Thu 07 Sep 2023

Åhlin-Kottulinsky: I want to stay in rallycross

Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky entered the opening three rounds of the 2023 RX2e campaign aiming simply to gain some more rallycross experience. Barely two months later, she sealed a top three spot in the title standings. And that, she hopes, is just the beginning...

Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky entered the opening three rounds of the 2023 FIA RX2e Championship campaign aiming simply to gain some more experience in rallycross. Barely two months later, she sealed a top three spot in the standings in the single-spec category. And that, she hopes, is just the beginning...

Åhlin-Kottulinsky was not a complete newcomer to rallycross prior to joining the grid. She contested a brace of outings in RX Lites in 2014 – reaching the final at the first time of asking on home soil at Höljes – and made sporadic appearances in other series over the intervening years, but that knowledge paled into insignificance compared to many of her RX2e rivals, who knew the nuances of the dual-surface discipline like the backs of their hands.

Be that was it may, the Swede was immediately in the mix, and a stellar debut in Hell, Norway in June yielded a rostrum finish behind Isak Sjökvist and Team E stablemate Nils Andersson. When the field arrived at Germany’s Estering for the season finale last month – with Åhlin-Kottulinksy having since finished runner-up to multiple world champion Johan Kristoffersson at Mettet in Belgium – the pace-setting trio were poised to go toe-to-toe for title glory.

Despite never having previously visited the Buxtehude-based track, the 30-year-old lapped fourth-quickest in qualifying practice – hot on the heels of her two countrymen – only to find herself tipped into a spin following a lightning-quick launch from the outside of the grid in heat one.

With her Extreme E team-mate Kristoffersson spotting for her over the radio, she fought back with a brilliant second-fastest run in heat two – ahead of Andersson and Sjökvist – but was then edged into the gravel in heat three and placed fifth in heat four, leaving her seventh in the intermediate classification and with work to do.

Åhlin-Kottulinksy hedged her bets on the outside line at the start of the semi-final, but it was a gamble that unfortunately backfired as contact saw her sideswipe the wall – and the damage would ultimately put her out of both the race and the title battle.

Nonetheless, as she looks back now on the season as a whole, she is justifiably proud of her progress and achievements – and already evaluating the next step...

“When Nils [Andersson] and I first sat down to talk about this project, I said to him, ‘if I can finish on the podium once in my first year in RX2e, I will be happy’, so to do that straightaway in the first round was amazing,” reflected the 2022 Extreme E championship runner-up.

“Despite the result, I still felt I was lacking a bit of speed after Norway, so the goal was to try to close the gap to the top drivers and by the time we got to Belgium, I really felt we had done that.

“Naturally, I was disappointed with the way things went in Germany, because I’d wanted to at least have the chance to race against the boys in the final. Turn One was extremely tricky. I watched so many race starts at the Estering in preparation, but ultimately, it all comes down to split-second decisions.

“You can try something in one race and pull it off, and then do the same again the next time and find it doesn’t work. I honestly thought I would come out of the first corner in the semi-final in second or third place, but I ended up in the wall...

“Still, even if it didn’t go my way in the end, it was a fantastic result for Team E, and huge congratulations to Nils – he has been a brilliant team-mate and is a very deserving champion. To finish third definitely exceeded my personal expectations for the season.

“I’m super-happy with the work we did together as a team, and all the support I received. It was also a real privilege to have Johan [Kristoffersson] as my spotter in Germany. Since racing together in Extreme E, we’ve got to know each other really well and he did a great job. He really did his homework ahead of the weekend to make sure he had everything figured out, and he was very calm, like in everything he does. It would be super-cool to have him as a spotter again sometime, but I suspect he might be a bit busy moving forward...

“Overall, I really enjoyed the season and would definitely like to continue. I gained so much experience and I do feel the speed was there by the end to compete for the title, but I still have a lot more to learn in terms of the finer details and the little tips and tricks. I’m open to all options for 2024, but one thing is for sure – I want to stay in rallycross.”

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
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Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 9:30:00 AM