World Rally legend Bjorn Waldegard – the man who won the inaugural World Championship for drivers in 1979 – spared a few minutes of his time at this year’s Race Retro to talk about life after rallying, his reunion with the Porsche 914-6, and the current state of the WRC.
You’ve got an interesting car to drive today. Are you excited about that, do you get nervous about driving cars at a serious pace?
No, I do not get nervous at all. I’m such a privileged person to get this opportunity, this kind of invitation, to drive the original Porshe 914-6 from Monte Carlo 1971. It should be lovely.
Like meeting an old friend again?
Yes exactly. But I will also meet another very good friend again and that’s the 911. I drove that in the East African Safari Classic last November. That was a brilliant car.
How many horsepower do these sort of cars have?
The 911 has around 300, the 914… I honestly don’t know. Maybe 200?
Enough to put on a good display?
It’s enough for an old man like me!
Back in your heyday I guess you were always looking for a bit more horsepower, there was never really enough was there?
Of course. When I started as a privateer in 1962 in a Volkswagen Beetle that had about 55bhp and you thought it was fast as hell. The four-wheel drive Toyota (Celica) had about 350bhp, but still you want more. You always want more.
You’re busy travelling around at the moment, being invited to some great events. It’s obviously something you look forward to and like to continue doing?
It is fantastic. I retired from the professional side of the sport in 1992 and ever since I have been receiving invitations to some great events like this (Race Retro), Goodwood, rallies around Europe – all over the world.
I love it. There are so many people asking me ‘why are you doing this? You’re old and you should stay home to look after pigeons!’ I tell them it’s very simple. If I didn’t like to do it then I would stay at home. I love to drive.
It’s probably safer for the pigeons because you would be trying to make them go faster?
There seems to be great deal of camaraderie here at Race Retro this weekend. Lots of famous names and faces turning up to meet people like you. I guess that’s one of the fun things as a lot of your friends are all over the world?
It’s great to meet old friends. I’m not the sort of person who will phone Hannu Mikkola every day, but when I do run into him, and other friends, it is a great pleasure. Meeting at this sort event is fantastic.
Did you find that when you were competing professionally that you didn’t get on with some of the drivers because you were so competitive? Or was it always friendly?
We were always friends. It was a little bit different in those days to the WRC today. Now the teams are very compact, they stay together, they can hardly go to the toilet without consulting a doctor.
In the old days we spend a lot of time practising and we had opportunities to eat together, even if we weren’t driving for the same team – we were so friendly. But at the end of the day, we were competitors and we tried to beat each other.
The WRC is in a bit of turmoil at the moment, having lost its promoter. Have managed to stay abreast with what is going on?
It’s a terrible situation for the WRC, and I don’t know who is to blame. But someone has done something very wrong somewhere.
All the drivers and teams will have signed up sponsors and of course the contracts will have promised television coverage every day during the rallies.
This all happened before the Monte Carlo Rally and Eurosport had to cover it and they were all told that things would be okay for Sweden. But there weren’t. Five days before the rally the rights to the WRC were up in the air and it was left to the organisers to cover their own rally.
They sorted that in five bloody days, the production, everything. It was an enormous expense but they managed because they felt that they had to do it for the sponsors. We will see what happens in the future.
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