Even before she started kindergarten, Ken Block’s daughter Lia was driving go-karts. The Hoonigan Racing Division owner and rally champion bought Lia a rare Honda kart and let her drive it in circles in the roundabout by their house in California, and she got used to the feel of it at slow speeds. When Lia was six, the family took a trip to Florida to visit family; Lia and her cousins ended up at a karting track, where she got up to speed quickly on the main straightaway.
As she approached the curve, the younger Block used the same input she knew from driving the kart at home. What she didn’t realize was that at higher speeds, she would have been better served by a subtle turning movement. Consequently, she found herself in the grass infield.
Ever since the infield incident, Ken has been using that as a teaching moment to get his daughter ready to follow in his driving shoes. All of his lessons have brought her to this moment: dragging Ken’s 1,400-horsepower methanol-fed twin-turbo, all-wheel-drive Ford Mustang Hoonicorn. As you might remember, Ken severed his relationship with Ford and drives for Audi now, so passing the Mustang down to his daughter makes business sense.
In the first episode of season two of Ken’s show Hoonicorn Vs. the World, Ken reveals that Lia and the Hoonicorn will take on NHRA Top Fuel racer Alex Laughlin in a 4,000-horsepower Pro Stock Corvette. Hoonicorn Vs. the World hosts call it “the fiercest monster the Hoonicorn has ever raced,” but the Gymkhana Mustang is an animal of its own. Riding with a twin turbo V8 with a sequential gearbox from SADEV with a paddle shift system, and American Force wheels, the Ford roars.
“The Hoonicorn is just a beast,” Ken says. “There is no traction control. It wants to spin the tires the entire time. You're smelling and breathing methanol and the car wants to move around and get away from you. I mean, I've said many times, I feel like the car is trying to kill me.”
Now, many parents might stop at that moment and think, “Nope, I’m not putting my kid into that monster.” Not Ken Block. But in fairness, Lia has been working up to this point in her fledgling career, mastering skill by skill. And she’s had some of the best teachers in motorsport, like drift champion Vaughn Gittin Jr, professional drag racer Leah Pruett, and even racer Sage “Donkmaster” Thomas himself. Lia's father says he and his team put her through a fairly intensive training course to make sure she was ready.
"All my kids say things like, 'Hey dad, you got third place. Why didn't you just go faster?'" Ken laughs. "Then they try it and they say, 'Oh, this is hard. Now I get all the nuance of what you have to do.' And so it's kind of cool for me to see Lia go from, 'Hey, I want to do that' to 'Okay, you want to rally?' You've gotta learn pace notes, you gotta practice it, you gotta learn the car. We went through all of these steps."
Devoid of attitude and already poised beyond her years, Lia is humble even when Laughlin said she is "probably the luckiest and coolest 14-year old in the world" before their head-to-head race. I ask her if that's a true statement.
"Yeah, it definitely feels like that," Lia says. "I mean, what 14-year-old girl gets to drive a 1400-horsepower monster very fast?"
Ken says he's confident his now 15-year-old daughter has been trained properly, and her maturity and passion for the sport leads her to be conscientious. That doesn't mean he's not a little nervous; he's not made of steel after all.
"We did have one little incident where she had got up to about 176 miles an hour and there was not enough braking room," he recounted. "By the end, she knew she had to really stand on it or else we we would run out of runway and it actually upset the car a bit. We ended up spinning, but we spun just in time."
He pauses for a moment, reflecting.
"Seeing that she didn't get fazed from it gave me even more confidence, but still every time I watch, there's always the worry of something could go wrong. But at the end of the day, we've just tried to prepare her the best we can."
For her part, Lia is building her racing resume with her dad standing right behind her, encouraging and supporting her. She's already aware that she's a role model for the next generation and she's taking it seriously. Lia's up for more competition, and hopes more girls her age and younger will get behind the wheel.
"I would tell [other girls] to give it a shot because it's very fun, and because I didn't see other women racing growing up. I only watched my dad," Lia tells me. "I didn't really have any like role models that I looked up to to start racing and I would love to see more women get into motorsport.
Her dad believes in her and has helped her access the tools she needs to get here, but it's all Lia's skill and talent that will take her from here.
"I straight up told her, 'Hey, taking this on, you are going to become much more of a celebrity in this area. You are going to have to watch everything from what you say to what you do because people are going to be watching, and you're going to be a role model and that's a bit of a responsibility,'" Ken says. "She's a good kid. She's a honor roll student and she's a very hard worker. I think she has the qualities that make a good role model."
Without spoiling the ending of the video, I can tell you that Lia treed Laughlin once at the start, and her excitement for the sport is palpable and fun to watch. She's ready. And she's already rocking it.
Got a tip? Leave a comment here or send a note to [email protected].