Former Top Gear presenter Matt LeBlanc has paid tribute to American rally driver Ken Block as a “true talent and friend taken far too soon” following his death at the age of 55.
Block, who competed in the World Rally Championship and was named Rally America Rookie of the Year in 2005, died in a snowmobile accident in Utah on Monday.
He was introduced to a mainstream British television audience in 2016 when he appeared in an episode of BBC’s Top Gear, driving around London with actor, and then-host, LeBlanc.
Sharing a photo of them together on Instagram, he wrote: “So saddened by the loss of Ken Block. A true talent and friend taken far too soon.
“You will be missed by all who had the pleasure of meeting you my friend. My condolences to your family.”
Fellow former host James May also paid tribute, writing: “RIP Ken Block, with thanks for some hilarious days out. Here’s the airfield drifting piece from years back.”
Paddy McGuinness, who currently hosts the motoring show alongside Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff and Chris Harris, shared a video of Block driving through an industrial landscape.
He said: “I’ve lost many hours watching the great Ken Block’s videos over the years. Legend. Hoonigan. RIP.”
Announcing his death on Instagram on Monday, Block’s team Hoonigan Racing said: “It’s with our deepest regrets that we can confirm that Ken Block passed away in a snowmobile accident today.
“Ken was a visionary, a pioneer and an icon. And most importantly, a father and husband. He will be incredibly missed.”
Other famous faces paid tribute to the professional driver on social media, alongside the official Top Gear Twitter page which described Block as an “all-round hero”.
I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my friend Ken Block. An inspiration for us all and a true gentleman of our sport. The @FIA’s thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this difficult time. RIP @kblock43. pic.twitter.com/KUTgFtNTge
— Mohammed Ben Sulayem (@Ben_Sulayem) January 3, 2023
The show’s executive producer, Alex Renton, said: “Ken was a trailblazer in the automotive industry. When he released Gymkhana 1 in 2008 he had the entire Top Gear office wide-eyed in amazement.
“We had the pleasure to work with Ken on several occasions over the years and his contributions were always so memorable and exciting for our audience.
“We were honoured to have had the chance to work with him and learn from him. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues right now.”
Tanner Foust, who hosted the US version of Top Gear, wrote: “What an incredible person to learn from, battle with and to admire over the last two decades. Ken’s influence on the automotive world cannot be quantified.
Shocked and devastated to hear the news this morning. Can’t believe it. Sending love to his family ❤️ RIP Ken Block pic.twitter.com/BsYlGImwpY
— Sir Chris Hoy (@chrishoy) January 3, 2023
“In addition to pioneering a road map for the rest of us to follow in the marketing of motorsport – Ken Block was, above all else, a devoted family man. My heart and prayers go out to Lucy and the kids.”
Meanwhile, the president of Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), Mohammed Ben Sulayem, said: “I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my friend Ken Block. An inspiration for us all and a true gentleman of our sport.
“The @FIA’s thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this difficult time. RIP @kblock43.”
Tributes also came from former Olympic cyclist Sir Chris Hoy, who said he was “shocked and devastated”, and TV chef James Martin, who tweeted a photo of Block’s car airborne following a jump.
Californian-born Block was a successful businessman, having co-founded the sportswear company DC Shoes before shifting his focus to Hoonigan Industries, a clothing brand for auto enthusiasts.
Block finished second overall in Rally America three times: in 2006, 2008 and 2013, and competed in the World Rally Championship between 2007 and 2018.
He was also a YouTube star known for posting daring stunts behind the wheel.
Block died near Woodland, Utah, with the sheriff’s office in Wasatch County saying he was riding on a steep slope when the snowmobile upended and landed on top of him.
“He was pronounced deceased at the scene from injuries sustained in the accident,” it said in a statement.
The sheriff’s office added that Block was riding in a group but was alone when the accident happened.