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  • Writer's pictureRACERS

Mia Lovell claims personal best in Toyota GR Cup

Four female drivers took the start of the 2024 Toyota GR Cup North America season, with promising performances throughout the weekend. At Sonoma Raceway, it would be Mia Lovell to shine brightest, as she collected two top ten finishes and her career best in the series.


Mia Lovell, Copeland Motorsports, Toyota GR Cup North America, 2024 Sonoma Raceway
Photo credits: Fred Hardy for SRO America

Alongside the start of the 2024 SRO America season in Sonoma Raceway, Toyota Gazoo Racing Cup North America also kicked off its second season of competitions, again attracting a a big field of almost 30 entries among some of the most exciting touring car up-and-coming talents.


One of the most interesting features of the inaugural season of the Toyota GR Cup NA was also a considerable female presence on the grid: four female drivers took the start of at least one round in the series: Mia Lovell, Cat Lauren, Isabella Robusto and NASCAR star Toni Breidinger, who embarked on her first season in touring cars alongside her stock car commitments.


And most of them impressed with promising results: Breidinger learned at a fast pace and, by the end of the year, she fought within the top-20; Robusto – who also has been mainly racing in stock cars and won races in Late Models – was the fastest of the quartet at the season opener in Sonoma, but an incident in Late Models unfortunately took her out for the remaining rounds; Cat Lauren had a positive start of the season with two top-20s, then scored her best finish of the season at VIR.


But it would arguably be Lovell to impress the most. A skateboarding athlete at her first season in professional motor racing, Mia was undoubtedly the positive surprise of the championship: 9 times out of 14 she was the fastest woman, more than anyone else – and the only one to score points with an extraordinary P9 at Barber Motorsports Park.


Returning in a Copeland Motorsports entry, Mia Lovell would be entering her second season in the series – and in motor racing – and her continuous progress was once again proof of big potential. Lovell won't be the only female driver on the grid of the Toyota GR Cup NA season in 2024 either: 17 year old Toyota Racing development program driver Jade Avedisian also tackling her first campaign in road-course racing, after a remarkable rise in USAC competitions. Avedisian is in fact the 2023 Chili Bowl Midget Nationals Rookie of the Year as well as the 2023 Xtreme Outlaw Midgets champion - the first female national Midget champion.


Jade Avedisian, Nitro Motorsport, Toyota GR Cup North America, 2024 Sonoma Raceway
Photo credits: Fred Hardy for SRO America

While Avedisian was certainly a highly anticipated rookie in the Toyota GR Cup field, Maddie Aust's move from TC America to GR Cup was just as exciting, as the TCX class race winner joined BSI Racing for her second year in touring cars, after a move from single seaters in 2023. The young Texan enjoyed a competitive season in formula cars in both US F4 and USF Juniors, before quickly finding her rhythm behind the wheel of the BMW M2 CS, eventually scoring a pole position, five podiums and a double victory.


Last but not least, Toyota GR Cup NA saw the debut into professional motor racing for Alexandra Hainer. Coming from a fashion photography background - but with racing in her family DNA - Hainer has driven Porsche machinery in club events and is now stepping up her involvement in the sport, joining the ranks of Precision Racing LA.


With such an interesting line up of drivers, the opening weekend at Sonoma Raceway lived up to its expectations - and saw promising performances for the female racers on the grid.

While the weekend's schedule was initially disrupted by track repaving on Friday, the drivers of the Toyota GR Cup NA were able to hit the track for a first practice session that soon showed Mia Lovell and Jade Avedisian's ability to run in the top ten. While it was soon clear that Lovell had carried momentum after her remarkable debut season, Avedisian was impressed and was immediately up to pace, setting the eighth fastest time in practice - 0.090 of a second ahead of Lovell.


Aust focused on the adaptation to the new car and was P20; a little two tenths ahead, Alexandra Hainer also had a remarkable first session, clocking a 1:55.402 which suggested that she would be able to battle in the top-20 on her series debut.


Maddie Aust, BSI Racing, Toyota GR Cup North America, 2024 Sonoma Raceway
Photo credits: Fred Hardy for SRO America

In qualifying, Lovell confirmed herself at the top end of the field and set a 1:52.695 that placed her seventh on the grid of race 1. Avedisian was P14, although in a very tight field; Maddie Aust followed in P23 and Alexandra Hainer in P25.


The green flag waved the start of the 2024 season on Saturday afternoon at the Californian venue; Lovell gained a position in a hectic first lap that saw several cars taking to the grass as well as aggressive moves in the midfield. Avedisian fought just outside the top-15, while Aust survived a big slide, although she dropped to P25. With a solid start, Hainer gained five spots and completed the first lap in P20, before the safety car was deployed for two stranded cars on the start-finish straight.


The race resumed with 32 minutes to go and Lovell was right into the leading pack, chasing Weisenberg for the top-five. Avedisian gained two positions on the first full lap under green and aimed to make more progress, returning closer to the positions she occupied in practice. Making the most out of the midfield scraps, Jade picked up two more places on lap 7.


Ahead, Gresham Wagner was unchallenged and opened a gap in the lead thanks to the skirmishes for second between Workman and Kohlbecker. Lovell continued to run consistently in sixth - barely faster than the cars ahead and ready to pick up the pieces.

Mia improved her personal best at almost every lap, slowly eating up a few tenths to Jaxon Bell, now fifth after losing out to Weisenberg.


Hainer battled elbows out in the busy and highly competitive pack - and she held her own showing good racecraft in the defense. TC America race winner Maddie Aust was not far behind, as she made up positions after the challenging start. Aust found her rhythm and gained more positions in the second half of the race, pushing to break into the top 20.


While she eventually couldn't quite challenge Bell for fifth, Mia Lovell held off Brickley and secured a brilliant sixth place - a career best in the series. Jade Avedisian was P13 and Hainer completed her first race in a highly positive P19. Aust followed in P21.


"Super happy with P6, my best finish in the GR Cup yet! And to top it off with the Highest Finishing Female award! Stoked to start the season on a good foot," - Lovell commented. 


Mia Lovell, Copeland Motorsports, Toyota GR Cup North America, 2024 Sonoma Raceway
Photo credits: Fred Hardy for SRO America

After a strong first race, Lovell continued the great form in the second qualifying as she would line up in P6 for Sunday's race. Jade Avedisian took the start from P17, ahead of Maddie Aust in P20 and Alexandra Hainer in P23.


Lovell kept sixth after an action-packed start, although the top four soon tried to pull away. Both Aust and Hainer hit trouble on the first lap and dropped all the way down the order, while Avedisian made good moves in the midfield and advanced to 14th.


The top four were covered by tenths of a second but behind them positions settled; Lovell ran on very competitive times, chasing Bell in fifth and half a second ahead of Brickley, waiting for her opportunity to pick up a place.


Jade Avedisian was also making her way forward and had already recovered to P12, when Anderson went for an over-optimistic move into turn 3 which sent Avedisian hard into the barriers. The safety car was deployed and Jade could climb out of the car unscathed. Anderson was handed a penalty for incident responsibility.


Workman and Wagner drove away at the restart, while Lovell was right in the mix for the top five, as Weisenberg was pushed wide by Kohlbecker and Lovell made an opportunistic move stick. One lap later, though, she ran wide at the exit of the Carousel and, with a great car control, she could keep the car straight although dropped to eleventh.

From the back, Hainer fought hard and made up a couple of positions, slowly climbing back towards the top 20.


Lovell never gave up and was soon back in contention for the top ten, putting pressure on Arthur, Bucknum and Yoder. Mia went for the move and grabbed tenth in the closing minutes, completing a great weekend with two top-ten finishes following a great recovery drive.


"I had my best qualifying yet at P6, and was running strong until I made a mistake, and finished P10", Mia summed up. "And even earned a time penalty…not my best showing, but I had strong pace and learned a ton."

"Really proud of the speed that we showed this weekend, and the overall team results", she continued. "We’re feeling great headed into Sebring."


Maddie Aust got ahead of Hainer on the penultimate lap to finish P21. Nevertheless, Hainer's performance was highly promising, as she held her own in the battles and, with some mileage under her belt, she is likely to keep climbing the order.

The second round of the season is scheduled for 3-5 May at Sebring International Raceway.


Alexandra Hainer, Precision Racing LA, Toyota GR Cup North America, 2024 Sonoma Raceway
Photo credits: Fred Hardy for SRO America

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