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The Slim Borgudd saga



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Slim Borgudd


ATS-Cosworth HGS1




1981 Monaco GP (prequalifying)


Borgudd debuting the Hervé Guilpin-designed ATS HGS1, bad luck preventing him to prequalify on Thursday morning. This was the only time Slim drove the HGS1 with the No.10. The other occasion in 1981 where the Swede's car sported the No.10 the San Marino GP at Imola was his debut F1 race with the old D4.

Slim Borgudd is known by most F1 fans for his connections with the ABBA music group, but it isn't quite fair to call him the ABBA drummer who got into GP racing because of the band sponsoring him - far from it. In fact he never performed with ABBA apart from a few studio sessions but became a good friend of Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA who later came to cheer for him during his GP career. Slim was a member of the Lea Riders Group during the early 60s playing blues rock in the Willie Dixon mould. The late 60s and 70s saw him move into something labeled as progressive rock performed by the band Made in Sweden. He was also kept busy doing studio work as a freelancer.

He got his nickname "Slim" when he was in a club New Orleans and the audience was told the main attraction, the Willie Dixon Band, was unable to perform because of the sudden illness of their drummer "Memphis Slim". Slim's friends shouted: "We have the best drummer in the world sitting right here!" So it happened that Tommy Burgudd subbed for "Memphis Slim" and was nicknamed "Little Slim", later shortened to "Slim". The name stuck and became so established that he had to put "Slim" on his ID card because the checks sent to him from different places were addressed "Slim Borgudd" and he was unable to cash them!

His first motorsport experience came in 1959 when he saw Stirling Moss at Karlskoga in an F2 race. His motorsport interest developed through his music. During his time with Made in Sweden he met Chris Barber on a British tour. The British dixieland musician was a keen club sportscar racer himself. So Slim bought Barber's Formula Ford Lotus 22 and began to race this car in Swedish club events. Then he went to hone his skills at the Jim Russell Racing School at Snetterton before attending two club races, which, to his amazement, he both won.

The years 1970-71 were spent in the ex-Ronnie Peterson Focus sportscar (here seen at Karlskoga in 1968, with Ronnie himself behind the wheel). Borgudd had much success in it, entering some five races and winning them all. The next couple of years he spent driving a Hillman Imp in Group 2 saloon car racing, while in single-seaters he took the Scandinavian FF1600 title. He continued mixing touring cars with single-seaters into 1975, taking 2nd in the 1975 Swedish Saloon Car Championship, while late in 1975 he was back in single-seaters when he rented Conny Andersson's spare March for the last Swedish F3 championship round.

In 1976, he went on to rent F3 drives and was invited into Tore Helle's Rotel Hi-Fi-sponsored F3 team to drive his new Len Terry-designed Viking TH1 F3 car. He drove it at the Zandvoort and Mantorp Park F3 European Championship races. He crashed it at Zandvoort because of a broken front suspension. The design was too weak and Eje Elgh also crashed the car several times due to this flaw in the design. Later it was re-designed and Conny Ljungfeldt was able to clinch the Swedish Championship in the car.

In 1977-80 he continued to race in Formula 3, both in the Swedish and the European Championships. In the Nordic European Championship, he netted a third place behind Dallest and Bleekemolen at Mantorp in 1978, with drivers like Philippe Streiff and Thierry Boutsen behind him. Alain Prost and Arie Luyendijk were also in the race. He also took pole position the same year at Zandvoort, while he grabbed another third in his home race for the European Championship at Knutstorp on August 6, taking the flag after Olofsson and Lammers. In 1979 he finished third in the European F3 championship despite being a underfinanced driver and his own mechanic, his best result a second behind Prost at Kassel-Calden. Roger Heavens sometimes helped with much needed spares. Each time Slim was faster than Prost, the Roger Heavens mechanics cheered for him... This same year he also won the Swedish F3 championship in a Toyota-powered Ralt RT1.

In 1980 he was supposed to drive F2 but promised sponsorship from Marlboro never materialised so once again he was penniless and without a drive. He called Roger Heavens who gave him his spare car for the Monaco F3 race. He qualified a lowly 16th but drove a storming race up to third when he made contact with another car and the bodywork came loose. Slim however decided not to give up but drove the last four laps with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding the bodywork! Colin Chapman came up to him after the race asking: "...Oh that was you driving with bloody one hand?" For the rest of the 1980 season he borrowed some money and was able to rent a couple of drives. He finished 4th at the Österreichring and was second at the Nürburgring after leading for the most part of the race.

These efforts were noted by Günter Schmid, so Slim got his GP break at age 34 in 1981 with Günter Schmid´s ATS team. ABBA put their name on the car as a form of "goodwill sponsorship", mostly to attract other investors. Borgudd qualified 24th in his GP debut and carried his ATS D4 to 13th place, outshining ATS regular Jan Lammers who failed to qualify. So the autocratic Schmid kicked out Lammers (here seen at Long Beach with Borgudd already ostensibly in the ATS mould) and put Slim in his sole entry. At first, the Swede didn't do any better than the Dutchman who had given Schmid his best qualifying position ever with 4th at Long Beach in 1980. Slim soldiered on with the new HGS1 but after four straight non-qualifications he qualified 21st at Silverstone and then drove steady to his only career GP point after finishing sixth. The race had a high attrition rate but Borgudd still celebrated both his and Avon Tyres' first GP point... In Canada, he took 13th fastest lap - apart from his single point his best race performance - but threw it all away with a spin, with Slim also spinning off the race before at Monza. Still, he did well under the circumstances and Ken Tyrrell, always with an eye for talent, also took note, Slim taking the 1982 seat besides Michele Alboreto on merit. Here he is seen at Kyalami in white livery, while at Long Beach the team changed to equally sponsorless blue.

Bad luck struck when Tyrrell once again came up short. So, when Brian Henton came along with some needed money Tyrrell pushed Slim out of the team. After just three races into the season Borgudd was left without a drive or money and at age 35 his chances to prolong his GP career looked, well, slim. So he went back into F3 machinery and was seen in the Swedish championship driving an Anson SA4. In 1984 he qualified second at Macau and won the first start before retiring...

In 1985 he was back in a GP car once again, but this time it was an Arrows A6 entered by Amco Color in the new F3000 class. This category had come about after the FIA had abolished the F2 class due to rising costs. With F1 going all turbo, there was no place for the old 3-litre Cosworth V8s. So F3000 was meant as cost-effective way to keep both Cossies and older F1 cars running. However, the old GP cars were never competitive against pukka F3000 machinery like the March 85B Christian Danner took the title in. Thus it came as no surprise that in the three races he competed (Vallelunga, Spa and Donington) no results were gained for Slim.

In 1987 Slim was entered in the 24 Hour race at Le Mans in a novel twin-turbo Volvo inline-4 powered Tiga TC286. This was developed by Volvo specialist tuner Milan Knezevic at Milspeed in Gothenburg, but the project was lacking funds and therefore the necessary development needed at this level. The car was off the pace and the engine finally expired. The entry was listed as a DNQ.

Borgudd now turned his attention to the fledgling truck racing scene. As he had Firestone sponsorship in truck racing in 1989 Firestone UK entered Slim together with Mark Hales in the 1989 10th annual 24 Hour Willhire Production Saloon race at Snetterton. They shared a Ford Sapphire Cosworth and after being 2nd on the grid they won the race 3 laps ahead of the nearest competitor. Oh yes... this year the race was actually of 25 hrs duration due to the fact that sponsor Willhire was celebrating a 25-year anniversary this particular year!

For most of the new decade he kept competing in the European Truck Racing Championship for Mercedes and after being 2nd in 1994 he won the series outright in 1995. 1996 saw him finish 5th and 1997 4th in the same championship. He also drove in Super Touring on occasion. In 1994 he was behind the wheel of a Mazda Xedos 6 in the Nordic Touring Car Championship which he won, taking two rounds at Knutstorp. He was also seen in a similar car at the World Cup race at Donington Park that same year. With that final appearance on an international stage that was the last the world saw of the drummer-turned-racing driver.