Waldegard, determined to become a rally driver at the age of 7

Bjorn Waldegard

Born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1943. His WRC debut was at the 1973 Rally Monte Carlo, which was the first ever WRC round in history. He drove a Fiat Abarth 124 Rally. From there he went on to join Porsche, Toyota, Lancia, Ford, Opel, Citroen and Mercedes teams. Waldegard is the winner of the inaugural World Rally Championship for drivers in 1979. He passed away in 2014.

Waldegard entered the 1977 RAC in a Ford Escort.

Waldegard dreamed of becoming a rally driver since he was 7 years old. His father loved motorsport and took part in many events. His father shared the same passion for driving as well; he drove 50 kilometers from his home to Stockholm when he was only 12. In 1962, Waldegard had the opportunity to race in a regional Swedish rally with a Volkswagen Beetle, only a week after he got his driver’s license. His first co-driver was his father, but as Waldegard’s pace was too fast, his father requested someone else to take his seat from the next race. Waldegard raced in the regional championship in a Volkswagen Beetle up until 1966.

From 1967, he changed his machine to a Porsche 911 as a Swedish Porsche dealer was part of the same company that supported Waldegard. Winning the Swedish and European Rally Championships (ERC), he placed tenth in the 1968 Rally Monte Carlo with a dealer machine, which led him to gain a seat with Porsche in the 1969 Rally Monte Carlo. He won this rally, as well as the following year. Back then, the ERC was a big promotion event for car manufacturers.

The Porsche 911 that won the 1970 Rally Monte Carlo. The same car also won the previous year.

1973 was the year WRC started. Waldegard drove for Fiat, Volkswagen, and Porsche switching from one to another per event. This was because contracts with manufacturers and drivers back then were based on events instead of the whole series.

From 1975 to 1976, Waldegard raced for Lancia with a Stratos in the WRC. He won 3 rounds. He commented saying that Lancia taught him how to develop and test rally cars. From 1977 to 1979, he drove for Ford. In 1980, he joined Mercedes Benz team to drive a 500SLC Rally Car in a few WRC rounds. Waldegard won the 1980 Rally Côte d’Ivoire. This car mounted an automatic transmission.

Waldegard entered the 1977 RAC in a Ford Escort. After finishing, he was awarded on the rally car. On the left is Hans Thorszelius.

Waldegard won the Rally Côte d’Ivoire in a Mercedes Benz 500SLC. The car was an automatic with air conditioning.

From 1974, Waldegard drove for the Toyota Team Europe (TTE), which was established by Ove Andersson. From 1981, he joined the team to compete in the WRC and ERC. In the 1982 Rally New Zealand, Waldegard won with a Group 4 Toyota Celica 2000GT. He also won the Safari Rally and Rally Côte d’Ivoire in a Group B Celica Twin Cam Turbo.

He won in a Toyota Celica Twin Cam Turbo. Ove Andersson, President of TTE awarded the winners.

Group B ended in 1986 in the WRC. Group A was introduced the following year. Lancia was able to race with its Turbo 4WD Lancia Delta, but Toyota only had the Supra. Waldegard raced in a Supra in some of the races of the season, but both the team and Waldegard long waited for the Turbo 4WD Celica GT-FOUR ST165.

In 1988, he raced in the WRC, ERC and Middle East Rally Championships in a Celica GT-FOUR ST165 and won many rounds. Waldegard finished first in the 1990 Safari Rally. He became the oldest driver to win a World Rally Championship event at the age of 46, a record he still retains.

Waldegard described his challenges in rallies saying, “Rally is all about challenging and knowing your limits. Scandinavian drivers tend to have the ability to be flexible and adjust to the worst conditions. This must be one of the reasons why Scandinavian drivers have succeeded in rally events.”

Waldegard entered in the 1987 Hong Kong Beijing Rally in a Toyota Supra and won. His co-driver was Fred Gallagher.

Bjorn Waldegard WRC Record of victory

Times Year Event Co-driver Car
1 1975 Swedish Rally Hans Thorszelius Lancia Stratos HF
2 1975 Rallye Sanremo Hans Thorszelius Lancia Stratos HF
3 1976 Rallye Sanremo Hans Thorszelius Lancia Stratos HF
4 1977 Safari Rally Hans Thorszelius Ford Escort RS 1800 Mk.2
5 1977 Acropolis Rally Hans Thorszelius Ford Escort RS 1800 Mk.2
6 1977 RAC Rally Hans Thorszelius Ford Escort RS 1800 Mk.2
7 1978 Swedish Rally Hans Thorszelius Ford Escort RS 1800 Mk.2
8 1979 Acropolis Rally Hans Thorszelius Ford Escort RS 1800 Mk.2
9 1979 Québec Rally Hans Thorszelius Ford Escort RS 1800 Mk.2
10 1980 Rallye Côte d’Ivoire Hans Thorszelius Mercedes-Benz 500 SLC
11 1982 Rally of New Zealand Hans Thorszelius Toyota Celica 2000 GT
12 1983 Rallye Côte d’Ivoire Hans Thorszelius Toyota Celica Twincam Turbo
13 1984 Safari Rally Hans Thorszelius Toyota Celica Twincam Turbo
14 1986 Safari Rally Hans Thorszelius Toyota Celica Twincam Turbo
15 1986 Rallye Côte d’Ivoire Hans Thorszelius Toyota Celica Twincam Turbo
16 1990 Safari Rally Fred Gallagher Toyota Celica GT-FOUR ST165

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