Memories of Björn Waldegard
On Friday the 29th of August, the rally world became a lot poorer and lost one of its greatest when Björn Waldegard died from a short illness with cancer. As always, he had wanted to come to this year’s Eifel Rallye Festival but called the weekend before to excuse himself as he had serious pain in his back and needed medical treatment in hospital. He had never before experienced pain in his back, which he was happy about considering the decades of driving rally cars on bumpy roads, but now he definitely had to do something about it.
Since the second Hunsrück Rally in which Slowly Sideways cars took part, back in 1993, Björn was a regular visitor to our events. He loved the idea of showing the history of rallying and helping to preserve it for new generations of rally fans. He was happy to spend a nice weekend with friendly people and good cars, although I have to admit that some the cars he got to drive were not really in the best shape. But Björn never complained, he was always happy with whatever was possible and understood that it is not easy for owners to give their cars for other people to drive.
In 1993 I gave my Metro 6R4 to Björn to drive, actually a car he never enjoyed to drive but never said why, and sat besides him. Using left-foot braking the brakes got too hot in the stage and he simply said “We have no brakes any more, but that does not matter”. He kept pumping on the pedal to get some response but continued to drive fast and when we came sideways over a crest I was sure that I would die and that the 6R4 would be a wreck. When that didn’t happen, I knew that someone like this is from a different planet when it comes to driving cars.
Last winter Björn surprised me again. We were on our favourite event, the East African Safari where Björn crashed heavily on the third day and retired but then instead of driving home disappointed, he stayed with the team and followed the rally as a spectator. That was Björn, down to earth, no World Champion superstar, staying loyal to his team and friends, and enjoying the day. He was happy to be left in peace with a beer in his hand, chatting to friends and never once came an angry word from his lips.
Some thought he was the best of all, which is for sure down to your own definition of what is the best. He was not always the fastest but drove with his head. He won the RAC when it was a blind rally, he won on tarmac and gravel, in the summer as in the winter, on sprint events and was a class of his own on long distance events in Africa. Far into his 60s, he was smiling at the comments of the younger drivers on day 9 of the Safari about a 65km stage where he had beaten them yet again: “What’s 65km? A stage cannot be long enough, can it?
There was only one Björn in rallying, what a loss
Reinhard Klein - Eifel Rallye Festival