The Large World of Nordic Motorsport

There are superstars of the sport in Denmark and Sweden, while Finland’s legends vastly outweigh their population. So how did the Nordic countries become unbeatably fast on the racetrack?

Xander Brett

In the crystal clear, still lakes of Finland’s north, this nation’s national sport seems all the more unlikely. The peaceful tranquillity may be a far cry from the international tyre burning of the world’s Formula One circuits, but it’s regions like these that have produced four of the industry’s recent big names (with two of them still on the podiums): Keke Rosberg, Mika Häkkinen, Kimi Räikkönen and Valtteri Bottas. Like the silent Finns’ contradictory taste for heavy metal, these drivers have been consistent loud, ‘sisu’ driven warriors, with Valtteri Bottas (this year joining Alfa Romeo) claiming ten Grand Prixs to his name. With this disproportionate success, the introduction of a Finnish Grand Prix (the country has Kausala’s Kymi Ring, 130km above Helsinki ready and waiting) is a necessary – if, sadly, unlikely – proposal. Unlikely, perhaps, as the Norwegian Grand Prix was abandoned in 1936, the Swedish Grand Prix in 1978, and the Danish Grand Prix in 1995… though the region has, in fact, over thirty motorsport venues (and countless informal meetings). ‘Sisu’ must have a role in Finland’s much pondered paradox: drivers determined out on the circuit battlefield.

“‘Sisu’ must have a role in Finland’s much pondered paradox: drivers silent and determined on the circuit battlefield.”

But, while Norway and Iceland largely stay out of F1 contests these days, Sweden and Denmark have also taken Finland’s lead, joining the sport with their own collection of big names. Kevin Magnussen (the son of 90s driver Jan Magnussen) and Marcus Ericsson of Sweden (now moved from F1 to IndyCars) speak of Scandinavia’s driving success, while ‘super Swede’ Ronnie Peterson is the 70’s forgotten star, taken too soon in a crash at Monza, during the Italian Grand Prix of 1978. Peterson (from Örebro: the heart of rally country) remains a national hero in Sweden, with pride in the ‘greatest driver never to win a championship’. And this treasuring is, surely, testament to Nordic investment in the sport, where drivers are rock stars. The gravel roads and quiet backroads up north, where wannabees are behind the wheel before reaching double figures, must also answer the paradox in part. The population’s interest in technology, too, means famous players are leaning on an open door. But, just as it took ABBA to kickstart Sweden’s unlikely pop miracle, it took Ronnie Peterson and Keke Rosberg to eke out a motorsport obsession. Now they have, there can be no going back.

This article is a Fika Online exclusive.

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