Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky admits the learning curve in her first season of racing in the ADAC GT Masters has been much steeper than expected.
A graduate of the Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup and the Audi Sport TT Cup, the Swede became one of the first to make the step up from the new-for-2015 TT series to the big leagues of GT3, driving an Aust Motorsport Audi R8 LMS.
She and team-mate Marco Bonanomi have yet to score points this season, but head to Zandvoort after equalling their best result of the season so far, coming through from the back of the grid to finish 11th in race one at the Nürburgring.
“I understood it was going to be a big challenge, but to be honest I didn’t think it was going to be this big of a challenge,” explained Åhlin-Kottulinsky, who currently sits 13th in the GT Masters Junior Trophy for drivers up to 25 years of age. “GT3 is completely different from what I’ve done before and I’ve been struggling to learn it all.
“I know of course that it’s all still about driving a race car, but all the techniques, the lines that you’re driving, the way you apply throttle, the way you have to do the braking, everything is so different from driving a front wheel driven car like I’m used to.
“I’m also still struggling with learning how to use downforce; in the quick corners you actually have to go in faster for the car to be stable, but I still tend to go into a corner a little bit too slow.”
Fortunately in Bonanomi, a veteran of Audi’s LMP1 programme, Åhlin-Kottulinsky has a team-mate who is helping her grow in confidence and is also a solid benchmark to aim for.
— Mikaela A-K (@MikaelaAhlinK) August 7, 2016
“I’m really happy that I have a good teammate in Marco, he’s been helping me this season and he’s very patient,” she continued. “He never gets angry with me; he simply says ‘you should try to do it like this’ and I really try to do as much as I can with the input that I get from him and the engineers.
“My year will be a success when I see that I can get closer and closer to Marco, because in the end he’s the person I’ll really be compared to. I just want to feel that I can come closer and closer in lap times to him all the time.”
Åhlin-Kottulinsky added that she was grateful for spending an extra year to hone her race-craft in the TT Cup before making the leap to GT3, where she benefitted from the expertise of chief instructor Markus Winkelhock – now a rival in GT Masters – and a TT car that bears a stronger resemblance to a fully-fledged racing car than the Scirocco-R it replaced on the DTM support package.
“When I took the step from the Scirocco Cup to the TT Cup, it was already a step up towards a stronger car,” she said. “The Scirocco was a standard car and the TT Cup car was already much more of a racing car – I think the step from the Scirocco Cup directly to GT3 would have been enormous!
“At least now I got a chance to drive a whole year in a car that was more of a proper racing car than the Scirocco, so I’m really happy I did the series. It was also very competitive, with really good drivers, and it was good to get to know a lot of people at Audi.”