Bjorn Waldegard (b. 1943)
Send This Page To A Friend
Bjorn Waldegard

Bjorn Waldegard
Bjorn Waldegard was born in Ro, Sweden, on 12 November 1943, the son of a farmer. In 1962 he began his motor sporting career, shooting to fame in T -races, miniature rallies with short but difficult special stages. At first he used his own car, a Volkswagen 1200, but such was his prowess Scania-Vabis, the Swedish Volkswagen importers, supplied the machinery.

In 1965, co-driven by Lars Nystrom, he was third in the Swedish Rally and twelfth in the Rally of the 1000 Lakes in Finland. In 1966, very much a newcomer to internationals, he was third in Britain's Gulf London Rally with Bertil Ericsson in a Volkswagen 1600 TL, sixteenth in the Rally of the 1000 Lakes with Lars Helmer and twelfth in the RAC Rally of Great Britain with Lars Nystrom.

The following year, now in a Scania-Vabis supplied Porsche 911, he was second in the Gulf London Rally, fourth in the Tulip Rally and twelfth in the Rally of the 1000 Lakes. By 1968 Waldegiird was considered among the best rally drivers in the world. He began the year with a convincing win in the Swedish Rally in the Gulf-sponsored, Scania-Vabis-entered Porsche 911T navigated by Lars Helmer. It seemed so easy. By halfway his lead amounted to 24 minutes and he later stretched this to 35 minutes before easing off to make the final advantage 27 minutes from Tom Trana's Saab.

This was followed up with tenth place in the Monte Carlo Rally. A promising run in the Gulf London Rally ended with collapsed suspension, while in the RAC Rally of Great Britain an early lead evaporated into retirement with gearbox trouble for the Waldegard/Helrner Porsche 911T. Encouraged by Bjorn's performances, Porsche entered a works 911S for Waldegard/Helmer in the 1969 Monte Carlo Rally. They took an early lead and held it to the end, rallying over a mixture of dry and snowy roads to conquer the established names.

A month later, at the wheel of a less-sophisticated, Scania-Vabis-prepared 911L, they won the Swedish Rally for the second. successive year. Outside Sweden (where he campaigned the Scania-Vabis machine to win the Swedish Championship for the second successive year), Waldegard was only seen once more in a works car. This was in the Acropolis Rally where he retired with engine problems.

Porsche were back with the more powerful, 2.3-liter Porsche 911S in 1970 and Waldegard repeated his Monte Carlo and Swedish Rally wins. He took a gamble which paid off in the final, crucial Monte Carlo test, running on racing tyres instead of the spikes used by his rivals. It worked. With Lars Nystrom replacing the ill Helmer, Waldegard won the Austrian Alpine Rally, but retired with engine problems in the Acropolis Rally and with transmission failure in the RAC Rally of Great Britain.

The Targa Florio

Racing a works Porsche 908/03 Spyder in the Targa Florio, Waldegard was fifth with Britain's Dickie Attwood. The 1971 season was not so successful, although Waldegard almost became the first non-local to win the East African Safari Rally. His Porsche 911S led until three-quarters distance when it was involved in an accident with team-mate Sobieslaw Zasada's car and was forced to retire. With Hans Thorzselius he was equal third in the Monte Carlo Rally driving a works-entered VW-Porsche 914/6; he was fourth in the Swedish Rally in a Porsche 911S co-driven by Lars Helmer, hampered by the deep snow which affected the early runners; but an amazing second was achieved in the RAC Rally of Great Britain, when Lars Nystrorn was riding in the passenger's seat.

A more powerful, 2.4-liter Porsche 911S brought Waldegard no success in the 1972 Monte - he crashed! And even with the extra power he was beaten into second place in the Swedish Rally. He also ran in selected events for Citroen. Driving a Maserati-powered SM, he retired in the Moroccan Rally but was third in the TAP despite early hydraulic problems. In 1973 Waldegard joined the works BMW team. Best results were third in the Austrian Alpine and seventh in the RAC Rally of Great Britain, the latter after brake problems when in contention for victory.

Alitalia-Sponsored Lancia Stratos

Waldegard was a freelance in 1974, driving for Porsche, Opel and Toyota. In a 3-liter Porsche 911 Carrera his long-awaited victory in the East African Safari Rally seemed at hand, but late suspension problems dropped him to second. Driving a Toyota Corolla Levin, he was an excellent fourth in the RAC Rally of Great Britain, while an Opel Ascona brought him tenth place in the Rally of the 1000 Lakes. In 1975, however, Waldegard had his first major win since 1970. Driving a works Alitalia-sponsored Lancia Stratos, co-driven by Hans Thorzselius, he won the Swedish Rally. A ride for Fiat ended with transmission failure in the Moroccan Rally and then, with a 2.1-liter Toyota Corolla, Waldegard/Thorzselius were second in the South African Total Rally.

A 1975 win in the San Remo Rally was repeated in 1976 in the works Lancia Stratos with Hans Thorszelius as co-driver, but this marked the end of Waldegard's association with the Italian team. His instructions to finish behind Italian team leader Sandro Munari had 'misfired', but Bjorn had proved his point that he was faster than Munari, and that events like that year's Monte Carlo, where he finished second to Munari, were the result of sticking to team orders.

The Ford Works Team

A move to the Ford works team for 1977 saw Waldegard enjoy a particularly successful season with the RS 1800, with firsts in the Acropolis, RAC and Safari Rallies, a second place in Portugal behind Markku Alen's Fiat, and a third place in the Thousand Lakes Rally in Finland. These results would have made Waldegard the world champion rally driver, had there been such a classification. Even though Bjorn did not have the same outstanding success in 1978, there was no dou bt that the 35 year old Swede was still one of the world's top drivers.

He was later victor in the inaugural World Rally Championship series in 1979 for Ford and Mercedes-Benz, beating Hannu Mikkola in the final round at the Rallye Côte d'Ivoire in the Ivory Coast, by finishing second behind his rival. In September 2008, Waldegard took part in the Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally, a round of the Scottish Rally Championship centred in Perth in Scotland. He was one of a number of ex-world champions to take part in the event in memory of McRae, who died in 2007. On the event he drove a Porsche 911.

Bjorn Waldegard in action during the 1975 Swedish Rally driving the highly-competitive Lancia Stratos
Bjorn Waldegard in action during the 1975 Swedish Rally driving the highly-competitive Lancia Stratos.

Latest Classic Car Classifieds

Unique Cars and Parts USA - The Ultimate Classic Car Resource