One last dance of the season for NXT Gen Cup at Mantorp Park
The last round for the 2023 NXT Gen Cup at Mantorp Park concluded a learning season for Louise Larsson, Siri Hökfelt and Katie Turner: the inaugural year of the all-electric series was a perfect opportunity for the three young women to move their first steps in race cars. Here's a recap of what happened in the final races of the year.
Mantorp Park marked the last event for the inaugural year of the NXT Gen Cup series, which featured a record grid for the season finale. Among the 19 entries, three female drivers tackled their first year of electric motor racing: Siri Hökfelt, Louise Larsson and Katie Turner were back behind the wheel to wrap up their campaigns.
It was championship leader Linus Granfors to secure pole position, in a red-flag shortened session which cut short some fast runs. The crucial points went to Granfors, who lined up ahead of Enzo Hallman and Elias Adestam.
Louise Larsson confirmed her uptrend being again the fastest of the girls in qualifying: "This weekend I did not have any goals regarding places, I was just focused on having fun at the last race in the car and with friends", Louise told us. "It was a totally new track for me. We had two training sessions and I was just focused on learning the track."
"I thought the track was really fun from the beginning probably one of my favourite tracks this season", she continued. "The quali was okay but I didn’t get a clean lap due a couple of yellow flags and some traffic, what meant I ended up in 13th place out of 19 drivers."
It was a challenging weekend for Siri Hökfelt, who would have to start from P15: "It was my first ever time on this track so during training I focused on learning the track and was progressing more and more - which made me confident for qualifying", she explained.
"I had a bad qualifying - P15 - and couldn't push the car to its limits nor use the new front tires to the max", Hökfelt said. "A result I wasn’t happy with, but knowing this track is pretty easy to overtake on, I just focused when and where to overtake in the race 1."
British racer Katie Turner, at her first racing season ever, was coming off a difficult weekend but found some pace in her car and made huge improvements in qualifying: "Having not raced in Knutstorp I had a lot to prove, which I think I did", she said. "My luck this race season has been insanely bad but I did not let that stop me. To be able to qualify I needed to cut my lap time down by 4 seconds which I did... by 6 seconds!"
The first race of the last weekendwas a dramatic one, with championship contenders involved in a big crash during the last lap as well as chaos breaking loose since the beginning...
Granfors started well from pole and engaged in a battle with Adestam and Hallman, as they swapped positions several times. But then there was drama as the timing suddenly clocked down but the stewards failed to show the chequered flag to the drivers: it was disaster for half of the field. The leading trio was still fighting for the victory and Granfors and Adestam made contact which sent Granfors into the wall - also collecting Hallman in the process.
The race was officially finished before the accident happend, which promoted Adestam to the top spot, ahead of Granfors and Hallman.
Louise Larsson had a good start but: "the people around me got an even better one and I got past by one driver", she recalled. "But I got it back in a few laps in the first corner, as I took the inside and carried more speed through the corner and I also managed to pass one more driver. I ended up in 12th place in race 1, so I was very happy with that."
On the other hand, luck was not on Siri Hökfelt's side, as she lacked a bit of speed and crossed the finish line in 15th position. "In race 1 I had a good start, taking some positions but half-way through the race I started losing a lot of time and lost the positions I’d gained", Siri said. "Looking through data we found a speed limit in the car which made my top speed lower than the rest - which could be the explanation for this."
Katie Turner was able to hold her place with P19 at the end of race 1. "Mantorp has easily been my favourite track to race on this season, I had the most fun there and I was really happy with the car", Katie commented, as she run solidly and found her rhythm. "Race 1 was okay, I lost a place but I managed to take it back and I finished the race."
Race 2 featured the final chapter of the season-long battle for the title, while the race itself ended with a new winner, as Mikkel Njor brought home the trophy, preceding Ellis Spiezia and Alexzander Kristiansson. Adestam finished fourth - which was enough for him to claim the ever first championship title in the NXT Gen Cup's history.
Louise Larsson started in 12th place, on the inside line which was "significantly more slippery and I got the worst wheelspin of the season, losing three places at the start", she explained. "I managed to climb up to 11th place but got passed on the last lap on the main straight with a push-to-pass."
"So I ended up in 12th place, but I was really happy with that", she continued, "even though I didn’t gain any places, I climbed up the field pretty well. Overall it was a great weekend for me."
It was a contrasting feeling for Siri Hökfelt, who couldn't fully showcase her potential despite a strong getaway. Having struggled for pace later in the race, she eventually took the chequered flag in 15th place. "In race 2 I made a giant start, taking 8 positions which moved me to P8, but still my speed wasn’t enough and I lost the positions during the race sadly."
"I’m really disappointed about this race weekend, not truly finding the problem which made me lose time", Hökfelt explained, as the young Swede attempted to find the lost performance. "Especially this being the last race of the season, I was really excited for this to be the one. I guess this just wasn't my weekend and even though it’s disappointing right now, I’m definitely more ready and more determined than ever to get into a car and showcase what I’m worth."
The last race of the season was un unfortunate one for Katie Turner, who recorded a DNF to complete a mostly unlucky season, which nevertheless proved that the British rookie had a big potential for improvement, having always raced without any practice at the beginning of the season.
"Race 2 didn't end so great", Katie concluded. "I had a bit of a bump which landed me in hospital. "I am okay and not injured badly. However, that race and in that moment I probably had the most fun because I knew I was really pushing it...maybe a bit too far."
"My main focus for this weekend was to have fun because I had nothing to lose, but I'm feeling more confident with the car and I'm ready for next season!"
The first year of the brand-new NXT Gen Cup saw Adestam being crowned series champion; Siri Hökfelt ended as the best-placed female driver in 15th place. The whole season saw 23 drivers overal, with four different winners and a variety of eight different countries represented, competing in Sweden and Germany.
Siri Hökfelt finished the season as the best-placed female driver overall, with a P15 in the championship standings. "This season is definitely one of the best ones in my career", Siri recalled. "The NXT Gen Cup really made me see what a professional driver gets to do and I have decided this is what I want to do and I’m ready to work for it."
"Getting to drive at the Nürnburgring together with DTM and getting to know all these amazing people living for motorsport has definitely been the highlight of the season. I’m truly grateful to have been given this opportunity and I wish to be back next year on the grid."
Louise Larsson - the youngest of the female drivers on the grid at just 15 years of age - had a very solid start into the season and pushed her limits every round, showing one of the biggest progressions towards the end of the season: "This entire season have been a great learning experience, even tough the results haven’t always shown", Louise explained.
"I've had a lot of fun and I developed in my driving and career. I have gotten my name put out in the big world of motorsports and I got the opportunity to meet a lot of new friends and perhaps future partners." Larsson finished 17th in the overall standings.
Guest driver Bente Boer finished the season in P21 overall, one place ahead of Katie Turner after a highly promising season for the new series, which featured highlight events on the DTM package and proved that full-electric touring car series provide exciting racing.
The focus in now already on to the next season, where we will hopefully see again talented female drivers on the grid.