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Luna Fluxa dominant in COTFA round 1 at Cremona

Mercedes junior driver Luna Fluxa showed utterly dominant performances in the first round of the 2024 Champions Of The Future Academy programme in Cremona, Italy, where the young Spaniard took victory in both the Senior class finals by a big margin, following jaw-dropping drives.

Luna Fluxa Cross, Champions Of The Future Academy, 2024 Cremona
Photos: RGMMC Media in collaboration with The RaceBox

Mercedes junior driver Luna Fluxa was the protagonist of an utterly dominant performance in the first round of the 2024 Champions Of The Future Academy programme in Cremona, Italy, where the young Spaniard took victory in both the Senior class finals by a big margin, following jaw-dropping drives on Saturday in the dry and Sunday in mixed weather conditions.

Fluxa – who is one of the nine drivers supported by the F1 Academy Discover Your Drive scouting programme, which supports three female drivers in each category of the new COTFA series – had no rivals and claimed victories by over seven and eight seconds respectively, showing a complete dominance at the Italian track.

Luna had already showcased her talent in the first ever round held in Abu Dhabi at the end of last year, where she finished in the top five in both finals and battled for the podium in the OK-N Junior class, before making the step up to the OK-N Senior for the start of the 2024 campaign, under the banner of F1 Academy.

Also part of the support scheme in the category are 14-year-olds Charlotte Page, from Australia, and Payton Wescott, from the US, while across the three classes 21 female racers took to the track at Cremona – in a highly encouraging 24.4% of female participation.

The clearly positive numerical trend was, however, also followed by a positive competitive trend, as several female karters contested for the top positions and took victories in three out of the six weekend finals, suggesting how the COTFA format is providing a competitive yet viable platform to showcase talents at the highest international level.

After qualifying in second place on Saturday morning, just 0.042 of a second behind Australian Pip Casabene, Fluxa immediately showed that she would be the driver to beat in dry conditions and took the lead on the first lap of the first qualifying heat, comfortably winning her first race of the day. Behind her, the top female drivers were Finnish up-and-coming talent Ella Lahdemaa in 16th, Charlotte Page – protagonist of a remarkable recovery from 28th to 18th – and Elizaveta Kozlova just outside the top-20 in P21.

Luna continued to be unchallenged in the second qualifying heat, where she made seized the lead with a stunning pass around the outside of turn 1 on the first lap and pulled away, almost opening a one second gap to Silkunas. Kozlova and Lahdemaa also had good battles around the top ten, and yet another charge for Page saw the Australian gaining eight places, just behind Sofia Zanfari – 17th after an unlucky first heat.

Fluxa set fastest lap after fastest lap and won in dominant fashion – although the best lap of the race was eventually recorded by Ella Lahdemaa in 49.137, eleventh across the line.

Luna Fluxa Cross, Champions Of The Future Academy, 2024 Cremona
Photos: RGMMC Media in collaboration with The RaceBox

Having scored 100 points in the two qualifying heats, Luna Fluxa started from pole position in the Final, alongside Markas Silkunas on the outside line. At lights out, Fluxa had again the best reaction and snatched the lead, while Silkunas swerved to the outside and ended up making contact with the barriers - luckily emerging unhurt from a big crash. Fluxa led Herriouin and Rafalik, as Kozlova had gained two positions and was up to P13 before setting the early fastest lap. Also in the top-15, Ella Lahdemaa was looking strong for a comeback. Zanfari, Wescott and Page were all on the move - and the Moroccan made up seven places in three laps, eyeing a top-15 as well.

But the star of the show was undeniably Luna Fluxa again, who soon opened a gap to the pursuers and was never under pressure. Positions changed behind her; Elizabeta Kozlova lost a couple of places on lap 4 but remained in the battle for the top ten, followed by Zanfari - who had a stellar charge in the opening stages before dropping to 17th. Charlotte Page on the other hand was recovering and made it back into P15 mid-way through the race.

Fluxa started her dominant streak of fast laps which allowed the Spaniard to check out from everyone with incredible consistency. Pip Casabene was also catching Herrouin - as they both saw Fluxa disappearing into the distance. On lap 15, Ella Lahdemaa claimed the fastest lap from the Mercedes junior and made her way back up the field, breaking into the top ten.

Luna Fluxa crossed the finish line with a stellar lights to flag win, in another utterly dominant showing that saw the F1 Academy Discover Your Drive racer annihilating the competition by a 6.7 second margin.

Ella Lahdemaa retained the fastest lap and was ninth; Sofia Zanfari had a strong race in P13, having gained ten positions. Elizaveta Kozlova was P14, with Charlotte Page in 17th. Fellow F1 Academy supported driver Payton Wescott followed in 20th.

Drivers found very different conditions on Sunday morning, with rain, cold and wind making for a very tricky second day of racing at the 1224m Cremona Circuit.

While she didn't display the same dominance as in the dry, Fluxa familiarized with the grip levels in practice before getting back among the leading drivers in qualifying, where she set the sixth fastest time despite encountering plenty of traffic in her final laps.

Luna Fluxa Cross, Champions Of The Future Academy, 2024 Cremona
Photos: RGMMC Media in collaboration with The RaceBox

Her Sunday took a challenging turn in the first quali heat, when under treacherous conditions the top two collided at turn 2 and ignited a pile up among the leading pack; Luna Fluxa had nowhere to go and was off into the barriers, eventually retiring from the first race of the day together with Demellweek, Bernoldi and Zanfari.

Ella Lahdemaa had a brilliant race and was seventh, completing a mistake-free contest where many ended up in the grass. Payton Wescott was the only other female racer to take the chequered flag in P13, gaining 12 spots.

Fluxa was on a mission in the second heat, as she attempted to make up for the earlier race and climb back the starting grid for Sunday's Final. Rain had stopped and a drier line was forming on the racing line – which resulted in some drivers gambling for slicks. Most of the front runners though went for the wet weather tyres – as did Fluxa, who was immediately up to fourth, before completing the first lap in second place with a double pass in the final sector.

Austin Gale drove away in the lead, as Fluxa battled Lambert and Motlekar just behind. The three traded places in the first laps, but once Flux made it back into second she could pull away and focused on catching Gale, three seconds ahead. The gap had been neutralized by lap 10, and Fluxa was on a charge as Gale struggled on a deteriorating wet tyre. Fluxa went for a last lap move – but the top spot changed hands several times in the final corners, with Luna ending up fourth.

Everyone bolted on new slicks for the Final, as the track had fully dried. From eighth on the grid, Luna was quick to seize sixth place at the start, then cleared Jean Paul Karras on the first lap. Her eyes firmly on the top spot, Fluxa was unrelentless and caught the top four in one lap. Just as on Saturday, her pace was unmatched and overtook Lambert with a fantastic overtake into the hairpin to take third.

Stronger under braking and faster into the corners; Flux sent another move on Cegielski and then went for the race lead on Philippe Karras on lap 4. There was nothing her competitors could do, as Fluxa once again drove away.

Ella Lahdemaa and Elizaveta Kozlova bettled just outside the top 10 in the earlier stages of the race; while the Finnish Karter made it into tenth, Kozlova later fell down the order – with Charlotte Page also making her way up from P26 up to P13.

With her rivals battling for second, Fluxa extended her lead with a series of fastest laps that gave her an over 5 second lead by lap 12. The margin kept growing over the next 10 laps and the Mercedes junior crossed the finish line over 8 seconds ahead of Pip Casabene, who held off Karras and Motlekar.

"It was amazing. It was a bit more difficult than yesterday with the rain and then not winning the heat, but the final just came through and winning it by eight seconds is amazing.”

“I just kept calm, I knew I had the pace in the dry just like I showed yesterday. I just stayed calm, did my overtakes. By lap 4 I was already in front and then it was all about taking a bigger gap. It was amazing.” 

Payton Wescott made a brilliant recovery in the closing laps to finish P12 – which would later be upgraded to P9 following penalties. On her first COTFA outing, the American had a positive final with a top ten and preceded Sofia Zanfari, 15th across the line with an equally encouraging final. Ella Lahdemaa dropped to P17 after a front bumper penalty, just like Page and Kozlova, who were classified P18 and P20.

With two unbelievable victories across the first round, Luna Fluxa was the star of the show in Cremona and now leads the championship standings by 25 points over her closest competitor. The Champions Of The Future Academy series will now head to Valencia for the second round, where Fluxa – on home soil – is aiming to carry momentum.

Luna Fluxa Cross, Champions Of The Future Academy, 2024 Cremona
Photos: RGMMC Media in collaboration with The RaceBox



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