Challenging season finale for Linda Vekka at Padborg Park in DS3 Cup
Linda Vekka had a troubled last weekend of the 2022 DS3 Cup season at Padborg Park, with three engine changes that kept her team busy in the quest to get the car ready for the last two races of the season: and on Sunday, Vekka delivered a good recovery in race 2.
The last weekend of the 2022 DS3 Cup season took place at an overcast and windy weekend at Padborg Park, a 9-turn and 2.070 km long racetrack just at the border between Germany and Denmark. Two drivers started the weekend with championship ambitions: Knut Eirik Knudsen and Kevin Brandsborh - while Finnish driver Linda Vekka - the only female racer this year in the series - faced troubles throughout the week.
While the final round was off to a promising start for Vekka, who had shown good pace in the unofficial practice, the race event went downhill fast, after technical gremlins appeared on her number 17 black, red and white Citroen DS3.
After lots of work from her team went into finding out the source of the issues, the official practice session on Saturday was soon cut short for the young Finn, as the engine started to overheat. The problem was significant enough to require an engine change and, with qualifying later in the same day, Vekka missed the session and would have to start from the back of the pack for race 1 on Sunday morning. Hope for a positive end of the season, though, was still high as race 2 will have a reversed grid.
Brandsborg scored pole position ahead of Knudsen and Dennis Bannergård, with the former keeping up his championship ambitions.
On Sunday, the sun was out on an otherwise very windy day, but the track was dry throughout. Linda Vekka started race 1 from the back of the grid and made her way up to P10 before she pulled into the pitlane - once again with engine issues.
She had to retire with around four minutes left on the clock, after the belt of the water pump broke.
While Linda was out of the race, Brandsborg had a good start and led the race to a flag-to-flag victory, ahead of Knudsen and Bannergård - who passed Knudsen at the start, but dropped back to third later to finish on the last podium spot.
In between heat 1 and 2, Vekka's team tried to fix the car to get it ready for the final race of the season - and succeeded: Linda would start heat 2, but once again from the back of the grid.
The weather was at that point more uncertain; while the rain did not eventually come, heavy wind remained the only constant over the track. Linda Vekka made her way up the order quickly - until Rene Sevel sent a dovebomb hitting Villadsen, and Linda had to avoid, go wide and dropped back again.
Linda, though, fought back and finished eleventh, in an overall positive race to wrap up her season: "It was easily the hardest weekend of my career", she told us. "Team changed the engine three times."
At the front, Jonas started from pole ahead of Niklas Abrahamsen and Silas Rytter.
Knudsen's championship chances were over as he made contact on the opening lap and went off, dropping down the field.
While Knudsen tried to move forward, a battle between Abrahamsen and Bannergård provided some action to the spectators, but a safety car ended the battle when Nicolai S. Jonas got stuck in the gravel after contact.
When the race went back to green, Rytter passed Bannergård for second place and started to hunt down Abrahamsen in the lead; he would make it to take victory in heat 2, ahead of Abrahamsen and Bransborg. Third place was enough for Brandsborg to clinch the 2022 title ahead of Knudsen.
Padborg Park marked the end of an unlucky season defined by misfortunes - but also lots of improvements and great potential - for Linda Vekka, who will be back in 2023 with her team in DS3 Cup Denmark to fight for more points and her first wins in her fourth season in the Danish series.