The Hoonicorn Mustang trembles beneath Lia Block as she sits at the line, waiting for the signal to launch off the start and beat NHRA driver Alex Laughlin to the finish. The engine she’s controlling makes 100 horsepower for every year she’s been alive, but 14-year-old Lia Block is more ready for this moment than most professional drivers. Never mind the fact that her competition is a 4,000-horsepower C6 Corvette. She’s here to win.
“It didn’t hit me at first,” Lia said of her victory against Laughlin in a recent interview with Jalopnik — but she was still grinning at the memory. “It felt so good.”
If you wanted to grow up a racer, you’d be in a pretty damn good position if you were Lia Block. Her father, Ken, is a professional rally driver, an extreme action sports enthusiast, and probably one of the more revered names in the motorsport world.
Now, Ken is priming the next generation by handing the steering wheel to his teenage daughter, who will be the one putting performance cars to the test in Hoonigan’s second season of Hoonicorn vs. the World, available on YouTube.
In the chat with Jalopnik, Ken revealed that Lia has been behind the wheel since she was five, though that was the wheel of a customized electric Mustang designed for children.
“It had this handbrake that she would use, and she was just a natural, figuring out steering through opposite lock,” Ken said.
Lia joined the Lucas Off-Road Racing Series when she was 11, scoring podiums. And after a year off, she took up karting, which Lia says has been the most helpful racing education she’s had yet.
“I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t start karting,” she said. “Karting is such a great ground base because it taught me so much about lines and about competition and getting better.”
Putting her behind the wheel of the Hoonicorn was a strategic move. Ken Block knew he wasn’t staying with Ford, which meant that he really shouldn’t be driving a Ford Mustang in a popular video series. But Hoonicorn vs. the World is Hoonigan’s most popular series, so it was crucial that it continue.
Hoonigan considered other professional drivers and racers to take Ken’s place, but Block said that Lia had shown herself capable, and when he approached her about it two months before filming, she was interested.
“We had a cutoff date for if she didn’t prove herself or didn’t feel comfortable,” Block said, looking at his daughter. “But it’s not like we were going to throw her in there.”
The preparations were twofold: Hoonigan focused on the car while Lia focused on her skills. This year, the Hoonicorn had been outfitted with extra fire protection, roll bars, and safety gear to provide an added layer of assurance for Lia.
“I know how dangerous this can be,” Ken said of racing. “I wanted to make it so that if something happened, she was in the best possible place she could be.”
Meanwhile, Lia was taking instruction from pro drag racers like Leah Pruett, Donk Master, Hank Iroz, and Sage Thomas. Pruett, she said, helped her with the mental side of things. Donk Master taught her the art of trash talk and racing lingo.
Even Ken, though, was surprised to learn some lessons along the way. Of Pruett, he said, “There are mornings when she said she wakes up, uses the bathroom, brushes her teeth, has a coffee, and practices with a light tree, just once. It’s just staying in that mindset, being ready at all times.”
But for Lia, she felt the most difficult part of her motorsport initiation was actually getting behind the wheel of the Hoonicorn itself.
“She’d driven a 1,500 horsepower Audi before, but it had, you know, air conditioning and leather seats,” Ken said, laughing.
Of the Hoonicorn, Lia added, “It was just me and 1,400 horsepower. That was it.”
“I imagine it’s probably gotten a little easier for you since that first time,” Jalopnik said.
“Oh yeah,” Lia laughed. “It’s like night and day. I’m like a whole different person now.”
For 14-year-old Lia, this is only the beginning of what she hopes will be a long career. She has the passion and the talent, and she also has her father by her side to encourage her for as long as she enjoys the competition.
“Part of that is helping her go through the process of what she wants to do,” Ken said of his role in Lia’s future racing career, and she really enjoyed racing the Oregon Trail Rally, though the engine blew up on her. But she would have been a podium finish in a national rally class had she finished that rally. She’d like to keep going with that, so we have her mom’s car, a Fiesta R2—”
Here, Lia interrupted to add, “Turbo.”
“Yeah, a Fiesta R2 Turbo,” Ken said, laughing. “She’s going to race it next year in the full championship, so we’re working on the plans and budgets for that next year.
“And obviously, if [Hoonicorn vs. the World] is successful and she wants to do season three, then she’ll do season three next year. She’ll probably keep karting and doing whatever other opportunities come up.”
As for Lia? She has her eye on the future prize.
“I’d like to compete in a [World Rally Championship] event,” she said. “And I want to race the Baja 1000 as well. I watched my dad do it this year, and I was like, ‘I want to do that!’”
I think it’s safe to say we’re going to be watching the Block family continue to kick ass and take names for years to come.