Mon 26 Jun 2023

‘Pink is not only for girls and blue isn’t just for boys’

One of the most interesting angles of the FIA RX2e Championship curtain-raiser in Norway earlier this month was the liveries adorning the two Team E cars of Nils Andersson and Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinksy, which certainly got people talking in Hell...

“Pink is not only for girls and blue isn’t just for boys.”

Nils Andersson is very clear. Last year’s third-place finisher in RX2e wanted to create something different with Team E. The ‘E’, in case you were wondering, stands for equality, engagement and electrification.

“I think these are the three key elements that we should be focussing on to shine the spotlight more on rallycross and really grow the sport,” he asserts. “It was always the plan that Mikaela and I would race together for Team E. We first met last season through Johan [Kristoffersson], who is her team-mate in Extreme E, and then she called me at the end of the year and said we should talk. By March, everything was pretty much agreed...

“Right from the outset, we said we didn’t want to be like just any other team; we wanted to put together a good team, obviously, but also one that sends out a positive statement.

“CE Dealer Team did a great thing last year by bringing Klara [Andersson] into World RX, and she is doing an excellent job – but we need to encourage much greater female participation in rallycross in all areas, and that is something we are working hard on with Team E.

“With that in mind, we had a bit of fun with the colours on the cars. It’s such an old-fashioned view that pink is just for girls and blue is just for boys, and we really wanted to highlight that and the fact that you can compete on fully equal terms in motorsport, irrespective of your gender, so we decided to inverse it. The more we succeed out on-track, the quicker that message will spread...”

All weekend in Norway, Andersson’s pink, black and white car and the sister machine of Åhlin-Kottulinksy – sporting a blue, white and black livery – were both firmly in the mix, with the rapid Swedish pair going on to take the chequered flag second and third in the final.

“When I crossed the line at the end of the race, the first thing I asked the team was, ‘did Mikaela finish third?’” Andersson recollects. “I was almost happier for her than I was for myself. She really deserved to be up on the podium.

“She’s a great driver, and we learnt a lot from each other in Hell. Having not driven much rallycross before, she had plenty to get to grips with but she performed really well over the weekend. She has a circuit racing background, whereas I come from crosskart, so we have quite different driving styles and that made us fast in different parts of the lap.

“The dynamic between us is very strong. She pushes me to raise my game, and that makes us stronger as a team. We complement each other very well.”

Åhlin-Kottulinksy – who became the first female driver to reach the rostrum in the all-electric FIA World Rallycross Championship feeder series and finished runner-up in the second season of Extreme E alongside Kristoffersson last year – agrees that Team E’s ethos and approach is another step in the right direction towards dispelling age-old preconceptions about gender in motorsport.

“Female representation in all areas of the sport is so important,” she stresses. “Motorsport has always been heavily male-dominated, but we need to open those doors and strive for much greater equality.

“Nils and I sat down together and said we wanted to create something new, and that we wanted to take charge of our decisions rather than having somebody else telling us what we should do. Having the freedom to do that is really inspiring.

“We received so many questions about the colour swap in Norway, and it’s been great to see so much positive feedback because we really wanted to raise awareness and raise the profile of women in motorsport. Klara is doing an amazing job in World RX and is proof that female drivers truly belong at the highest levels of international motorsport, and the goal for all of us is to be there one day as well.

“I remember how when I was younger, people always used to ask me, will you have a pink helmet, pink suit, pick race car... It was almost like it was expected. This is a way of showing that we can race in whatever colour we want. That’s the beauty of motorsport – yes, it’s physical, but not so much that you need to split men and women into different series. At the end of the day, regardless of your gender, if you’re quick, you’re quick.”

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