24H SERIES mainstay Lestrup Racing has announced the formation of a brand-new Young Driver Programme, as well as its first three incumbents, as part of a new drive to promote young Swedish talent in motorsport.
A collaborative effort between Kenth Öhlin, the founder of damper manufacturer Öhlins, and the Lestrup Racing Team, the new program will act as a structured ladder for young Swedish drivers to develop their motorsport careers, both on a national and international level. The program will be run annually, meaning three drivers with a background in go-karts, junior championships (single seaters or tin tops) and/or sim racing will be selected to join every year.
“Today there is no natural ladder for the juniors and we want to fill that gap, something I would have really needed at the start of my career,” explains team co-owner Fredrik Lestrup. “This is a long-term program spanning over several years that we are keen to evolve and expand.”
Shortly after announcing its new young driver program, Lestrup Racing confirmed that Anton Bergström (18), Alfred Nilsson (19) and Kevin Engman (30) had joined the program as the inaugural class for 2020. Bergström finished 2nd in the championship standings in both Renault Junior Cup Sweden and DS3 Cup Denmark in 2017 and 2018 respectively, while Nilsson was a two-time Swedish national go-karting champion before making the switch to Formula STCC Nordic and Swedish GT (Lestrup himself was the latter’s GT3 champion in 2011 and 2012). Engman meanwhile was three-time bronze medal winner in the Swedish Junior Touring Car Championship before taking a hiatus from motorsport in 2012. He returned for a mid-season TCR Scandinavia test this year.
All three will spend time in the Lestrup Racing Team simulator, and will be trained in the art of data logging and racecraft under the auspices of STCC TCR Scandinavia race winner Oliver Söderström and 2012 World Touring Car Champion Rob Huff.
Lestrup Racing has also confirmed that the inductees will get plenty of seat time in the team’s Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR, as used in STCC TCR Scandinavia and the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook.
“We are delighted to present these three promising drivers for our first year of the Young Driver Programme,” Fredrik Lestrup continues. “Our trio is going to get to work straight away with a full test day together with our STCC team. They are going to get more mileage than during a normal race weekend, [as] a key part of this programme is for them to drive a lot and work hard. We are going to complete a qualifying simulation, a full race distance and they will work through all the data and setup changes with our engineers.
“There is no better practice than to actually drive a race car and to do it as early as possible in the career.”
Though not yet confirmed, it’s also possible we could see Lestrup Racing’s young drivers in action in the 24H SERIES further down the line. The Swedish team has been a series mainstay since 2017, while team co-owner Frederik Lestrup is also a tenured competitor with CREVENTIC, having made his first start with the Dutch promoter at Dubai in 2012 as part of the Besaplast Racing Team line-up.
During its 24H SERIES tenure, Lestrup Racing has collected multiple TCR podium finishes and took a runner’s-up spot in-class in the inaugural TCR SPA 500 last year.
On the team’s most recent outing in Dubai, Lestrup Racing finished an impressive 2nd in the TCR class behind only maiden winner AC Motorsport. Interestingly, this just so happened to be Söderström’s 24H SERIES debut. Rob Huff is also no stranger to the 24H SERIES, the WTCC champ having finished 2nd overall at the Hankook 24H DUBAI in 2014 with ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport and managed Teamwork Huff Motorsport to 3rd in-class at last year’s TCR SPA 500.
* Images courtesy of Petr Frýba and Lestrup Racing Team