Three female drivers at the start of the all-new series NXT GEN Cup
The all-new 100% electric junior touring car championship NXT Gen Cup made its debut at Falkenberg, Sweden, with an exciting and action-filled first weekend. Among the strong 18-car field of international drivers we find three young female talents: Louise Larsson, Siri Hökfelt and Katie Turner.
The NXT Gen Cup is a new electric junior series employing the new LRT NXT1, which is based on the MINI Cooper SE by and developed by Lestrup Racing Team. It features 190-230hp and a push-to-pass possibility; the cars are able to complete races of more than 20 minutes without any power loss.
The series is also providing an interesting package designed for young talents that also aims to educate and prepare them for a professional career in the sport - refining skills in racing, engineering, as well as budgeting, sponsor meetings and promotion.
The winner will be crowned Swedish Junior Champion and the special prize will be funding for a season in the 2024 STCC series - a championship that has also committed to a 100% electric format. Especially interesting will be the education programme outside the track, which is often crucial for the young talents of tomorrow - but also the concept of arrive and drive: all cars are maintained centrally by the series and all drivers will get assistance by experienced staff.
A race weekend includes two days of track action with a practice session of 20 minutes, followed by a qualifying session of 20 minutes on day one. Day two includes two races with a run time of 15 minutes each and a point ranking awarding from P1 to P16 - with the first-placed driver scoring 30 points, the second 25 points and dropping down until P16.
Additionally, the drivers will score 4 extra points for pole position, 2 for second and 1 for third.
The grid is a colorful mix of nationalities and features three female racers: Siri Hökfelt, Louise Larsson and Katie Turner.
Katie Turner is a 19 year old British driver who has been part of the Formula Women programme this year; she is effectively making her racing debut in the Next Gen Cup. Turner participated in track days on circuits around the UK and is set to join the weekends in Sweden and Germany for her first competitive season.
Siri Hökfelt, 16, made a name for herself in Sweden, coming home second in the Sydsvenskan Kart Champion Cup in 2019. She already competed in Renault Junior Cup Sweden and the Aquila Formula 1000 after she made her racing debut in 2020.
Louise Larsson, the youngest among the female drivers at 15 years of age, has competed in karting and Renault Junior Cup Sweden. The young Swede was the first confirmed driver for the series.
The first qualifying session in the history of the championship was shortened by a red flag and saw Swedish driver Elias Adestam taking a historic first pole position with a gap of just 0,057 seconds ahead of Victor Nielsen, followed by Linus Granfors.
Fastest of the girls was Siri Hökfelt, who told us that she hadn't pushed as hard as she could as she is learning the machinery and new format and ended in 11th position, with some work to do to recover.
Louise Larsson was 12th fastest, right behind Siri, as she experienced a chaotic session with traffic and a red flag eventually cutting short her qualifying effort.
Katie Turner also hit trouble, as she slipped into the gravel and got stuck in the run-off - eventually resulting in a red flag to recover her car. She drove back to the pits slowly afterwards but couldn't rejoin the timed session. She had already experienced a shortened session in practice due to a software failure - leaving Katie with a lack of mileage in the new car ahead of the races.
The first ever race in the history of the electric NXT Gen Cup provided awesome racing action - including a six-car battle for the win with several lead changes: Adestam, Nielsen, Granfors, Oscar Pedersen, Enzo Hallman and Ellis Spiezia - the only American on the grid - were all in contention for the inaugural win.
Adestam kept his cool and reclaimed the lead shortly before the end of the race, scoring the first win in the history of the series ahead of Granfors and Pedersen.
Siri Hökfelt had a bit of a difficult start but was fast to get back into the rhythm and showed some really good pace - also proved during the whole weekend. During the first race, Hökfelt made a little contact, lost some time but eventually regrouped and managed to post a lap time that was just 0,2 seconds adrift of the leaders and finished in a promising 9th place.
Louise Larsson had some tight battles in the midfield until a contact happened just ahead of her and had to take evasive action - losing out to the cars in front. After a lonely race in P9 for several laps, Larsson was demoted to 10th at the end of the race due to push-to-pass strategy.
Katie Turner's first race was also not all plain sailing; she got into the race with a completely different mindset in order to acclimate herself with the car and the track - at her very first time in the vehicle having not been involved in pre-season testing at Gelleråsen. For this reason, Turner used race 1 as a test session to collect enough data to adjust and learn the platform.
The grid for the second race was reversed and saw Theo Jernberg on pole; he had a slow start and immediately dropped down to 6th place. In the front, another close battle for the lead had Enzo Hallman jumping from 4th to 2nd at the start and, in a three-wide fight on lap 3 with Spiezia and Alexzander Kristiansson, he would take over the lead.
But Hallman's lead wasn't safe as Spiezia had not given up: he followed him closely and the American passed him for the lead to take victory, becoming the second race winner of the season. Hallman was second, ahead of Pedersen.
Siri Hökfelt - who started way better this time - made her way up to sixth. With tight battles, she held her position until two laps to go, when she dropped down to eighth - in what was still a very positive race for the young Swede, albeit she was a bit disappointed.
"Overall the weekend was amazing and improving after every session working my way to the top", she told us. "The NXT GEN organisation and engineers helped a lot with watching data and analysing everything to make every driver perform and understand the car more and more."
"Now I know what to improve for the next race weekend in Oschersleben. I’m really excited being the first time racing in Germany and being two back to back weekends with the second one at the infamous Nürburgring." - Hökfelt said.
Louise Larsson had a few issues at the start but recovered quickly to move up to seventh for most of the race before she was hit on the side and lost feeling with the car. She fell to 14th at the end of the race.
"Happy with the weekend even though it didn’t get any really good places", she commented. "But first race with this car and first race for me this season. A very cool experience just to be with the NXT Gen team and everything around", Larsson added. "It’s not just the time you sit in the car that counts - throughout the competition there have been many interviews and meetings, which not only teaches us how to drive but also how to become a driver, how to market yourself and treat sponsors, people you work with, and other drivers" - Louise stated.
Katie Turner had a good start and overtook another driver in the opening laps of the race - but a technical problem eventually meant that she had to come to the pits in the last laps of the race.
"Overall, I have had a good weekend, seeing the series coming to life has been great, and the turn out we saw as a new championship has been amazing", Katie commented. "I am absolutely looking forward to Oschersleben and getting in the fight up at the top."
Round two of the season will take place as a support series of DTM at Oschersleben, from 28th to 30th July.