The NXT Gen Cup is the world’s first 100% electric junior touring car cup founded by Fredrik Lestrup and Lestrup Racing Team. The winner of NXT Gen Cup will be crowned the official Swedish Junior Champion and receive financial support to race in the 2024 Scandinavian Touring Car Championship (STCC). Currently there are two young women among the 11 drivers announced – 15-year-old Swedish driver Louise Larsson and 16-year-old Swedish driver Siri Hökfelt. Recently we had a chance to talk to Louise, here is what she said about the series and her career so far.
© All photos provided by Louise Larsson
Paddock Sorority (PS): What was your first exposure to motorsport? How did you get started with karting?
Louise Larsson (LL): I started in go-kart in 2016 when I was around 8 years old. The first time I sat in a go-kart was when my dad took me to try it. We hired a kart and I tried it. Then half a year later, he come home with a new kart that was all mine. That year I started driving go-kart and I did a couple of races, but not that much. I was still pretty little. The reason why I started, I think was because my dad and was rallying before. So I had that from the start. I’ve always been around cars since I was little.
PS: Now you are in touring cars, would you still pursue a single-seater career? Have you ever considered rallying since that was what your dad raced?
LL: I don’t really have a specific car I want to drive. I’m not saying ‘I want to go to F1’. I’m saying ‘I want to make a living with racing’. So if that’s in rally or a formula car or in touring car, that doesn’t really matter for me. I just love driving.
PS: And what made you decide that you want to make a living out of this?
LL: I’ve just grown up with it. It’s been such a big part of my life. So I think that’s my life. I just decided that when I was very little.
PS: Is your dad your racing idol for you or is there someone else who’s your racing idol?
LL: We have a really big driver in Sweden – Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, she is probably one of my biggest idols. She had also driven STCC – the biggest touring car championship in Sweden, which is also the thing I’m going to drive. NXT Gen Cup is like a junior version of it.
PS: Who have you learned the most from about racing and driving?
LL: That must be my dad. He has taught me everything from the beginning, from how to drive. I also learned from people who I met on the track, like drivers who have driven 10 years ago. They would tell me to do this or that. I think it’s a lot of people that have taught me a lot.
PS: You are the first confirmed driver for NXT Gen Cup, how did this opportunity come about?
LL: We were at an STCC race. We talked to Lestrup Racing Team, the people who founded NXT Gen Cup. Then we saw it on social media. My dad signed me up for it and we talked a lot to Lestrup Racing, Fredrik Lestrup himself and the team crew. We met them a lot. We have been with them all summer and during their races too. We really liked them and they really liked us.
PS: The cup is arranging education programs for the drivers. What has your experience been like so far with the cup?
LL: We have been to a couple of different courses. We have been on bank meetings, which taught us how to handle sponsors and how to handle money. It’s a lot of money in the sport. You need to know that from an early age. We have also been taught how to train and how to live a life in racing. We’ve been taught how to think and how to work. It’s not just about sitting in a car and thinking that you can drive. You need to have the body and the brain for it. All of the education programs are to prepare us to be better in the car and to manage people around us. It’s been great. I think that’s a big part of racing. We get everything in the NXT Gen Cup, so we could learn and have a future in the sport.
PS: Have you changed your training in any ways because of what you learned in the Cup? What is a typical day or week like for you now in terms of training?
LL: I train a lot, I run and I lift a lot. I basically train every day so I can be strong, drive better, be quick, and have good reaction time. One thing that we have now started with is to throw tennis balls and then catch them. This is to train better reaction time. I also talk to sponsors every day, trying to find sponsors, trying to find people who want to help us.
PS: You have been racing Renault Junior Cup since 2020, how do you think that experience prepares you for NXT Gen Cup?
LL: I think it prepares me really well, because it’s in a similar car. I think the driving experience is pretty similar. I think it’s a great first step into the new series. I know how to drive a touring car on some of the tracks maybe we’re gonna drive on. I think it’s better to go from this than to go from karting. In karting, you sit in the middle, which is very different from a touring car. The first thing I noticed when I jumped from karting to a touring car was that I am not staying in the middle anymore. It was so weird for me that I was on the side of the car.
PS: What challenges do you anticipate in this new series?
LL: It’s a lot of new challenges. The speed is the first one. It’s a lot faster. It spins out a lot faster. I need to be a lot quicker on the track. I need to think quicker. That’s gonna be a big challenge, but it’s gonna be fun.
PS: NXT Gen Cup is all electric, does that change any aspect of your driving?
LL: It’s a whole different experience to drive electric. It’s a big change in everything, including what’s around the track, not just when you sit in the car. For example you need to charge the car. The driving experience is different than any car you’ve drive. I think the future is electric, so I think it’s gonna be a really good learning experience for the future. When I’m in my 30s, probably everything we race is gonna be electric.
PS: What do you think are your strength and weaknesses as a driver?
LL: I think my strength is that I can think pretty quickly. I can think I need to go left or right or how to pass someone pretty quickly. I can also change my mind very quickly. My weakness is probably that I’m a bit of a bad looser. I like to win. I can probably get a bit frustrated if I do something wrong on track and be a bit hard on myself.
PS: What has been the highlight in the past seven years of your career?
LL: This season has been the highlight. To know that I’m gonna drive something this big and have the opportunity to drive this. It’s not just going in it. They have chosen to take me in. That’s probably gonna be my biggest highlight at least.
PS: Have you had difficult moments in your career?
LL: COVID. It stopped everything. I was about to put everything into karting in the 2020 season. But then COVID came and we didn’t do that because we didn’t want to spend that much money on half a season which we weren’t even sure was going ahead. So we basically took a year off in 2020. It was a bit hard to be not on the track that much. I pretty much lived on the track previously, and then I stopped all of a sudden. I was even thinking maybe I’m not gonna drive anymore.
PS: Are you racing any other series along side NXT Gen Cup?
LL: I’m gonna drive the VolvoCupen in Sweden. It’s a cup for just Volvo cars. So I’m gonna drive in Volvo S60. It’s to get as much seat time as possible. The NXT Gen Cup is a lot bigger, but we’re not gonna be on the track that much. It’s six race weekend plus testing. With VolvoCupen, I can go basically any weekend to drive.
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