Ayla Agren talks transatlantic lockdown

Ayla Agren’s family is spread far and wide, so she is feeling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic keenly. But the Texas resident explains how DIY and Audrey Hepburn are keeping her busy…

Your family is spread across three countries, so how is everybody?

My mum, dad, brother and mum’s extended family are in Norway – a town called Slemmestad, about 30 minutes from Oslo – but my dad is Swedish so lots of his family are based there in the south, close to the Danish border. Both countries were quite badly hit about a week after it escalated in Italy, but thankfully none of my family have been ill. It seems to be under control there and restrictions are starting to ease. There have been lots of WhatsApp messages and I speak with my parents every day. I probably speak to them more when I’m here than when I’m home! I moved from Norway to Houston, Texas, in 2012 to compete in open-wheel cars.

How’s life in Houston right now?

It’s been like this for a couple of months so we’re starting to get a little stir crazy as we’re used to travelling lots, but we’re keeping busy and doing OK. I’m with my boyfriend, our roommate and two dogs. The house is over a couple of levels so we can all spread out and get some space. We go out to walk the dog and buy groceries, but all the parks are closed and people are wary of each other. It’s a weird feeling.

How has this affected your daily routine?

I work with HRX – a racing equipment manufacturer based in Italy – providing gear to teams and drivers in different series in the US. I usually travel to different race meetings, especially IndyCar where I also do event car rides. That’s been a great way to stay involved and put a smile on people’s faces, so I’m missing it. I was working at the Indy race in St Petersburg, Florida, on March 13 when the organiser cancelled the event because of coronavirus and we all had to fly home that night. It was sad – everyone was ready to go, you could hear the cars running and then the plug was pulled.

Are you able to keep training?

I’m still getting up early for a morning workout and do another one in the evening so that’s the same, but the training itself is different as I normally go to the gym. I have a spin bike and resistance bands at home, go out running and I’m using YouTube and Instagram for inspiration – it’s good to see what other athletes are doing and try new things. You must mix it up and stay motivated because doing the same thing over and over gets less fun.

How else are you keeping busy?

I’m doing things that I’ve been putting off! Lots of home renovation projects like building closets and painting rooms. I’ve also finally finished a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle that I got in 2017! I’ve moved around with it in the US so I thought now’s the time. I was missing three pieces at the end but got it done. It was tough – an abstract picture of Audrey Hepburn with a big white background so lots of pieces were very similar!

Having missed out on W Series selection in 2019, you must be particularly keen to go racing again?

Of course, you want to get going because it’s been such a long time away – the last time I was in the car was at the driver selection event in Almeria last September – but it’s the same for everyone. I’m just trying to stay on top of things and, when we finally get the green flag, I’ll be ready. In the meantime, I’m hugely excited by the new W Series Esports League and practising hard.

Find out more from another W Series driver on life in lockdown, via the Beitske Visser on life on lockdown page.