As the automotive world mourns Ken Block, who died in a snowmobile accident in Utah, tributes and respects are pouring in for the late rally driver in all forms. An astounding amount of people, from seven-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton to celebrated skateboard photographer Atiba Jefferson, have come out in remembrance of Block. Now, the World Rally Championship has come out with a gesture of its own: retiring the number 43.
The WRC says they will retire Block’s racing number for the 2023 season, without saying if the number 43 will be retired beyond next year. Though Block struggled to achieve a foothold in WRC, his cultural impact on the sport was massive. For kids like me who had a passing interest in rally but couldn’t find a reliable way to watch the sport, Block’s appeal and savvy content creation brought eyes in the US.
Block joined the WRC in the middle of the Sébastian Loeb era of domination, joining with a Ford Focus RS WRC in 2010. For five seasons, him and co-driver Alex Gelsomino threw their might at the highly competitive stage of the WRC. But like a lot of Block’s career, the stars didn’t quite align. His talent behind the wheel is undeniable, but his aggression and commitment that made him so quick, also ended a few rallies too early.
For most folks, the Gymkhana series was the point of entry into Block’s multicultural world of hard driving and eye-popping stunts. But the throughline for everything Block contributed to the media world was his love for rally. From beginning to end, he had the spirit of rallying; determined to win, resourceful, and willing to put work in. The national series Block competed in 2022, the American Rally Association, hasn’t put word out if it will follow suit with the WRC.
So for next year, the number 43 won’t grace a WRC stage. It’s a fitting tribute for one of the most influential ambassadors of rallying across the globe.
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