(Nearly) riding with Ken Block at Gymkhana Uncovered

(Nearly) riding with Ken Block at Gymkhana Uncovered

It was the most gorgeous sunny day in London yesterday (8/4/2011), as we joined Ford at the Gymkhana Uncovered event for the launch of the new Codemasters rally game, DiRT3.

If you’ve read my preview article, then you’ll be aware of the collaboration between Ford and Ken Block (he’s been involved in the Ford US campaign to launch the Focus and Fiesta in North America) and of course Ken’s partnership with Codemasters in developing DiRT3.

DiRT 3 is the first ever video game to properly simulate the fine art of hoonery on a Gymkhana course – and underlining the authenticity of the in-game experience, the great man himself has contributed to its development and testing.

Ford DiRT3 I3 (Nearly) riding with Ken Block at Gymkhana Uncovered

Interestingly, I found out when speaking with Tim Holmes, Executive Director of Comms & Public Affairs at Ford, that the ménage à trois between these three powerful brands is almost as virtual as the game – Codemasters has no formal relationship with Ford and Ken is affiliated with Ford US rather than Europe, so it was only via an eleventh-hour invite that saw Ford UK involved in the event.

The event took place at the decommissioned Battersea Power Station in London – the largest brick building in Europe and soon to be location for 3,000 new homes – in the meantime it sits on a conveniently sized piece of tarmac which also features in the DiRT3 game’s gymkhana course.

With a little more notice from the organisers, Ford could have brought along a decent batch of spare tyres – this proved a rather unfortunate omission on the day as Ken quickly toasted the few sets of tarmac tyres available on Battersea’s broken and abrasive surface.

Ford DiRT3 I1 (Nearly) riding with Ken Block at Gymkhana Uncovered

Whilst I’d like to have called this article “My Ride with Ken Block”, the truth is I flunked the coin toss which saw journalist and Redspy chief Jay Nagley win the seat next to Ken. Judging by Jay’s expression when exiting the car afterwards, I missed out on a wild ride and one which was apparently absent of conversation as Ken focused all his attention on keeping the Focus away from the listed brickwork of Battersea’s most iconic building.

Earlier in the day, Ford’s factory WRC driver Mikko Hirvonen popped in and joined the fun – he was en route to Jordan for the next WRC event, taking the long-route to avoid recent troubles in the region, but still managed to spend the morning entertaining the press.

Mikko used his 2011 Fiesta WRC as you can see in the video below, whilst Ken was still awaiting the insurance claim on the damage from his Portugal accident and therefore had to fall back on an ex-Matthew Wilson M-Sport Focus.

If you get the chance to watch or ride shotgun with Ken Block, you’ll find he really does drift flat out between solid objects (without hitting them!) and can repeat the performance inch-perfect every time. Impressive stuff. Now see if you can do the same in DiRT 3.

DiRT 3

We spent most of our time focusing on the real driving outside, but also managed a good look at Codemasters new DiRT 3 game and can confidently say it’s likely to be a big hit with both gaming and rally fans.

Whilst we need to spend more time on the console to assess the game physics and response of the controls, the functionality of the game is pretty mind blowing even on first glance, building on from what we’ve seen in F1 2010, but offering an abundance of unique player modes in which the game can provide social entertainment as well as the more familiar isolated experience.

Ford DiRT3 I2 (Nearly) riding with Ken Block at Gymkhana Uncovered

Features such as an in-game video editor with a direct link for uploading to YouTube, and 3 new multiplayer party modes, including Outbreak which sees one player “infected” with some sort of disease, symbolized by their car turning green – which the player can then spread by colliding with others, with the last healthy player winning the prize.

Other games within this mode include, Invasion and Transporter, so it looks like there’s plenty of fun on offer for players of all skill levels.

The game will be on sale from 24th May, so look out nearer the time for our competition to win a copy.

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