In fact, Waldegard is quick to play down his title triumph of 1979, conceding that there wasn’t the same kudos attached to landing the WRC’s biggest prize back then as there is now. “I was sent a small gift in the post but I don’t remember what it was, it was obviously not special,” he recalls.
Waldegard lives in Rimbo north of Stockholm where he owns a farm. “My parents were farmers,” he explains. “But I have never been farming. I look after all the houses on the farm and keep the people living there happy.”
Despite admitting to a dislike of the endless travelling during the height of his powers, Waldegard says it’s something that “will never leave your blood” so is happy to accept a handful of invitations each year to take part in demonstration events and historic rallies.
“I enjoy it in a different way now,” he says. “In those days you were paid to win and the team manager forgot you if you finished second. Today when I compete it’s without any money, you meet nice people and drive nice cars and if you don’t win it’s another day tomorrow.”
Waldegard had stints with BMW, Ford, Lancia and Toyota during his WRC career, which ended in 1992. He also drove Porsches, Mercedes and Fiats at world level. Of his 16 wins in the world championship, four were on the Safari and three in the Ivory Coast, underlying the affinity he developed with Africa.
But he also excelled on high-speed events and won in Canada and New Zealand during his title year. A winner in Sweden and Great Britain before the advent of the drivers’ title, he should have won Rallye Monte-Carlo in 1979 but lost out to Bernard Darniche by four seconds: “Somebody put a stone on a bridge and we had to stop to move it,” he remembers, vividly.