The Beginning of Motorsport
At the age of 13 Slim Borgudds first motorsport experience came in 1959 at the Karlskoga circuit in Sweden which featured Sterling Moss in an F2 race. Watching from the infield after the hairpin he was fascinated by the speed and the inch precision driving skills repeated lap after lap, and it made a long lasting impression.
In 1968 when on tour in England with his second band ‘Made in Sweden’ he met jazz musician Chris Barber during a ‘gig’ on Warder Street in London. Chris was well into motorsport and invited Slim to his workshop in Sussex Gardens resulting in the purchase of his first racing car. Slim secured the ownership of an old Lotus 22 for a mere £900. After the music tour Slim stayed on in the UK and enrolled for Jim Russell Racing School at Snetterton to learn the precision of driving and came out with top marks. The Lotus car was shipped back to Sweden and converted to a Formula Ford 1600 and Slim raced it at club-sport level resulting in 16 wins.
While in recent times several racing drivers as the likes of Damon Hill, Eddie Jordan and Kenny Bräck have been the more notable examples of racing types who have dabbled in music but perhaps the best-known successfully combined driver-musician in the last few decades has been drummer Slim Borgudd from Sweden. Or under his real name Tommy Karl-Edvard Borgudd from Borgholm on the small south east island of Öland, Sweden.
In the 60’s during Slim’s music career he crossed paths with ‘The Hepstars’ and ‘The Hootenanny Singers’ on various tours around Sweden, where he met Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. In later years when the Swedish pop group ABBA was born Slim worked with them as session drummer. In Slim’s career of motorsport his Formula One car would be seen sporting the livery of ABBA’s logo at various circuits around the world.
But there was much more to the Borgudd music career!
How Music and Motorsport met
Slim joined the merchant navy at 14. The journey begins…
Throughout his travels in 1964 Tommy got his nickname "Slim" after visiting a club in New Orleans featuring ‘Memphis Slim’ piano, ‘Willie Dixon’, bass and a local drummer. After the intermission the trio returned on stage as a duo without the drummer who damaged his wrist. Some friends from the ship that Borgudd worked with called out “we have a drummer sitting right here”. So, Tommy played a session and was soon after nicknamed "Little Slim". As time passed by the “Little” disappeared and Tommy became known as Slim.
Much later in 1980 he coincidentally met with ‘Memphis Slim’ again during a TV appearance with ‘Solarplexus’ in Helsinki, Finland, which resulted in jam session with the old legend.
Upon the return to his native island 2 years later Slim was asked by his old friend Hawkey Franzén to join Lea Riders Group and in 1964 he became the drummer of the band. It was, for all intents and purposes, a school-based group that featured a number of different musicians, but alongside Hawkey the mainstays were Borgudd, drums, Bo Häggström, electric bass and Sigge Ehlin on guitars, harmonica and vocals playing a brand of blues rock inspired by the likes of Willie Dixon and John Lee Hooker with growing success the group left its island home base Oland and in the late 1966 began playing in Stockholm’s top venues and appearing on live TV. The group also played the film score for “Dom Kallar Oss Mods” with the theme performed and recorded ‘live’ in front of the screen. The film was a big hit in 1968.
In 1968 Slim went on to form a new progressive rock jazz fusion group called "Made In Sweden" together with old friend and bass player Bosse Häggstrom and guitarist Jojje Wadenius. Although relatively unknown, music aficionados are beginning to recognise the band's role in pioneering the Swedish pop rock sound.
Their first album Made in Sweden (With Love) in 1968, which comprised nine songs was finished in six hours, including the mixing of the album. It quickly sold more than 10,000 copies and won a Grammy Award. The group was later prised with a 2nd Grammy Award for a children album called Regnbågslandet which Jojje Wadenius wrote the music for.
Potentially their best album ‘Made in Sweden’ / ‘Made in England’ was regarded by some as one of the best progressive records of its time. Reviewer Axel Bruns discusses the album in glowing terms: "Georg Wadenius's melodic guitar, Bo Häggström's bubbling bass, and Tommy Borgudd's almost continuously busy drums are signs of a band in fine form - this feels like classic hippie stuff straight from the summer of love."
Slim continued in "Solar Plexus" with Jojje Wadenius, bass and guitar joining Monica & Karl Axel Dominiqe, piano/Hammond organ and Tommy Körberg vocals. The group made 4 albums. The last three with reinstated Bosse Häggström , who replaced Jojje Wadenius when he was offered to join the ‘Blood Sweat & Tears’ in USA.
Slim also played session music and on stage with a number of different groups and artists like, Alexis Corner, Teddy Wilson, Cornelius Wreswiijk, Monica Zetterlund, Thad Jones & Mel Lewis, Christer Boustedt, Lars Fernlöf, Sara Leander, the Danish Philharmonic Orchestra, Gals and Pals, Merit Hemmingson and others.
It was during Made in Sweden´s career Slim started driving racing cars.
There was nothing better than early success to get Slim started on the motor racing trail at the age of 22. After his successful start in club racing with his Formula Ford 1600 he continued with other cars.
1970-71 Slim raced a Focus sportscar previously campaigned by Ronnie Peterson, Picko Troberg and Jonas Qvarnstrom. He won four races in which he entered, before moving to Swedish saloon car racing.
Borgudd competed in saloon cars for four years from 1972 to 1975.
He hired Rolf Skoghag’s Hillman Imp against preparing and setting up the car and finished 2nd in the Swedish Salooncar Championship, Class2. He then drove a Comfort Racing Volvo Amazon 122 which he prepared together with his friend Bruno Martensson. He signed off from the category with a 2nd place in the 1975 series.
From 1970 to 1975 he also competed in single-seaters, particularly in Formula Ford 1600 using his Lotus 22 and later bought a Royale from Bob King finishing 9th overall in the European Formula Ford Championship. He won the Scandinavian Cup at Mantorp Park in 1973 and was beginning to be considered a genuine contender.
At a round of Swedish F3 Championship in Aug 1975 at Kinnekulle, Slim hired a Rotel/March from Tore Helle who was running European Champion Conny Anderson and Swedish Champion Conny Ljungfelt in respective Rotel March cars. The hire deal was not completed until after the first practice was completed but despite the lack of time in the car Slim qualified 6th on the grid.
He surprised everyone by racing the car into the lead where he stayed until the last lap when a lapped car took him out. Slim scrambled back to the pits finishing last in the race but had surly shown his natural talents in a good car against experienced campaigners.
It start to get serious
1976 Borgudd brought sponsorship from Four Leaf Records (He made and composed his own LP album ‘Funky Formula’ together with bass player Bosse Häggström which was a promotion with every Rotel Stereo Equipment sold) to join Tore Helle’s Viking Rotel F3 Team and drive in the Swedish F3 Championship. Helle was going to campaign three Viking TH1 Formula 3 cars the following season but didn’t believe Slim was good enough for the job.
Borgudd drove the Viking car in testing at the Mugello circuit in Italy together with Eje Elgh and Conny Ljungfelt where he unexpected ended up fastest of the three. Slim was promised a VikingTH1 F3 car for the European F3 Championship round at Nurburgring only a week later but upon arrival at the track there was no car to drive.
Despite this minor setback Borgudd managed to talk the Dane ‘Jac Nelleman’ into hiring out his Van Diemen 376 Toyota. Slim again missed the first practice while doing the deal but qualified 21st and finished 9th in his first visit to the ‘Ring’. In the same race his friend Eje Elgh survived a massive accident in the Viking TH1.
For the first round of the Swedish F3 Championship in 1976 there was no Viking car at hand for Slim to race in. On the day before qualifying he called F3 Champion Conny Anderson and relayed his problem.
Conny replied by offering his old March713 for free to Slim, but there was just a small problem. The car was in bits with no engine in Conny’s garage!! But nothing was going to stop Borgudd from competing, so he drove to the Tore Helle workshop (some 500km) and took back his own engine which should have been in the Viking car, while Conny Anderson drove the March713 to Knutstorp Ring. After a long night the car was assembled ready to go just when the first practice had ended, again!
Slim qualified 8th and finished 3rd ahead of Eje Elgh in the VikingTH1and proved a certain team owner wrong.
At the European F3 Championship at Zandvoort in April 1976 Slim was given a Viking TH1 car to drive but the car was not quite complete upon arrival. Continuous problems finally ended with a crash in the 2nd race.
At Mantorp Park in the second round of the F3 Euro Series all three car lasted one lap and the team ended up with all three Viking cars as DNF.
The rest of Borgudd’s time in Formula 3 was rather like that, it always seemed to be a case of finding the sponsors and the drives where he could and then making the best of the situation at the last minute . A man of lesser mettle may probably have given up.
Over a three years period Slim hired 10 different Formula 3 cars! Probably not the best way to produce results but he developed his skills and understanding how to set up and quickly make a car work into a fine art.
In 1977 he continued driving different cars in the Swedish and the European Championships, with little or no funding. He started working with experienced mechanic and engineer Mike Rowe and learned more about car set up.
In 1978 saw an upturn in Slim’s results driving a Ralt RT1 Toyota owned by Torsten Palm on a race by race basis. Borgudd found a sponsorship with the Swedish Falken Breweries which he shared with Anders Olofsson and created the ‘Strike Up Racing Team’.
The Ralt RT1Toyota that was now getting long in the tooth, he competed in three German series rounds, finishing 4th in his heat at Kassel-Calden and gaining some creditable grid positions, such as 5th at the Nurburgring.
In the European F3 Championship he scored a memorable 3rd at Mantorp Park behind Richard Dallest and Michael Bleekemolen and beating home Philippe Streiff and Thierry Boutsen. He hired another Ralt RT1 of fellow Swede Hakan Alriksson for the British round at Donington and came 7th following up with a 6th at Silverstone, finishing up equal 21st on 10 points in the Championship with Andrea de Cesaris, Jim Crawford and Teo Fabi.
Early 1979 Borgudd concluded a deal with Torsten Palm and his Ralt RT1 less engine and bought a new Toyota engine from the Italian tuner Nova Motor, which for the first time gave him the chance to race and prepare the same car for a complete season.
It was in the European championship, where often short of spares he had to borrow off helpful rival team-owner Roger Heavens, that his heroics caught the most attention.
The European F3 Championship season started with a 7th place at Vallelunga in the qualifying heat but gearbox problem saw him DNF in the final. Round 2 at Nurburgring was cancelled due to snow.
In the next Round of the FIA European F3 Championship at Österreichring, Austria was a big improvement with a 4th place in the race ahead of Alboreto. This was followed by a 6th place at Zolder, behind Tierry Boutsen and 4th at Magny-Cours, France.
With Prost finishing 3rd and Slim 12th at Donnington Park with Bleekemolen and Boutsen DNQ and Baldi DNF, put Borgudd into 3rd of the season points table but the funds was running dry.
Slim got an entry for the Monaco F3 race and this was not a race to miss, performing in front of all the Grand Prix Teams. But disaster struck when the StrikeUpRalt got T-boned during qualifying after running out of fuel and stopped by the swimming pool with Borgudd just escaping out of his car before the impact.
With next European Championship round at Zandvoort the following week it didn’t look to promising. Well, there was some help at hand.
Roger Heavens, Racing Team Holland handed he’s workshop keys to Slim offering the use of his workshop in Abingdon, UK with the words “use the workshop and whatever parts you need, see you at Zandvoort”.
With a long drive to the UK, some long nights and days in the workshop repairing the chassis, Slim and mechanic/fireman/friend Bengt Ekstrom arrived at Zandvoort, Holland just as the first qualifying session had started! Again!!!
After a hectic scrutineering and signing on Borgudd made the 2nd qualifying session and took pole from Alain Prost. In the race a ‘cam chain follower’ broke on the engine but he still finish 4th.
He followed up with a 3rd at Knutstorp Ring, Sweden behind Anders Olofsson and Jan Lammers.
Borgudd now looking to miss the Monza and Pergusa races due to no funding turned to the Head of the Swedish Automobile Federation Märt Mertslow, and asked for a scholarship to cover tyres & travel for 2 races, but got a remarkable response in return; “Stop making a fool of yourself on the race track and go back to the music”.
Inspired by those words Slim missed Monza and Pergusa and turned to the much less costly races in the Swedish Championship.
He returned to the European & Swedish F3 round at Knutstorp with a 4th in the first heat followed by an average 12th place in the race.
The Swede needed something special for the following round at Kinnekulle. And he got exactly that with some amazing events during the weekend. The first qualifying session was run under atrocious weather conditions. Out of the blue, the heavens opened and sheets of rain came down making driving conditions extremely trying with Borgudd quickest in the session.
During final qualifying the rain started to ease off and towards the end it stopped raining completely with Slim still the fastest car on the track. Now with six minutes left Borgudd spun off in the hairpin and damaged his rear wing, but continued and returned to the pits. As if the wave of a magic wand had swept through, the sun broke up the clouds and a dry line developed very quickly. Borgudd was unable to rejoin the session and ended up slowest in the session.
When the time sheets came out he was listed as a non starter under the 110% rule which is used for safety not allowing too slow cars being a hazard to other competitors but a rule that can be implemented at the race stewards discretion. Borgudd went to the race control to discuss the decision with his fellow Swedes arguing that while the conditions was really bad in the first session he had safely finished quickest and that he was a regular runner in fourth place in the Championship. But the steward’s wouldn’t have any of that and stood by their decision.
A very down beat Slim walked back to the paddock and started packing his equipment away. At the gates on his way out he was stopped by a crowed of F3 drivers and Team managers with a signed petition. They all went to the race office with the message;
If Borgudd doesn’t race nobody else will either! What a sportsmanship!
The organiser didn’t have much choice and the decision was reverted with Slim starting from the back of the grid. The very thankful Swede drove two brilliant races finishing third in the final.
The next round at Jarama, Spain was another let down for Slim who got held up in customs at the Spanish border claiming that he’s Carne’ (Travel document for the equipment and car you carried) was not the right type! Despite the involvement by the Spanish Automobile Federation he was not allowed to enter Spain! It was a lot of travelling for nothing.
The final race at Kassel Calden, Germany saw a determent Borgudd taking pole, victory and fastest lap in his heat, plus an awesome 2nd and equal fastest lap in the final with Slim just squeezing past Baldi into 3rd overall in the European F3 Championship with 23 points to 22.
A 33-year-old out of F3 was not the most marketable proposition. Slim was very close to finalising sponsorship from Marlboro for an F2 campaign in 1980 but it never came to be, so Borgudd found himself out of a drive again.
Without any driving for months he contacted Heavens, who let Slim take his March Toyota 793 to the Monaco F3 event. With different weather conditions between the two qualifying sessions saw the Swede 5th in his session Group1 which was wet. As Baldi took pole in qualifying Group 2. The normal staggered grid between the two sessions was now abandoned by the French despite the different conditions and all the cars from the faster session started upfront with the Swede down in 16th place. It got the best out of Borgudd, who in the race charged up to 3rd, setting a new lap record on his way.
But with four laps to go Bürger spun exiting the swimming pool chicane and his car stopped sideways across the track leaving no place to go for the Swede who wedged the March between the Armco and the other car. He managed to reverse out and got away again but his bodywork had come loose. Rather than quit, he decided to press on with one hand holding the bodywork down! It was an impossible task and dropped him out of contention, but the man had made his point.
Later in 1980 Bertram Schäfer called Borgudd and asked if he could drive one of his Ralt RT3 Toyota cars in the Bilstein Super Sprint at Nurburgring. The car was up for sale and a result would boost the price. Slim accepted the drive, qualified 3rd and finished 2nd. Job done, and the car got sold, OK.
Getting to Formula One
The Swede desperately needed something special to happen. But the hard reality was that without proper sponsorship it would not be possible to compete at high level and produce the results needed even with a natural talent.
But behind the scene months of hard work had been put in by Slim and compatriot and marketing man Tommy Lindh to attract real sponsorship.
Discussions with the ATS Formula 1 Team and others had started and there was a clear interest from the German team. Unknown to anyone Borgudd and Lindh had put together a comprehensive proposal for a 3 year sponsorship deal with the American Reinolds Tobacco Company through their German head office, to bring the Camel cigarette brand into Formula One. The plan had already been approved by the European affiliates with all design work and livery done. The package plan was sent to the US head office for final approval. Some testing weeks went by with the speed of a snail, until the final decision came. It was a bomb shell to Borgudd and Lindh;
“We have taken the decision not to sponsor individuals or teams only events”.
Soon after Slim came to an agreement with his friend Benny Andersson, and the groups blessing for him to use the ABBA trademark in motorsport.
ATS and Borgudd came to an agreement despite interferences by some greedy people surrounding Schmid who insisted that they could guarantee Borgudd’s drive against a substantial sum of money.
At last Borgudd was now in Formula One!
Gunter Schmid was quite excited about the deal since his was marketing his own brand, the ATS wheels and the ATS/ABBA sponsorship would create worldwide media interest.
With only a weeks to go before Borgudd’s first race at Imola, San Marino, Slim arrived at the ATS Teams Bicester based workshop for the first time. To his amazement there was only two people there! The Team Manager with 3 mechanics had walked out! What a brilliant start to a F1 campaign!
Borgudd got on the phone to his new boss Gunter Schmid and relayed the shortfall, and got a question in return “don’t you know anyone for the vacant jobs”?!!!?
Slims career up to now had almost been a one man band, but to arrive at the pinnacle of the sport just two weeks before the first race with no crew or team manager and on top of that never sat in a Formula 1 car, what the heck do you to do now?
Borgudd called his old friend Roger Heavens who accepted the job there and then and brought two of his F3 crew along the next day. This followed some very hectic days in the workshop in an attempt to get everything organised and with sign writers working through the nights to get the new livery on in time. On the Friday the week before the race a very ‘virgin’ F1 team went to Silverstone and to see if the car was working. Slim managed to complete 18 laps on a semi-damp track without a spin before the car was loaded up and go to San Marino! Formula one here we come!
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