Of all people, Ken Block may have found a worthy driving adversary in Idris Elba, at least within the confines of their new short form streaming program, Elba vs. Block.
Elba, the English A-list Hollywood star renowned for his roles on Luther and in Hobbs & Shaw, will be featured alongside the veteran rally racer and stunt driver in an eight-episode series on the new streaming platform Quibi.
But he’s also the real deal behind the steering wheel. Elba has hosted numerous automotive programs and set the U.K record for the flying mile in a car at 174.8 mph in 2015.
The name Quibi is short for quick bites, which is a reference to the abbreviated and compact nature of its programming. It can only be accessed through a mobile device, and the app is available for download in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
Elba vs. Block pits its stars against each other to see who can outperform the other in London’s Docklands in a series of stunts named “Wall of Death,” “Car Tightrope” and the “Flaming Obstacle Course.”
In another episode, the two complete a stunt in which they drive a wide truck across a thin stretch of allotted ground. And while shows like this are a dime a dozen on YouTube, none of them boast a Golden Globe-winning actor nor his Green Door Pictures production studio.
Elba vs. Block is a legitimate visual masterpiece within the genre.
“Ken is my driving hero. I’ve never worked with a driver as skilled as him, so I’m a little intimidated by his talent,” said Elba in a press release. “I love challenges, I love speed and I’m a ‘wheel man,’ so let’s see how this plays out.”
In addition to his racing prowess, Block has gained fame for his stunt work, as recorded in his Gymkhana video series, which has accumulated more than 550 million YouTube views. A chance encounter with Elba at a London World Rallycross event led to a natural partnership between the two.
“He’s such a genuine guy,” Block told Autoweek. “He’s a genuine car guy, too. We got along really well that weekend and we started to talk about doing a show together. He had several different ideas, and this was the one we thought would work best for a platform like Quibi.
“It was the perfect blend of lighthearted and serious. We both want to win, but it’s a lot of fun when you’re just going out there and trying to top each other like we were.”
Even though Block is something of an expert at designing extravagant stunts, he wasn’t involved in the planning of Elba vs. Block to ensure a level playing field. In fact, Block gave himself a handicap during several rounds in the name of competition.
A running score is maintained throughout the season.
“He’s actually quite good, and he’s good at applying himself,” Block said. “I think what he’s lacking, though, is experience.”
The show is already available for streaming on Quibi. An extensive interview with Block can be found below.
Autoweek: How are you keeping busy during the quarantine?
Ken Block: I live in Park City, Utah, so for us, it’s not a densely populated area. We haven’t reported a lot of cases, so it’s been fairly quiet. We’ve stayed at home, but it’s still snowing here so we’ve been able to hike and snowboard. We’re really trying to make the most of it.
AW: Who came up with the stunts for the show?
KB: I believe it was Idris and his crew. They wanted to create a sense of competition between us but also something they could make look good from a production standpoint. A race would have favored me, so they came up with stunts that we could be fairly evenly matched.
AW: Do you ever feel guilt when you look at the cars you guys have destroyed at the end?
KB: Luckily, most of the stunts were performed with junkyard cars that we spruced up for the show. The monster truck was the only state of the art performance vehicle we used. We tried to keep costs down everywhere we could. I appreciated the production doing it in a way that wasn’t too expensive or wasteful.
AW: Were you surprised with the Hollywood production quality?
KB: I was extremely surprised and pleased with how it was filmed. I have worked with a lot of production companies over the years, so I’m used to a certain level of professionalism with our Gymkhana videos, but they did a great job with these. I was really impressed with the camera angles and explosions.
AW: Is there a certain episode we should look forward to the most?
KB: I can honestly say that I haven’t watched the completed episodes yet. I’ve enjoyed the segments that I’ve watched. I won’t tell you who wins, but I can tell you that he gives me a run for my money.
AW: What else is left on your bucket list?
KB: I’ve been very lucky to race a variety of cars. I never got a chance to run a full World Rally Championship, and that’s not likely, but it was something I’m going to wish I had been able to do. I’m getting too old. It was a great honor to run a couple of rallies, and doing more was always a bucket list thing for me.
AW: What is the next step that rally culture needs to take in the United States?
KB: The WRC has done a great job of making the cars a lot more … incredible, I guess I would call it. Big power. Big aero. Every rally has a livestream over the internet. They were in Mexico and I’m watching every stage, and I never could have imagined that several years ago. It’s a challenging sport. It’s the toughest motorsport in the world, in my opinion. It’s the coolest sport in the world. The R5 car is becoming the international standard, and I think that will be beneficial. The FIA has done a great job making the sport a spectacle.
AW: What went wrong with Rallycross in recent years?
KB: American Rallycross has continued to grow. They’ve adopted the R5. I can’t speak enough to how important that platform is. That is going to help with crossover. Hopefully we’re going to continue to see the sport grow. World Rallycross has done a great job, but they made a mess of the electric vehicle—but it’s important to get that technology incorporated. That’s going to lead to more competition and more OEMs.
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