VIDEO: WE JUMP A FORD F-150 RAPTOR OVER A SAND DUNE WITH KEN BLOCK

Dunekhana: A Day in the Desert

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“What about Ken Block?”

We had a Ford Raptor scheduled for our Ignition video series. The plan was to take the beast to the massive Arabian piles of sand found at the Dumont Dunes in the Mojave Desert. If you have a Raptor and sand dunes, you’re going to want to jump it. And although I’ve levitated dozens of cars on asphalt, I had never jumped a vehicle on the soft stuff.

I asked the Blue Oval PR types if they would be so kind as to send out an adviser of some sort, such as an engineer or a Baja 1000 mechanic. Initially, they were going to send Greg Foutz, a builder and racer of the EcoBoost Raptor in the Baja 1000. That would be great. Then, a few days later, my friend at Ford asked if we’d like to work with Mr. Block instead. Talk about an offer you can’t refuse.
Ken Block 2017 Ford F 150 Raptor front end

For the three of you who don’t know who rallycross and X Games racing legend Ken Block is, let me hit you with some numbers: Block and his “Boys” (which includes a few girls) at his lifestyle and production company Hoonigan have put out nine videos in his Gymkhana series. The last one has been viewed more than 18 million times. The fifth video in the series, where Block lays waste to the streets of San Francisco, is, as of this writing, on the cusp of 90 million views. In other words, he’s kind of a big deal.

You wouldn’t know it from working with him. Sure, he might have talked about a snowboarding trip to Japan with some guy named Lewis (Hamilton), but for the most part he wanted to talk about coffee and cars. In that order. Oh, and he owns a first-generation Raptor.

What I did learn from working with Block is why he’s so damn good. In a word: determination. As in, he doesn’t quit. Normally when I’m filming a video, I sit around between takes due to a combination of laziness and fear—the latter because I know my own skill level and am petrified that I’m gonna trash the car if I horse around. Block was the opposite: completely confident in his abilities and exploring those limits. When our camera guys were switching lenses or landing the drone for fresh batteries, Block was gunning the Raptor up a 500-foot dune, trying to see exactly how much closer to the top he could get. That’s why we went through three tanks of gas in about 50 miles. He never lifted. It’s also why our footage is so good.

Block also found a big, ramplike dune where we could launch the Raptor. To say he jumped the truck is an understatement. Five feet off the ground? Ten? More? Probably. The point is, we caught massive air. We have a saying in the video team trenches: “Perfect. Do it again.” You want to get coverage from as many angles as possible. Plus, there’s always the chance that something goes wrong with one particular take. You always shoot one more as a backup. The thing about jumping nearly three tons of truck off a sand dune—I learned—is that your launch ramp changes with each jump. That means doing the same thing twice is slightly more than difficult. Block jumped and jumped the Raptor, and I sat in the passenger seat, landing and landing.

“How many more takes do we need?” I asked our director, Anthony Esposito. This was the last setup of the shoot, and both Block and I were starting to feel the rigors of the day. “Just one more,” Esposito came back over the radio. Block launched the truck again, and it felt like the biggest and best one yet. “That was great. Can I get just one more?” Block shot me a look, and I said something to him about how getting one last take can’t be unique to Motor Trend. He nodded and laughed, and before I knew it, we were back in the air again. Only this jump was, well, not so impressive. “There’s a fine line between too little and too much,” Block said. “That was too little. Can’t end the day on that.”
Ken Block 2017 Ford F 150 Raptor front end damage 02

Granted, Esposito had come over the radio and told us he didn’t need anything more. Despite that, up we went. And I mean up. To me, the landing felt more like a crash, and I had the sensation that my feet had gone through the floorboard. “OK, that was too much,” Block said. What was left of my spine agreed. Once we exited the Raptor, we noticed that the front skidplate had bent. On sand. And for complete video coverage of our day with Block hooning the Raptor, check out the video below. We didn’t miss a shot, and neither should you.