Racing Lives: The Blomqvists

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From rallying royalty to racing at one of the highest levels, the Blomqvists have conquered two of the major disciplines in motor sport. Stig  enjoyed a 33-year World Rally Championship career that culminated in him taking the 1984 WRC title, having driven for brands such as Saab, Subaru, Audi and Mitsubishi. Tom rose to prominence in junior single-seater racing, winning the Formula Renault UK title in 2010 before starring in F3 and landing a factory DTM deal with BMW. He’s currently racing GT machinery for the German brand. Interviews by James Mills.

Stig with a young Tom (front, left)

Stig: “I don’t know why my parents came up with the name Stig for me; they just wanted a name that was different to my father’s, as we’re both named Lennart.

My dad did some rallying, at a local level, and so did one of my uncles, and it was looking quite fun. My first play with a car came when I was about seven or eight. I’d drive around at the family’s summer house, outside Örebro, but I soon went further.

Saab started to notice how I was going in local rallies. It was going that well, so in 1965 it started to help me, saying I could borrow engines and gearboxes and bits for my car, and that continued the next year.

By 1969, at the RAC Rally, I got full support from Saab. I was entered in a 96 V4, and I remained with the brand until 1980 when it stopped rallying, because it said
it didn’t have a car that was suitable for rallying. It was sad.

The Saab 99 Turbo, in the beginning, was quite normal to drive. I didn’t have to do much to adapt my style. The turbo was quite small and the engine was not tuned that much, but the response was there. It was only later on, as we got a bit more power, that it become a bit more tricky to drive.

While Saab was waiting for the Turbo to be homologated, I got the chance to drive the Lancia Stratos. It must have been Sweden, 1978, and because Saab was the importer of the little Autobianchis it had a bit of connection with Lancia, so it made the arrangement for me to drive the Stratos on the Swedish Rally. The car was fantastic. It was such a nice car to drive; the balance and the response and whole set-up. I could have happily run off with the Lancia, but I was under contract with Saab!

At my first test drive with the Audi Quattro, in Ingolstadt, I couldn’t believe what a big difference there was. Four-wheel drive was incredible; the traction out of corners was really good. It was a big step.

Some drivers complained about the weight at the front and understeer, but for me, coming from front-wheel drive, it was quite easy to adapt – I already knew how to manage understeer and my technique worked well with the Audi. I don’t think there has been any rally car as influential; everyone had to think differently for it.

I don’t think the Group B cars got too powerful. We would have liked to have more power!

Hannu [Mikkola], Walter [Röhrl] and Michèle [Mouton] and I were all competitive. It was quite difficult for Audi to get the whole thing working smoothly but we got on well enough. Today’s drivers have it tough. The cars are so closely matched, because of the regulations, that the drivers cannot afford to make a single mistake or they’re 10 seconds off! In our time, the stages were so long and the cars so different that we could have a puncture and catch up again.

I don’t think the Group B cars got too powerful. We would have liked to have more power! The sport was really unlucky; a year later the Group A cars were beating all the stage records. Henri’s [Toivonen] accident was the bad one but the biggest issue was control of the crowds and positioning people safely, especially after Portugal [in 1986].

I met Kim, Tom’s mother, at Rally New Zealand in the early ’80s. When Tom was young we bought him a quad bike and you could see he had some talent, skidding around the place. It was only when I took him to a friend’s local kart track that he started to show an interest in racing.

When we separated, I was still travelling a lot, so we were concerned about the impact on the children. Tom looked after himself really, and did a good job for himself. For example, in 2009 he did the Swedish Formula Renault and he was sending emails to the sponsors, and they thought, ‘Bloody hell, he’s 15 yet he is writing and talking like he’s much older.’

Stig Blomqvist’s world title came in 1984, courtesy of five wins, including victory on Rally Sweden in the Quattro A2

I gave him some advice along the way, but to be honest he did a very good job himself.

I don’t own any of my old rally cars, and wouldn’t try to track one down now. The prices are crazy now for an original one! I’m lucky to have worked for so long and be paid until 2006. Since then, I’ve done testing and also been a brand ambassador for Audi, so I have been lucky, as we weren’t paid anything like today’s drivers. And this year I have started the Stig Blomqvist Academy [a winter performance driving school].


Tom: “I live in Monaco, where I’ll be out running and pass Lewis Hamilton walking his dog or Novak Djokovic jogging.

I do a lot of road cycling. There’s a great little community of us who do it; it’s heaven for riding here – the roads, the weather, the views. I’d go with Alexander Wurz, Stoffel Vandoorne, Brendon Hartley, Paul di Resta, and sometimes we’d end up riding with an ex-pro cyclist, so the stakes would be raised!

It’s strange; here you are completely surrounded by success in all walks of life. It puts life in perspective, you can keep wanting more, and I think that sometimes can be a bad thing. I moved to New Zealand when I was six. Mum wanted to move  because she’d grown up there, and she wanted to take my little brother and I there. It was a great place to grow up.

Tom Blomqvist spent three seasons in DTM with BMW, winning one race at Oschersleben

It wasn’t until 2009 that I was pushing my dad about starting to race cars. I left school at 15 and went to live with my father in Sweden and raced in Swedish Formula Renault. Living with Dad was a bit weird. We were close, even though we’d lived so far apart, but I was still young, didn’t speak Swedish or have any friends there. I don’t think he knew what to do with me.

Dad taught me to drive. He’s a perfectionist, into the detail and quite old school, like teaching me to be kind on the gearbox. He took me for a ride in the Quattro S1, once in the snow and once on Tarmac. That thing was awesome!

I moved to Britain in 2010. And even though Dad couldn’t fund my racing career, I managed to win British Formula Renault that year. I was still young and a bit naive and I thought ‘This is going to be easy’ but then for the next three years I didn’t make much progress, and didn’t have enough funds. A lot of people helped me along the way, and I have to thank them for that.

I sacrificed a lot. My mates were back home, and I was lonely, yet there was never a plan B. Mum was always saying, ‘You’ve gotta keep going’ but at the same time she’d add in that motherly way, ‘You can always come home’, but I wasn’t a quitter.

I didn’t speak openly with Dad about that. He probably never knew. I never discussed those feelings with him. A lot of the time, I was at race meetings on my own.

When he was there people would come and ask for a signature. As a kid, you’re like, ‘Wow! Dad’s famous’. Yet as a race driver, you spend a lot of time on your own, a lot of time having dinner by yourself. But you just have to deal with it, just as you have to deal with all the bad luck and mini-setbacks that seem to be outside of your control.

In 2014 I got a big break. My 2013 F3 season as a Red Bull Junior hadn’t gone well. The car wasn’t great. Then Sean Gelael’s father, Ricardo, sponsored me, taking me, Sean and Antonio Giovinazzi to Carlin.

Formula E ultimately didn’t work out. It’s harder to jump into those cars and be quick than any other race car

I finished second in the championship, and earned a shootout with BMW, and that’s what led to my DTM drive. It’s a tough environment, because you’ve got to perform and you’ve always got someone who wants your seat, young guys coming up. But BMW is loyal and it gets the best out of its drivers.

Formula E ultimately didn’t work out. It’s harder to jump into those cars and be quick than any other race car; it requires such a different skill set but amongst such top-level drivers there’s no time for you to get used to things and bed in.

Now I’m in the BMW M8 GTE. It’s well suited to fast, flowing circuits and I enjoy driving it in the US, where the racing is more straightforward.”

Follow James on Twitter @squarejames


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