We've seen him on the streets of San Francisco, get wild in Los Angeles, tackle the ultimate grid obstacle course, among other adventures. Ken Block has taken stunt driving to video game levels, with each Gymkhana edition pushing the edges of automotive insanity ever further.
This week Block released Gymkhana 8, a romp through Dubai that rips through deserts and palaces—with a decadent take on daredevil driving you'd expect from such an exotic locale. Block also takes his surreal drifting to a closed off 12-lane highway with a truck on two wheels, a race with luxury supercars, a freakin' moving airplane, and more.
Director Ben Conrad has helmed all the films since Gymkhana 4, and a few years ago gave Co.Create a look at the method behind the madness. This time, Conrad says the goal with each Gymkhana is to outdo the last one, which while becoming increasingly difficult to do, is always a welcome challenge.
"Ken and Brian always have great ideas, and it's a lot of fun to collaborate with them on these films," says Conrad. "With Gymkhana 8, they wanted to have a more cinematic approach, which Dubai lends itself to pretty well. The city and surrounding area is rich with a lot of different looks, from the desert, to the gleaming city, to all the exotic cars. This was a challenging shoot, but it was also a great time, and we feel we captured what the guys were going for."
Conrad says the most difficult scene to plan, coordinate, and shoot was on the 12-lane Sheikh Zayed Road, one of the busiest roads in Dubai. "On top of that we had incorporated the Ford Raptor [truck] on two wheels, which went perfectly, but took some time to get right," he says. "We only had three hours to shoot that whole scene, and it was a rush, but we got everything we needed just as our time wrapped up and we could release traffic. As much planning as we do or anyone does on a shoot, there is always something that doesn’t go as planned, especially in automotive. We had a great local crew, as well as my crew, that dealt with whatever issues came up and we always manage to get the footage we need."
One of those issues was Block's lack of rehearsal time, bringing home the point that Gymkhana isn't Hollywood magic. "This was also a very difficult scene for Ken," says Conrad. "What I want people to understand is that what they are seeing in these films is Ken doing it for the first time, any so called rehearsal happens at that moment. For whatever reason it always ends up that the most difficult scene ends up being the first one we shoot, Ken nailed it and we got the shot."