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Gymkhana 8: Exotic Playground Dubai

Did you see this? This is Ken Block’s Gymkhana Eight: Ultimate Exotic Playground; Dubai. Like the Gymkhana sequences preceding it, it’s a visually stunning display of driving prowess. Too bad he had to ask Karen’s cousin Bernice to step out of the car…then again what he’s driving (a Ford Fiesta ST RX43) doesn’t exactly have the back seat room of a ’69 Chevy Chevelle Malibu.

Dubai is an emirate, one of seven, and is the most populace city in the UAE (United Arab Emirates). It’s one of the top twenty-five most expensive cities in the world to live in, and is the most expensive in all of Araby. This, and its iconic urban structure — it’s famous for its high-rise buildings and skyline — make it a fitting place for a Ken Block excursion. Particularly when you juxtapose that modern steel-and-glass look over the sands of the remote desert.

Ken Block is a storied professional rally driver, the HHC (Head Hoonigan in Charge) of the Hoonigan Racing Division and a member of the Monster World Rally Team. As you might gather from the name, Gymkhana 8 isn’t the first such driving event from Ford Performance and Hoonigan.

Block recently suffered some negative attention from British press after appearing in London with Top Gear host Matt LeBlanc, where apparently local media accused him of being disrespectful to a nearby war memorial.

Judging by this image,  it must not have been significant enough to bother the guys actually wearing a uniform.

Nevertheless he released a great response. To wit,

“…the British tabloid media decided to try to make Top Gear, host Matt LeBlanc and myself look bad this week by exaggerating a story about us doing some slides and donuts near a war memorial in London. That is unfortunate and I want my fans to know that I have complete and total respect for veterans (my Dad was a veteran) and would never do anything to deliberately disrespect them in any way whatsoever – so I was quite disappointed that some of the media was (and still is!) misinforming the public about what we were doing.

For those of you that don’t know what happened: we did our slides/donuts down the street (closest drift tire mark was 180 feet (60 meters) away) from a war monument (the Cenotaph) in central London. The press ran long-lens photos that compress the distance and makes it look like we are much closer – and then they said that we “disrespected” the memorial. I drove past the memorial several times (it’s in the middle of a two lane road, London traffic goes past it 24 hours a day, every day of the year), but I did not do anything on or around it. We were respectful, and the production crew instructed me to be the appropriate distance away – which I adhered to.

This whole tabloid negativity came as a complete surprise to me as BBC are the ones who invited me over, worked for months applying for all of the proper permits to do the driving/filming, got it all approved by the proper councils of government as well, and directed my actions. We did nothing wrong, yet the British tabloids have made something out of nothing.

Unfortunately, sensationalized headlines garner attention in this day and age. I was in London to work with Top Gear to make awesome automotive television programming and promote the country and city – and we continued to do that and make an awesome piece, despite the paparazzi and false reporting.”

Anyway… the entire shoot went amazing, Matt LeBlanc and I had a great time making an amazing/funny piece and it will be broadcast in a few months. And, it will not feature the war memorial because it never was intended to be featured in the first place!

You can follow Ken Block on Facebook at KenBlockRacing or on Instagram (@kblock43).


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