Thursday | 28 May 2015

Erik Carlsson 1929-2015

Erik Carlsson, the man that singlehandedly put Saab on the world rallying map during the 1960s, has died. He was 86.

Carlsson was born and raised a stone’s throw away from Saab’s factory in Trollhättan in Sweden, so it was fitting that he didn’t drive any other manufacturer during his entire career. He was affectionately known as ‘Mr Saab’ and rightly so.

Having made his competitive debut in 1952, driving the Saab 92, it wasn’t long before Carlsson’s natural talent behind the wheel took him on to bigger and better things. He arrived at the top of the sport in 1960 and was a regular on the European Championship scene between 1960 and 1967.

The Swede had a fantastic ability to wring every bit of performance out of the underpowered Saabs that he piloted so enthusiastically during his career and the need to keep their two-stroke, three-cylinder engines buzzing in every corner meant Carlsson was one of the early pioneers of the – now commonplace – left foot braking technique.

Consequently, Carlsson’s driving style was very sideways and supremely spectacular – a sight that endeared him to rally fans well beyond the borders of his Swedish homeland.

With three victories at the Rally of Great Britain, a brace of wins at Rally Monte Carlo and success on Finland’s legendary 1,000 Lakes, Carlsson enjoyed great success during his career and always wore a smile.

The sport of rallying owes a debt of gratitude to Carlsson’s career as the successes of the likeable Swede opened the door for other Scandinavian driving talent to break on to the rallying scene at the highest level – something that is still happening today and will continue for years to come.

More News