, accordingly, the way some of his marketing presents him does so in a way that alienates more knowledgeable motorsport fans. 

I tell everyone who gives Block grief to check out the interview Drive did with him a couple of years back. Behind the PR I think there is a genuine motorsport enthusiast, which is why I respect what he is doing.


Great posts this.guy.said and @Chris. Even in Europe I have lost count of how many Block t-shirts I've seen at rallies and rallycross events. His reach is far and wide, at a time when the media for the WRC is piss poor, I think that's a great thing.
As said, I respect Block for being in the WRC, but I don't think he'll ever win a round (or even podium). Contrary to what some think though, I do think he has some talent. I watched him at Loheac this year and, aside from Petter Solberg, no one else was as spectacular to watch.
The WRC is a whole other level though and you need to be regularly participating to have any chance of being competitive, regardless of how good you are.
From what I've heard in the personal interviews I get the impression Block would agree with you guys. Unfortunately I think some of Block's PR is delivered in such a way that presents him as "the greatest ever" to the casual fan, which grates a lot of more seasoned motorsport followers.


this.guy.said Yeah I can vouch for that, I was an instructor at Willing Springs Raceway for a little while and I remember this girl came to the track with a full blown STi and she had all the Ken Block gear on. I was kind of laughing thinking "wow...she's actually draped head to toe in the gear AND has the car all decked out. She was female mini-ken! 

I've never been into NASCAR though I did study at a tech school in the south where we learned to build NASCAR spec V8s, transmissions etc etc. A few of my teachers worked for some major names in the sport and I did a brief stint for Dale Jr's uncle at some shop. Also wrapped body work for Dale Jr / Danica.The knowledge I learned from these guys was really important in my development not only as a driver, but also as a fan and a technician. 

I once made all my friends stay up to watch a 24 hour rally marathon. They weren't my friends much longer after this. Feel very fortunate I did as I got to see Mcrae and some of the legends of the time. I guess I come from a bit more of an older POV. I read everything I could about Senna, Tsuchiya and would emulate them in my chair before I could even drive. 

Icon I think is a more appropriate term. 

The only Ford I would ever own is a GT40. EVOs are for guys who can't drive a proper RWD car :P 

I really miss seeing Colin on TV.


tbtstt this.guy.said I think so too TBT, his interview on Drive I did become a fan because he didn't seem to have a huge ego and he knows what his role in the sport is and is realistic about what he's bringing to the table. 

Yeah the marketing side of it is a little eh...I get a little annoyed when I see people write about him calling him a "professional rally driver." I mean he is a pro driver...but not like Ogier or Makkinen was a "professional rally driver." The terminology can be off putting for die hards.


"Why is it that the car manufacturers don’t make anything similar to his WRC car?"
They do.  Ish.
can buy the Fiesta R5 from M Sport for about £200,000.Bit less power
than the WRC car, same weight, more road car bits than a full WRC car.
So, cheaper- and fully road legal here in the UK. I'd have one.


Its interesting that on both articles about you both tip toed around the fact that some people dont like Block. I, for one, have no idea where all that hate comes from. I just cant fathom why anyone would dislike a guy that is bringing so much (positive) attention to Motorsports. So what if he loses most of his races? How would you like it if you put 110% effort into everything you do and people still complained you didnt win everything you entered. Its not like he was handed a free ride or something, dude has worked for everything he has/does and is pretty damn good at it. He changed the way Americans look at motorsports for sure, Rally cross, gymkhana etc.... Block has played a major part of putting that in Americans mindsets. Also an American in WRC... Is he winning every race? no. Is he there representing 'merica with that flag on the top of his car. Yes I dont see to many other people doing that.  Block bringing positive vibes to series's like the WRC is only a good thing, especially in a time like this where rally needs a push to bring it back to where it was before the Loeb era. Ask any driver and they will say selling yourself to your sponsors is half of racing, bringing positive attention to products, and Block is simply the grand champion of that and some people just cant stand it.


All the people that don't like him are just bummed they don't live the kind of life he does. Come to think of it I freakin hate him now. Oh and you to Larry... you SOB!


Great article, this year I missed WRC España / Rally Catalunya for the first time since I go there as I am from Barcelona.

And what makes that special (I was in Japan during holidays) is that my first time in a WRC event was winning a prize with Monster Energy Drink to met up Ken Block at the rally placed 80kms south from my home city, in an all expenses payed, vip passes trip wich was awesome. From that trip I made some friends from Norway wich whom we go together to WRC Sweden almost every single year, and I have discovered a passion for WRC, not for photography as I already had it in 2011, but I was more a Racetrack fan. 
I must admit I try to take good pictures with my DSLR for my only pleasure, and I must say I have some good ones. But missing that WRC Spain in wich Mr.Block was coming back (the main and one reason I went for the first time to a WRC event) was a big dissapointment for me. Fortunatelly he might repeat the roads close home in 2015!


IshMel I don't understand anyone who would hate him, but you do need to realize there are people in the US who do follow WRC and have been for a long time. When someone like Block jumps in and suddenly is praised as an awesome driver because of a Gymkhana video, it can be a little off putting to people who understand the sport and driving to a more in depth level. For the person who doesn't understand and is totally new, he is great. To people who have either been racing a long time, or following the sport for a long time the marketing side is a bit over hyped and off putting. 

It's very similar to people who have been building engines a long time. When you're new to racing or new to learning about performance motors you think the only thing that matters is peak horsepower. Over time you start to understand peak power is less important than the way the power is delivered (power curve), the course, the car, the driver skill level etc etc. Horsepower isn't even a real number, but a calculation based on torque which is what really matters. 

I think anyone who races knows what it's like to put 110% of their effort into a car or event and not win. It's very frustrating, but the people who are truly there for the love of the sport will continue to push forward. I think it's important what Ken is doing and many people have respect for him, however, it will be interesting to see how many people he brought into the sport are still following it in 20, 30, 40 years. To really make an impact in anything in life you have to think on large scales. Ken is important for what he is doing to the US viewer base, but it will take much more than a single person to change an entire cultures perception on motor racing. 

Happy to see an American in the WRC and I will continue to support him. Hopefully he can do a few full seasons as myself and many others would really like to see an American win a WRC championship. Be careful about confusing hate with scrutiny when it comes to motorsport and competition. The two are not the same thing and high levels of scrutiny are common in racing, especially at high levels. 

I forget the exact quote, but Enzo Ferrari once had a driver die and when they told him on the phone the driver was dead he said, "But is the car ok?" (@_@)


I guess he truly is Living the Dream.
Driving/racing race cars across the globe... WRC, RX, Gymkhana.

Who wouldn't be jealous!?

I got the chance to see him in action upclose at Rally Deutschland, WRC Trier.
Although he had to give up due DNF to electrical problems.

It's always a buzz when he is around, you can't explain some drivers have it others do not.

The magic of WRC is you get upclose with them, real upclose:
Parce ferme, service park, timing lines...

And the fact they drive the liason routes on public roads it's all so accessible.


Great article. I was talking to a friend of mine, and race organisers and series heads around the world are making the same mistake trying to chase 'casual fans' and 'young fans'. They think gimmicks, short races, social media speed boosts and techno music during safety car periods would help. They won't. That's just fake garbage that patronises real race fans.

The way to get people into motor racing is to make it FUN again. Look at F1 - a world of entirely straight-faced people led by a greedy money man and overburdened with technical minutae and obsessions over thousandths of seconds. The great thing about Ken Block and why people love him is you know he has a massive smile on his face whenever he's racing - look at Block's Roundabout clip, where just for the hell of it, he does a doughnut twice around a roundabout mid-stage. Drivers like him, Shane Van Gisbergen, Rob Austin and more are guys I love watching as you know they are having a blast doing a career many would dream to have the chance to do. They are paying their dues to motor racing every day by grafting on their team/car/media stuff all the time, as they owe a lot to the sport, and are always ready to give back to the fans. 

THAT is how to get people into motor racing.


@Chris this.guy.said The Drive interview is what convinced me that Block was a genuine motorsport enthusiast. It's a pity some of his own PR isn't delivered in the same way as that interview, as I sure it would sway some of the die hard rally/rallycross fans who have been put off. 
The only Ford you would own is a GT40? Its a good call, but the GT40 is second to the RS200 on my list of Fords to own!


i wish i had the money to buy my dream and race it like ken block .  I have the passion but i dn't have the money . so i guess i have to clock in some hours of work to start my dream


very inspiring


tbtstt this.guy.said Well played sir, well played. RS200s are also on the list. Forgot about those for a minute. Sierra Cosworth too. 

The Drive interview was really good, very insightful. I wasn't really a fan before, but became one after that segment.


BombersportsUK That is how you make a fan for life.


BombersportsUK well said.


if you wernt doing photography full time, what do you think you'd being doing larry?
just curious...!


Nikhil_P Something either with computers, which is what I did right out of high school, or I would be a chef, I love cooking.


@Chris this.guy.said Tried watching nascar but I also tried propping a chair next to the interstate. Im sure it entertaining for the driver but to me not in person or on television.
I should explain my dislike of fords comes from recent dealer experiences at 2/3 of the local dealer service departments with relatives cars that were less than 3yrs old at the time.(Because Im the car guy in the family.) Otherwise I might have been interested in a ST model or mustang or even the upcoming focus rs. But, nope.Never.
I liked rally I think because the drivers seemed to be able to say more without consequence and, originally the same with Formula one. I remember one after race interview with Ron Dennis where he jokingly/lovingly mentioned something about Robert Kubicas nose instantly liked the guy, after not seeing much personality from him for some years.The pre race F1 conferences are way more entertaining than post. Kubica is another guy Id like to see win a rally if he could stop crashing Im sure he would.
Block seems like a guy just doing what he likes. Something I bet alot of people wish they could do.


He look like Vaughn Gittin Jr