The world of motorsport lost a legend when Ken Block died earlier this year, but the American’s legacy lives on through his daughter, Lia. The 17-year-old will represent Williams in the 2024 season of F1 Academy, the women’s-only single-seater racing championship staged during F1 Grand Prix weekends.
Lia will race for ART Grand Prix under the Williams banner, alongside McLaren-backed Filipina driver Bianca Bustamante. Block started racing at 11 years old, competing in karting and rallying, and she has since gained experience in Extreme E and rallycross. She also became the youngest American Rally Association Open Two-Wheel Drive class champion this year, but the 2024 F1 Academy campaign will be her first experience of elite open-wheel racing.
Nonetheless, Williams team principal James Vowles is excited to have her flying the flag for the team. He said: “We are excited to welcome Lia to Williams Racing as our F1 Academy driver for 2024. Lia has already achieved a tremendous amount in motorsport, has incredible natural talent, and the champion mindset and dedication to make a success of her journey into open-wheel racing.
“We cannot wait to get started on this journey together. As a team, we are committed to Formula 1 and F1 Academy’s joint efforts to improve female representation in motorsport, and we look forward to working with Lia as a key part of the Williams Racing Driver Academy.”
Lia’s father was a cult hero in motorsport and extreme sports circles, not only for his performances as a rally driver but also his social media content. He was an early pioneer on YouTube with his “Gymkhana” series that accelerated his rise to fame. He would go on to become an occasional contributor to the internationally-acclaimed motor TV show “Top Gear”, appearing in several episodes and showing off his rare skills behind the wheel.
He was a culture icon, too, co-founding the DC Shoes brand and appearing in a slew of video games.
Ken died in January in a snowmobile accident near his Woodland, Utah home at the age of 55. Hoonigan Racing Division, which he founded in 2010, described him as a “Visionary, a pioneer and an icon”.
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F1 academy will race on seven weekends next year, starting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia from Mar. 7-9. The season takes in stops in Miami, Spain, the Netherlands, Singapore and Qatar before finishing in Abu Dhabi in December.
No woman has raced in F1 since Lella Lombardi competed in the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix, but the sport’s bosses hope the Academy series will help lead to more women sitting behind the wheel in years to come.
“This global platform, combined with the support of all 10 F1 teams, will take the series to the next level, providing not only the opportunity for the drivers to develop their skills on F1 tracks, but to inspire young girls around the world to pursue a future in motorsport,” F1 president Stefano Domenicali said.
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