Thursday, February 16, 2012

Swedish Speed Merchants (Con’t)

“Stevie Johnson,” aka Stefan Johansson
Continuing on with my past hunt for Swedish Open Wheel Racing standouts, I came up with a total of nine characters fitting this description, as we definitely “Brack” into the characters in this final portion of Icelandic ‘lore...

(5) Tommy “Slim” Borgudd
Series: F1
Teams: ATS; Tyrrell
Years: 1981-82
Wins: 0

Karl Edward Tommy Borgudd, better known as “Slim,” made his name originally as a Jazz/Rock Drummer - reputedly playing for the Bands Made in Sweden & Solar Plexus before garnering Fortune ‘N Fame as a Session Drummer for the ‘Mega Pop rock group ABBA...

Yet Borgudd also began dabbling in motor racing in the early 1960’s behind the wheel of a Lotus Formula ford before moving onto Swedish Touring Cars between 1972-75 - whilst claiming the Scandinavian Formula Ford series title in 1973. Slim than set about moving up the ladder and ultimately won the 1979 Swedish F3 Championship for his own concern behind the wheel of a Ralt-Toyota.

Unable to land a ride in F2 the following season, Borgudd made his Formula 1 debut for the Minnowesqe ATS F1 Team at the 1981 San Marino Grand Prix - having affixed ABBA logos to his chassis flanks in hopes of luring other sponsorships, albeit ABBA didn’t contribute any financial backing to the Percussionist turned Grand Prix racer...

Slim ultimately made ten Formula one race starts with his high point coming with a sixth-place finish at the 1981 British Grand Prix for ATS, where multiple drivers dropped out due to a plethora of mechanical maladies.

For the 1982 season “Uncle Chopper” (Ken Tyrrell) hired the ‘Swede as Eddie “The Great” Cheever’s replacement; upon Slim reputedly having “shined On;” Err shone up an Italian driver by the name of Michele Alboreto the year prior during qualifying, now his teammate at Tyrrell. Yet Borgudd didn’t exactly set the F1 world alight and was impolitely jettisoned from Ken’s team after that year’s USGP WEST race at Long Beach, the third of the season, as Slim’s money had run out! Subsequently being replaced by a British ‘Chap named Brian Henton...

Afterwards, Borgudd made a career out of Tin tops, most notably in Trucks, where he won three Championships, along with Saloon racing in the British and Swedish Touring Car Championships,  also participating in a “one-off” at the ’87 24 Heurs du Mans before ultimately retiring from Professional Motorsports in the mid-1990’s.

Having settled down in Coventry, ironically Messer Borgudd just celebrated his 65th birthday this past November 25th - now joining full Senior Citizenry status - while there’s NO word on whether or not he broke out the Drum kit and played “Will you still Need Me; Will you still Feed Me, when I’m 64?” Hoohah!

(6) Kenny Brack
Series: Indy Racing League; CART; IndyCar.
Teams: Galles Racing; A.J. Foyt Enterprises; Team Rahal; Target Chip Ganassi Racing; Rahal Letterman Racing.
Years: 1997-2003, 2005
Wins: 10

The ‘Brackster will always hold a special place in my memory banks – for two main reasons; as first he’s the only Big Name Indy Racing League driver I can think of who made the reverse switch, from the IRL to CART, when everyone else was going the opposite direction, albeit it may have not been his wisest career move?

Secondly, with my lucky choice of Kenny to my Chump Carz Fantasy Racing league, I ended up losing the title by a very scant 4-points in the final race at Fontana, as my success as runner-up was based largely upon Brack’s fantastic sophomore season (2001) for Team Owner   Bobby Rahal in that sharp lookin’ yellow & white Shell IndyCar...

But don’t forget that Kenny actually began his ‘Big Carz baptism under fire as a rookie for the faltering Galles Racing team in 1997 before moving onwards & upwards to A.J. Foyt’s team the following season - where he promptly won the Indy Racing League title.

Brack followed this up the next year by winning the B-I-G show, a.k.a. the Indy 500 - ‘Ol SuperTex’s (AJ Foyt) last time in Victory lane at the Speedway, albeit as a Team Owner in ’99. (As I seriously doubt that Foyt will ever win again at Indianapolis...)

And then Kenny made the most unusual move to CART the following season; Hmm? Perhaps he was getting’ fed-up with having to eat Chicken Fried steak, which is some of AJ’s favourite grub - Yuhs Hear? Hya!

Brack’s debut Championship Auto Racing Teams season driving for Meesh’s favourite Booby Ray-X; Err Bobby Rahal, saw the likeable ‘Swede paired with “MAD MAX” Papis.

In his sophomore season with Team Rahal, Brack had a breakout season by winning four races and finishing runner-up to eventual Champion Gil De Feran; taking his second consecutive Drivers crown for The Captain, nee Roger Penske. Kenny then moved onto TCGR and thee ‘Cheepster, a.k.a. Chip Ganassi; who’s got a very high level of expectation regarding his racing drivers... And hence, as apparently ‘Cheep didn’t think Brack was cutting the mustard, the ‘Swede’s CART career ultimately floundered, albeit winning the season finale for Ganassi in Mexico City before parting ways...

For ’03, Kenny returned to his old haunt, although now being known as Rahal Letterman Racing and residing in the rival IRL, where Bobby amongst other CART owners had defected too - where things didn’t go exactly Swimmingly... As Kenny was injured in a ‘Mega fence climbing accident at Texas World Speedway which recorded the highest ever G-Forces since the IRL began recording these. Spiking at a MASSIVE 214 G’s!!! As it would take Kenny 18-months to recover from his multiple injuries, with Brack’s RLR-seat being taken over by Buddy “HotRod” Rice, who’d go onto win the 2004 Indy 500.

Yet in another twist ‘O fate, or synchronicity; it would be none other then Brack who’d substitute for the defending Indy 500 winner the following May, as ironically Rice suffered major back injuries at you guessed IT! Texas World Speedway... Therefore it was a Cinderella story in the making when Kenny claimed that year’s fastest qualifying speed with a 4-lap average of 227.598mph. With Kenny’s run beating the Pole position speed set by TK “Follow-your-Schnoz” Kanaan’s 4-lap average of 227.566mph for the ’05 Indy 500, having qualified after Pole Day.

Yet it wasn’t to be thee ‘Brackster’s year - as the affable ‘Swede would retire from mechanical woes on Lap-92; and then retire from Open Wheel Racing. As his rookie female teammate named Danica Patrick stole ALL of that year’s Headlines, while Oh Yeah; somebody named Dan Wheldon actually WON the race!

Yet Kenny was lured out of retirement four year’s later to compete in Rally-X Games where he’d win a Gold medal and subsequently has dabbled in other Rally’s and Vintage Racing, including having co-driven a narly 427 Cobra recently at Goodwood with “Mr. LeMans,” aka Tom Kristensen...  

(7) Stefan Johansson
Series: F1 (CART & Sports Cars)
Teams: Shadow; Spirit; Toleman; Tyrrell; Ferrari; McLaren; Ligier; Onyx; AGS; Footwork.
Years: 1980, 1983-91
Wins: 0

Poor Stefan will forever be known to me as “Stevie Johnson,” courtesy of Randall – The Moniker King, who came up with this clever adaptation of the ‘Swede’s name during ‘Juan of  our yearly treks to Portland International Raceway.

Yet it’s kinda funny how I seemed to know just ‘Kibbles ‘N Bitz; Err bits & pieces of ‘SJ’s career, albeit having learned he’d filled in for some Hot-schue named Ayrton at Toleman, when the Brazilian was “Sat-down” for one race for breaking his contract to jump to Team Lotus - before Toleman ran into contractual dispute over its tyre supply in ‘85, leaving the Swede High ‘N Dry.

Stefan then substituted at Tyrrell for Stefan Bellof who’d fallen out of favour with “Uncle Chopper” (Ken Tyrrell) for the season opener at Brazil - before replacing Rene Arnoux at la Scuderia when the Frenchman was sacked by Scuderia Ferrari prior to the Portugal Grand Prix.

After two frustrating seasons of driving for il Commendatore, nee Enzo Ferrari - Johansson moved onto McLaren to partner “The Professor,” aka Alain Prost for 1987 where I first noticed Stefan’s name, although Stefan simply was Prost’s ‘Wingman keeping the seat warm for Senna...

And as I’ve previously mentioned, I first really took notice of Stevie-J’ aboard one of my favourites from the 1989 Iceberg GP at Phoenix, a very neatly penned Alan Jenkins chassis, the Onyx ORE 1-Ford/Cosworth DFR V-8... Yet I must admit I lost track of Stevie when he departed Onyx and didn’t take notice again ‘til his resurgence Across-thee-Pond in CART driving for Tony Bettenhausen’s Penske “B-Team” squad, i.e.; AMAX sponsored Penske/Chevrolet  racecars, in which Johansson won Rookie Of the Year (R.O.Y.) honours in ’92. As the Swede won his first CART Pole-position appropriately at Portland the following year, before eventually leaving CART after the 1996 season...

Yet Stevie-J’ did go onto a successful Sports Car career, winning le 24 Heurs du Mans in ’97 with ex-Ferrari teammate Michele Alboreto and “Mr. LeMans,” aka Tom Kristensen aboard the TWR “Open-top” Joest-Porsche, along with having won the 12-hours of Sebring earlier that year aboard a Ferrari 333SP.

Stefan has also previously ventured into Open Wheel Team Ownership roles twice, with a successful Indy Lights team, with somebody named Scott Dixon driving for him. Plus a one year Champ Car squad with Jimmy Vasser and rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay who took an opportunistic win for Stevie’s American Spirit Team Johansson at Surfers Paradise in the wet.

And I had the pleasure of briefly meeting Johansson at the 2011 Indy 500 World’s largest autograph session, whilst when not busy signing his John Hancock for admirers, manages IndyCar driver Scott Dixon along with designing his boutique watches.

As I’m certain he’s not too bummed over ‘Quick Nick (Heidfeld) breaking his record for F1 podiums without a victory, which was previously eleven before the German recorded his twelfth last year before being dumped by Lotus-Renault XP ‘Calladrocious...

(8) Bjorn Wirdheim
Series: F1, (Friday/Third Driver) Champ Car & Japanese Super GT
Teams: Jaguar & HVM Racing
Years: 2004-2005
Wins: 0

Bjorn began by racing Go-karts for five years, culminating with his winning of the Southern Sweden Championship at the age of 15. He then transitioned to single seaters, moving into the Formula Ford 1600 Junior series in ’96 – before winning the Championship in ’97 with a ‘Mega 17-victories...

For the 1998-99 seasons, Bjorn contested the Formula Palmer/Audi series before moving onto German Formula 3. Then in 2002 he switched once again, this time into International Formula 3000, the predecessor to today’s GP2 series. In his rookie campaign, he finished fourth overall + Rookie of the year with Arden International. The following year he was so dominating enroute to the Championship – that he broke Justin Wilson’s record points tally while becoming the series only ‘Swede to win the title, before signing as Jaguar Racing  F1’s third (Friday) driver, when the team was still owned by Ford.

For 2005 Wirdheim joined Keith Wiggin’s struggling HVM Racing Minnowesqe Champ Car Team and slogged his way thru 11-races before deciding to part company. Next he switched to Japan’s formula Nippon for 2-years and has most recently been competing in the Super GT series for Toyota...

And before Y’all say where’s No. 9, Number Nine, Number Nein? As in MEx who I first became aware of in 2009; I’ve left the promising ‘Swede out as I’ve chronicled his pursuits in another riveting tale depicting my Young Guns of 2009 selections; YIKES! Which I’ll spin off into another riveting story on a further day...

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