Ken Block says that employing a gentler driving style was one of a number of adaptations and novelties he experienced while driving the Extreme E car at the Dakar Rally on Friday.
The off-road racing and YouTube star drove Extreme E’s Odyssey 21 electric SUV in the Grand Prix of Qiddiya, the final stage of the gruelling Dakar Rally held this year in Saudi Arabia.
Block arrived in the country on Thursday and only had a brief time to acquaint himself with the unique electric SUV before tackling the 13-mile stage that includes a combination of sand, rocks and boulders through the Arabian desert.
“It’s my first time driving an electric race car, first time in Saudi Arabia and first time I’m driving in the Dakar Rally – it’s a lot of firsts for me and I get to figure it all out today!” he enthused.
“My whole career’s been spent driving combustion-engined cars with turbochargers – the type of driving there with left-foot braking and the spool of the turbo to try and get drive out of corners is entirely different.
“Here, you can be more progressive with the throttle and wait a little longer because the torque is there the second you get on the throttle – the thing just wants to leap forward.
“I’m having to tone down my style a little as the car reacts so quickly and the power delivery is so fast.
“It’s been incredibly fun – I’m enjoying myself. Going 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, despite the size of the vehicle and being on dirt, the Odyssey 21 is really impressive.
“Seeing performance and acceleration similar to the smaller cars I usually race is the most exciting thing for me.”
Extreme E’s appearance as part of the Dakar, which also included Guerlain Chicherit driving the car in shakedown two weeks earlier, formed part of the series’ development and testing program.
One of Extreme E’s five rounds for its inaugural season in 2021 will be held in desert conditions in Saudi Arabia, and experience gained as a guest entry at the Dakar is set to go towards the car’s development.
Block says he’s impressed with the progress made on the car so far.
“It’s obviously had a lot of testing work and setup work go into it already,” he said.
“To get the car feeling as far down the line as it does at this stage of its development is pretty incredible, and it has surprised me – it’s much further along than I’d anticipated.
“The development process is always incredibly taxing, from the initial design to the thousands and thousands of miles needed to get the car ready to race.
“Spark and Extreme E, and its partners, have done a fantastic job so far. There’s a lot of refinement to come but the potential is huge. The door-to-door, head-to-head racing is going to be extremely exciting.”