Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky is not afraid of trying out new things. Having jumped into a Can-Am side-by-side at the back end of last year’s Nitro Rallycross season in Florida at short notice and winning, her adaptability was on full show for everyone to see.
Ostensibly a circuit racer, taking on the challenge of Extreme E was another example of broadening her horizons, and it has indirectly taken her back to rallycross following a six-year hiatus.
“I did two rounds of the World Rallycross Championship in RX2 in 2014, at Höljes and in Istanbul and I also did two rounds of the British championship in a buggy in 2016 [she’ll add another RX150 outing at Mondello Park in Ireland this weekend], but that was like a hundred years ago!” Åhlin-Kottulinsky tells DirtFish.
“There is a little bit of unfinished business in rallycross, because I loved it back in 2014, I thought it was amazing and I really wanted to continue. But circumstances made it so that I didn’t, and I pursued circuit racing and from there, that was the main focus. So, it’s great to finally be back.”
Åhlin-Kottulinsky will contest the European rounds of Nitro RX’s feeder category NRX Next this season, kicking off a rallycross’s spiritual home Lydden Hill next month, before heading to home soil in Sweden and finishing off in Finland.
Despite the new surroundings for Åhlin-Kottulinsky, who has been a frontrunner in the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship (STCC) since making her debut in 2017, the car she will drive is at least familiar.
“The Supercar Lites has evolved quite a lot since I drove it in 2014,” she says. “So, it will take a bit of time to get back up to speed in the car. I know that they are using different dampers than when I drove it last. I’ve spoken to a lot of people about what the car is like, and they all say that it is a really different feeling now to back then, so it will be interesting to see how it goes.”
Six years away from rallycross [eight in Supercar Lites terms] is a long time for anyone, and Åhlin-Kottulinsky is not underestimating the difficulty of fitting seamlessly back into the RX fold.
“I’m really humble coming into this, I must say. I had a great round in the side-by-sides in Florida, but that track was mainly asphalt which is what I have most experience on.
“And looking at the Lites, it’s so competitive and the guys and girls have been racing these cars for so many years now. Some of them I already raced against in 2014 and they’ve still been there in the years that I’ve been away, so for sure it will be tough.”
If her previous debuts in touring cars, Extreme E and Nitro RX SSVs are anything to go by, perhaps Åhlin-Kottulinsky is merely being the other kind of humble.
A race winner in every category she has raced in, this will be her first proper foray into rallycross.
And there is, naturally, more to the ‘return of the MAK’ than simply trying out a bit of rallycross on the side.
“It feels good to have something like this to combine with Extreme E because I really feel this is the best preparation for Extreme E: it’s close racing, it’s jumping, it’s gravel, so it’s a good complement to that championship,” she explains.
“There are some similarities between the two series I believe, even though the tracks and the cars are totally different. When I decided that I would not be doing STCC this year, I immediately looked at the options I had to get more seat time and to get more experience. I found last year that, even though STCC and Extreme E were so far apart, it was still great to be in the racing mode and focusing on becoming a better driver no matter what the surfaces are.
“But now, when I have the chance to do Nitro, first of all it looks really fun, rallycross is going in the right direction, and I think Nitro is creating a great experience for the fans and that is what we need.”
For Åhlin-Kottulinsky, there is perhaps no better team to ‘broaden the horizons with than Joel Christoffersson’s JC Raceteknik outfit either. A renowned rallycross team with bags of experience from the ex-racer himself, Åhlin-Kottulinsky is certainly in good hands.
“Joel was the one who brought me into rallycross back in 2014, and he was actually my mechanic in go-karting a few times too, so we have known each other for a really long time,” says Åhlin-Kottulinsky.
“And even looking at what Joel has achieved since 2014, that was his first year running the team and, I was in Höljes [for the opening round of RallyX Nordic] and it was so impressive the job he has done, with the number of cars he is running.
“It’s for this reason that I am really happy to be back working with him. It was an easy conversation when I decided to come back to RX.”