Salman Owega and Elias Seppänen crowned ADAC GT Masters champions. Historic: Owega and Seppänen are the youngest championship-winning duo in the history of the series. Mercedes-AMG team Landgraf Motorsport defends the Drivers title in the ADAC GT Masters.
The new ADAC GT Masters champions are Salman Owega (Cologne) and Finland’s Elias Seppänen from Landgraf Motorsport. The title at the season finale at the Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg was the icing on the cake at the end of a virtually perfect year for the two Mercedes-AMG drivers: with four wins to their name, they were the season’s most successful duo. The 2023 champions also go down in the history books of the ADAC’s iconic GT series: never before had the title been won by such a young pair. 18-year-old Owega and 19-year-old Seppänen emphatically made their mark on the competition, despite often coming up against significantly more experienced opposition. Landgraf Motorsport also had cause for celebration: founder Klaus Landgraf’s team provided the ADAC GT Masters champions for the second year running, having also taken the title with Switzerland’s Raffaele Marciello last season – a feat no team had ever achieved before in the history of the racing series.
The celebrations knew no bounds for Owega and Seppänen after their third place in the final race of this season’s ADAC GT Masters at the racetrack near Mannheim. The duo laid the foundations for their title win at the Norisring. It was at the third round of the season that Owega and Seppänen claimed their first victory. “After the Norisring and our first win, we realised that we could compete with the very best. That was when the penny dropped,” says Owega. Even a faulty driver’s door could not stop Seppänen, who had to take an alternative route to the podium in Nuremberg. “That was a bit strange. The driver’s door would not open, so I had to climb out of the passenger side. However, that is not as easy as it would be in a normal car, as there are a lot of screens and buttons in a GT car. As such, I had to be very careful. Plus, it is difficult to get out of the tight-fitting seat. That was definitely a bit of a challenge,” he says. The two Mercedes-AMG drivers were then the stars of the show at round four at the Sachsenring, where they became the only drivers this season to win both races at one race weekend. One of the two drivers started from pole position on three occasions in 2023. Hockenheim then provided the crowning moment of an extremely successful season. Owega and Seppänen go down in ADAC GT Masters history as the youngest championship-winning duo. Only Kelvin van der Linde (ZA) was a little over a month younger than Owega when he won his title alongside René Rast (D) in 2014.
Owega was bitten by the motorsport bug as a young boy. He first came into contact with a kart at the age of just six. Owega soon discovered his potential and later did his first laps at the wheel of a race kart in Kerpen-Mannheim. He did not have long to wait for his first success: Owega won the ADAC Kart Bundesendlauf in the Bambini-Light category in 2014. Seppänen, meanwhile, took a different route into the sport. In his native Finland, he switched from Motocross to four wheels. “My parents were heavily involved in Motocross. However, at some point that became too dangerous for me, so I switched to karting,” says Seppänen, who enjoyed great success in his early years on the kart scene. He also demonstrated his talent in ADAC Formula 4, ending the 2020 season with a notable third place and a race win to his name. After another year in Formula racing, Seppänen lined up in the ADAC GT Masters for the first time at the wheel of a Mercedes-AMG GT3 for Landgraf Motorsport. Owega made one guest start at round six of the 2021 season at the Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg, before contesting his first full season in the ADAC’s iconic GT series last year. He benefitted from a very experienced partner in his rookie season. “I started for Land Motorsport alongside Christopher Haase. He is very open and happy to help. That pairing, with him as the teacher, was perfect for me in my first year. I gained a lot of experience and took advantage of his know-how,” says Owega.
While the new champions went head to head on the track in last year’s ADAC GT Masters, they have shared the cockpit of the Landgraf Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the past twelve races. And with great success: despite their young age, the duo refused to allow anything to knock them out of their stride and remained composed on the track. Both Owega and Seppänen are calm racing drivers. “I am very relaxed in difficult moments. I never lose my cool, which is one of my big strengths. I try to take something positive from every situation. I am also very calm on the radio. Our engineer Tim knows that and keeps communication with me to a minimum during the race,” says Seppänen, discussing his characteristics. Owega describes himself as follows: “I always try to keep a cool head. Plus, I have complete trust when Elias is in the car. I know that he will bring the car back to the garage in one piece.”
The two champions are a team away from the cockpit too. Owega and Seppänen prepare for their races with simulator sessions. “I have a super relationship with Salman. We are also good friends away from the racetrack. We often race against each other in the simulator and push ourselves to the limit. The team spirit is very good,” Seppänen stresses. While Owega enjoys meeting up with his friends and studying for his international Baccalaureate in his spare time, Seppänen cannot get enough of the thrill of speed. The Finn regularly takes his bike out for a ride. “I live in Limburg, which is about an hour from the Nürburgring. In the summer, the Nordschleife is open for cyclists on certain days. When it is, I like to do a few laps of the legendary circuit. Cycling is a great hobby and also makes me stronger,” says Seppänen.
The road to success has not been an easy one for Seppänen, as he moved his whole life for the sake of motorsport. At the start of 2022, he moved from his native Finland to Limburg in Hesse. Seppänen: “I moved to Germany last year, primarily because of motorsport. Limburg is a great place and halfway between the Nürburgring and the Hockenheimring. The team’s race base in Gensingen, in the Rhineland-Palatinate, is also not that far away. That was very important to me.” To ensure communication runs smoothly, he regularly learns German. At first he was assisted by a teacher, but now he studies online via an app. Owega, on the other hand, comes from a real motorsport family: his brother Jusuf Owega drives a Mercedes-AMG GT3 for Landgraf Motorsport in the DTM. His father has also always been interested in motorcycle racing and spent over ten years as a race doctor at the Nürburgring on a part-time basis. “My father is a very big support for me. As a doctor, he helps me mentally. It may be hard to believe, but motorsport is not the be all and end all at hope. I usually only chat to my brother Jusuf about the races when we are at the circuit. Whereas I speak to my father far more often about my outings in the ADAC GT Masters,” says Owega. He and Seppänen appreciate the proximity of the ADAC GT Masters to the DTM, and are only too happy to receive advice from DTM drivers. “Salman, the team and I really benefit from the fact that Landgraf Motorsport is active in both series. I can learn a lot from Maro Engel, who drives in the DTM. He is very happy to help and always has a tip for you,” says Seppänen.
The two newly-crowned champions have similar plans. “The ADAC GT Masters is a strong championship and has been extremely important for my development as a racing driver. For my next step, I would like to establish myself in endurance racing and start in the 24-hour races at the Nürburgring and Spa-Francorchamps. Le Mans is another big dream for me. The DTM is obviously also appealing, as I believe it is the strongest GT3 series in the world,” says Seppänen, describing his plans for the future. Owega also dreams of one day taking his place on the grid at one of the prestigious 24-hour races. In winning the title in the ADAC GT Masters, both Mercedes-AMG drivers have proven that they are ready for more challenges.