“Be creative, live a fun life… and don't be an asshole.”
Ken Block wanted that to be his legacy and as we mark the one year anniversary of his tragic passing, it's worthwhile to pause and reflect on how that hope has played out in the past 12 months. As we wrote a year ago how Block's death would leave a hole in the automotive landscape no-one would be able to fill and for an entire generation he came to define car culture.
The posthumous release of his final film, Electrikhana TWO, has already attracted more five million views on YouTube in less than one month, underlining just how beloved he was for his creativity and skill.
But while it's still the case that Block leaves a hole too big for anyone to fill, what has become clear in the last 12 months is the impact he had on those around him and the emergence of his family, in particular his eldest daughter, Lia, as a new generation to carry on what he started.
You would have forgiven Ken's family, wife Lucy and kids Lia, Kira and Mika for retreating from public life and living privately as they processed the grief of his passing. Instead, they did the opposite, stepping up and helping the entire motoring and motorsport community reeling from the tragedy to cope.
Lucy and Lia both competed in the American rally championship, Lucy alongside Ken's long-time co-drive, Alex Gelsomino, and Lia partnering with Australia's own Rhianon Gelsomino. I'm sure it was a cathartic process for Lucy and Lia to focus on rallying, Ken's true passion, but in doing so they gave Ken Block fans around the world something to hold onto.
But, the reality is, Lia is simply too talented at racing to do anything else anyway. She and Rhianon won the American Rally Association Open Two-Wheel Drive class championship in a Subaru BRZ, securing the crown before Lia's 17th birthday – making her the youngest rally champ in the USA.
That alone would have been a remarkable season, but Lia was only just warming up. She made her debut in the Extreme E championship, taming the hulking electric off-roader racers in no time, became the first female to race the all-electric Group E rallycross cars and is now embarking on an open-wheeler career.
Ken and Lia had already begun working on a single-seater career in late 2022, testing in the US, but now that has all ramped up as she joins the F1 Academy series for 2024. She'll drive in the Formula 4-style all-female F1 supporting series, racing for ART Grand Prix with the backing of the Williams F1 team.
Now I could sit here and write ‘Lia Block could become the first female F1 racer in decades' but that would be placing unfair and unrealistic pressure on a driver who hasn't even started their first open-wheeler race. Instead I'll write this, I believe Lia Block has the potential to be highly successful in the F1 Academy series, despite her inexperience.
She will need to learn and adapt quickly to the nuances and specific style required from a Formula 4 car and the cut-throat nature of European junior formula racing, but her background indicates she's a fast learner not intimidated by seemingly large obstacles. She drove her dad's 1400hp twin-turbo V8-powered Ford Mustang ‘Hoonicorn' when she was just 14 years old. She dove into Extreme E mid-way through the season. She held her own in Nitrocross Group E, taking over ‘Uncle' Travis Pastrana's car for a race. And after winning the ARA 2WD championship she jumped behind the wheel of her dad's all-wheel drive, Group A-era Ford Escort Cosworth for a round of the series. ‘Intimidated' is clearly not a word in her vocabulary.
What makes her really special though, is behind her own skill and determination there's an entire industry cheering her on and supporting her. Anyone who was a true fan of her dad is now pushing her forward, in the same way Dale Earnhardt Jr became the undisputed face of NASCAR in the wake of his father's death, so too do the hopes and dreams of all Ken Block fans ride with Lia.
Not a negative way either, there's no expectation or pressure, just an industry-wide sense of goodwill and positivity towards a young racing driver hoping to live their best life – inspired by a father who most definitely did the same.
Just like her dad hoped, Lia Block is living a creative and fun life, and is on-track for a spectacular career. That is Ken's true legacy, an inspiring voice for a generation of new racers and petrolheads – including his own family.