Ken Block’s daughter Lia will make her rallying debut at the Oregon Trail Rally on November 5-7.
The 15-year-old, who already has her learners permit for driving on the road, will compete in a Ford Fiesta R2 – a normally aspirated version of the turbocharged machine that her mother Lucy has campaigned in rally events – for Hoonigan Racing Division alongside American Rally Association regular Matthew James.
“Oregon Trail I think is going to be super fun,” Lia told DirtFish. “The hard thing about it is that Oregon Trail’s completely desolate, there’s mostly no trees so you’re going to really have to rely on your notes because you can’t see the tree lines or anything [or] predict what’s going to be ahead at all. So it’s going to be cool to me.
“I’m excited, except for I don’t know how I’m going to do, I’m kind of nervous about that. I’m not nervous about the actual driving stuff, I’m just nervous about how I’m actually going to do.”
While there is a provision regarding probationary licenses for under-18s, Block has been granted the same kind of exemption that enabled the then-17-year-old Oliver Solberg to contest a part-time schedule with Subaru Motorsports USA back in 2017.
Block has been eager to follow in her father’s footsteps, famously ‘hooning’ the Ford Escort Mk2 he used to own at Utah Motorsports Campus, and later getting drifting lessons from Formula Drift champion Vaughn Gittin Jr at the same venue for her 14th birthday last year.
She has also won multiple races in karting and was a frontrunner in the lower classes of the Lucas Oil off-road series before its demise last year.
In September she once again returned to Utah Motorsports Campus where she competed in the second Sierra Car race of the weekend on the Nitro Rallycross support bill, securing third place in a lesser-powered Sierra 700RX after the frontrunners hit trouble.
Block also spent time at DirtFish Rally School ahead of her rallying debut, getting to grips with the Fiesta R2 as well as one of the school’s own Subaru WRX STIs – adapting well to four-wheel-drive machinery according to lead instructor Nate Tennis – alongside co-driving royalty Alex and Rhianon Gelsomino.
“I was impressed by Lia’s progression over the two days of pacenote training,” Alex Gelsomino told DirtFish.
“We had some challenging mountain roads for the recce training, that included many technical and cresty sections. Lia was able to focus 100% on the race lines during the recce training, imagining from her recce car what the rally car would do in a real rally scenario, therefore translating what her eyes saw already into solid pacenotes.
“That is impressive, considering she hasn’t even done her first rally race yet!”
Rhiannon added: “At 15 years old, Lia is our youngest ever driver that we have trained in pacenoting. Young students are great as they come with no bad habits and are eager and keen to learn new things. Lia was very teachable and progressed fast with her noting system.
“She had many great ideas for the system she wanted to use and was able to implement these straight away. We look forward to continuing to work with her, plus follow her promising career and progress!”
It wasn’t just the Gelsominos smiling afterwards, as Block was too.
“It was really fun learning more of the car, getting faster and faster each time,” she said. “The biggest thing for me was learning the shifting of this car because it’s a pretty hard little car to learn. It really doesn’t like first gear, also trying to find the right place to shift because the power band’s so short, and also what gear to be in for what corner, but it was really fun.”
Ken Block will also be competing on OTR, fresh from his first US rally win in seven years on the Lake Superior Performance Rally two weeks ago.
“Well it seems we have a future star right among us,” Hoonigan’s race director Derek Dauncey said of the less experienced Block in the team’s line-up.
“Lia has watched her dad and experienced rally racing all around the world since she was born.
“It’s now completely clear that Ken’s talent has passed down a generation as Lia with limited running in the team’s Fiesta R2 has wasted no time perfecting her skills.
“I sat alongside Lia when we tested on a forest road close to the Olympus Rally road complex and what an impression she has left. It’s extremely rewarding to see the progress Lia has made already – the speed and car control was a delight to watch. The ability to convert what feedback offered is a great asset she possesses.”