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Fri 07 Apr 2023

GELSOMINO I was privileged to sit next to Ken

Three months on, Ken Block’s long-time co-driver Alex Gelsomino continues to come to terms with the death of the man he refers to as a marketing genius.

Speaking to Becs Williams on WRC Backstories, the official podcast of the WRC, the Italian co-driver admitted he is only now slowly beginning to move on from the tragic death of Block, a man he sat next to more than 130 times as his co-driver.

“It has been a bit surreal, we are a little over three months now and we are sad to say it but we are starting to get used to it.

“Sometimes you spend a week next to a person at a rally and you can’t wait to go home but something like this makes you realise when a person goes that he was so important in my life.

“Since he has been gone I feel different and less than whole.

Reflecting on Block’s death with his wife Rhianon, also a co-driver, Alex conceded that it is Block’s children that he feels the most grief for.

“When I feel sad and when I feel upset, I think about the kids and I realise they need him more than I did. I was privileged to spend all that time sat next to Ken.”

Gelsomino and Block were first brought together in 2005 when Block, a year removed from selling his start-up footwear company DC Shoes to global surfing apparel giant Quicksilver, was looking to get into rallying, working with Vermont SportsCar.

Responsible for overseeing Subaru’s rallying activities in the United States, Vermont SportsCar were seeking an experienced co-driver for Block and reached out to Gelsomino. He initially turned down the offer as he was already signed with another driver. But when the other driver arrived in some legal difficulties, the Italian went straight back to Vermont SportsCar to see if the position next to Block still happened to be available. Fortunately, it was.

Gelsomino was immediately impressed by the American, who showed he had a clear knowledge for the sport and would not simply be a ‘gentleman’ driver.

“He understands weight transfer, he understands left foot braking, this guy knows what he is doing. I said to myself this will be fun.”

From the outset, Gelsomino said it was obvious the future star of the viral ‘Hoonigan’ videos would bring something new to the sport of rallying.

“This guy was a genius when it came to the marketing side. I wondered if he would be able to do the same in the rallying industry.

“That question was answered a few years later and keeps being answered now.”

The Block-Gelsomino relationship will stay strong following the untimely passing of Ken. Alex is co-driving for Block’s wife Lucy whilst Rhianon is on the notes for eldest daughter Lia, who wants to continue her father’s legacy and is this year back competing in the American Rally Association (ARA) championship for a second season.

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