Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky overcomes first race incident to score P4 in STCC opening round
Mikaela Kottulinsky fought back from a race 1 accident to finish just off the podium in the first round of the 2020 STCC TCR Scandinavian championship.
Coming from a very positive 2019 campaign, Swedish star Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky was confirmed by the competitive PWR Racing Team on the 2020 STCC - TCR Scandinavian grid. The championship saw the first green light this past weekend at Gelleråsen Arena, Sweden.
It was also one of the first times that we had the chance to see the brand-new Cupra car in action, which already competed a few weeks ago in the Italian TCR series.
The new STCC format features three races per weekend and two qualifying sessions, with the third race starting grid being determined by the inversion of the top-eight - just like many other important European championships.
Mikaela Kottulinsky - who topped the pre-season testing and has high hopes for the season - qualified in fifth for Race 1 and in fourth position for Race 2.
"We had a strong qualifying, despite very few laps in the new car. But during today's race you can see the lack of time, there were three tough races where the speed is unfortunately missing a bit. We will bring many experiences from Gelleråsen to Skellefteå and I am already looking forward to the next competition " - commented Åhlin-Kottulinsky.
But misfortune hit Mikaela in the first race of the season, when the hard battles in the middle of the pack forced her to an early retirement for a broken rear suspension on her new Cupra.
A shortage of car spare parts caused by the Covid restrictions forced PWR Racing Team to take the decision to replace Kottulinsky's demaged parts with her new teammate Peter Wallenberg equipment, forcing him to give up Race 2 after a P11 in the first heat - therefore allowing the young lady to compete again.
Other Kottulinsky's teammate and reigning TCR Scandinavian champion Robert Dahlgren was P5 in Race 1 from seventh on the grid.
"We are all one big team and when the team explained the situation it was a given to give Mikaela the chance to keep fighting for important championship points. But I'm already eager to get in the car and race again. The new CUPRA is really fun to run" - said Peter Wallenberg.
The first race was won by Oliver Soderstrom, followed by Audi's driver Tobias Brink and Emil Persson.
Mikaela Kottulinsky started the second race from P4 and was able to fight against an exhaust system issue to finish just off the podium after being passed by race 1 winner Oliver Soderstrom. The charging Soderstrom, recovering from P6, dropped Kottulinsky just one place from a remarkable podium finish, in P4.
PWR Racing's Robert Dahlgren won the second race after a 20-second penalty was inflicted to Tobias Brinks for a jump start and then managed in the best possible way his runner-up position until the chequered flag.
With the second race results determining the start of the last race of the day, the grid inversion meant that Kottulinsky had to fight her way up the order with some robust moves.
The talented lady overtook Hannes Morin - protagonist of a slow start from P2 - on lap 3, before being involved in a four-way battle for fourth on lap 7 with Robert Huff, Robert Dahlgren and Oliver Soderstrom.
Soderstrom and Huff passed Kottulinsky on the following lap, as she was also forced to give up one position to teammate Robert Dahlgren.
Andreas Ahlberg won a commading Race 3 from reverse grid pole, crossing the line with a 2 second advantage over Mattias Andersson.
Britain's Robert Huff completed the final podium spot while Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky was tenth.
Skelleftea Drivecenter Arena will host the second round of the STCC TCR Scandinavian 2020 season on August 28-29.