Scandinavia has always been a breeding ground for racing talent, often being represented in many of the top series and championships in all forms of motorsport. Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky’s family have been involved in the sport for many years, however this involvement lead Mikaela to ‘rebel’ with her deciding she didn’t want to race. As she got older, she began to consider that maybe the industry could be an option for her, and now at the age of 25, Mikaela is racing in the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship. I spoke to her about the importance of family, driving and the races she would love to take part in.
As mentioned, Mikaela’s family were involved in the sport and at an early age she was too. She began karting when she was 5 years old and after struggling, turned her attention elsewhere. “Problem was, I was too short to reach the pedals, so my Dad put a piece of wood to give it some acceleration. He thought it would stop if I spun, problem is…it didn’t. In the end, I crashed straight into a light pole, I was hurt and my brother’s go-kart was destroyed,” she said. “My family has always been surrounded by motorsport, and for me, I believe I was a bit ‘sick’ of it so I did gymnastics and I was also dancing, with no interest at all.”
After deciding to revisit racing at the age of 11, Ahlin-Kottulinsky began practicing in a child’s kart before starting to compete in a class called ‘Micro’ in her native Sweden the following year. However, with her previous experience racing in the back of her mind, she was still wary when she was driving competitively. “I was scared of giving full throttle on the straights, and coming second last was like a win to me. However, I’m very stubborn and didn’t give up. One day my brother was going to drive in front of me with his quicker go-kart to show me the right lines, and I was smart enough to understand that ‘now I HAVE to give full throttle to even be able to follow him’. So I did, realised that it wasn’t too bad and scary, and from there on I developed step by step. One year later I took my first win in the Micro class,” Mikaela described.
Following go-karting, her first experience racing was in 2011. “It was a long-distance race at Kinnekulle Ring in Sweden. I borrowed a suit that actually belonged to our Swedish prince, so people thought I was a Bernadotte (member of the Swedish Royal Family) when driving! But the first full series I competed in was the VW Scirocco R-Cup in 2012,” Ahlin-Kottulinsky explained. It was then a year later in 2013 when Mikaela began thinking that driving could be more than a hobby for her, and could become a career. “That’s when I realised that I was good at this and that I wanted to put all of my energy in succeeding within the sport. Later on, I’d realise that I need my free time, time with family and friends and time away from racing, to actually succeed in the sport. To find that famous ‘right balance’,” she told me.
Now driving in the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship (STCC), Mikaela previously raced in Germany, hoping to go on to take part in DTM, however a series of events lead her to make what she believes is the “best decision” she’s ever made. “After a few years in Germany I was contacted by the team owners of PWR Racing Team, Daniel Haglöf and Peter “Poker” Wallenberg and was asked if I was interested in competing in the STCC. 2017 was our first year where I didn’t do the full season, and for this year we went into it 100 %,” Ahlin-Kottulinsky said, adding: “I was told a few weeks ago that ‘you can have visions for your future, but not fixed plans’. Something I´ve learned over the years is that things don’t always turn out the way you plan them. To decide to race in STCC with PWR Racing Team is the best decision I’ve ever made, even though I didn’t plan it from the beginning.”
Midway through the current season, Mikaela’s races so far haven’t gone totally to plan, nevertheless she has high hopes for the rest of the year. “We’ve showed great speed, both in free practice and races. I´m confident that we can secure a top 5 position if we get it all together, maybe even a podium finish,” she explained. However, with the racing in the championship of such a high standard, she knows that this will be challenging. “The level is SO high! There are so many great drivers, new young guns and guys with loads of experience, so the mix is therefore a very tough and competitive one!” she exclaimed.
Still relatively early in her career, there are many series that Ahlin-Kottulinsky could go onto race in if she decided to move away the STCC which she currently enjoys. For Mikaela, the World Touring Car Championship would be the aim. “Most realistic as a vision now would be the FIA WTCR, so that’s a series I’d love to compete in when I’m ready and the possibility is there. But a race I´d really like to take part in is the Spa 24h, that’d be epic,” she said.
Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky began racing at the age of 5, however after a crash, decided motorsport was not for her. After years of refusing to take part in the sport, preferring gymnastics and dancing, she decided to give it another go aged 11. Since then it has become a major part of her life, and continues to be. Speaking of the advice she would give to others hoping to be involved in the industry, she said: “follow your heart, your gut feeling, don’t let anyone stop you from shining and doing what you want. Also, cherish your personal life and relationships with friends and family, and surround yourself with people who love and support you and most of all – make you happy! For me, that’s what it’s all about in the end. It takes loads of time, energy, missed events, birthdays and basically many sacrifices to get to your goal, and if it doesn’t make you happy, it’s not worth it. That’s why I’m so happy that I really enjoy it as much as I do now.” Mikaela is happy racing in the STCC for the moment where she can challenge herself every weekend, however looking to the future she would love to take part in the FIA WTCR. Whether this will happen or not, we will have to wait and see, but we can be sure she will continue to race hard and is aiming for the podium for the rest of her current season.
Photo credits: PWR Racing Team, Daniel Ahlgren and Joakim Åström