Niclas JÃ¶nsson is looking forward to his first American Le Mans Series race with the new BMW M3 GTR, which he tested earlier this month. "BMW Motorsport has done such a great job designing and building this car," he enthused. "It's almost like...
Niclas Jönsson is looking forward to his first American Le Mans Series race with the new BMW M3 GTR, which he tested earlier this month. "BMW Motorsport has done such a great job designing and building this car," he enthused. "It's almost like driving a prototype or open-wheel car because the brakes are unbelievably good, the gearbox is smooth and the handling is good -- the car is so crisp and responsive to changes. Small adjustments make a huge difference, which is great from a driver's standpoint.
"The BMW Team PTG crew has done a great job putting the car together, and everything is perfect. Every time we tested, we changed small things like the radio, the buttons on the steering wheel, the seat position, the seat belts and even the drink bottle. Now it's payback time for Bill [co-driver Auberlen] and me to give something back."
Jönsson says tires could be the biggest factor in this week's race on the 2.52-mile Sears Point Raceway road course in Sonoma, Calif.
"The tires will wear more than at other races," he said. "It's usually very hot at Sears Point, and there are different surfaces. Some are very smooth and others are really rough. And you have the transition from the race track to the drag strip where the dragsters put down a lot of rubber and use different fuel. That combination becomes very slippery in the heat. I think the race will come down to who has the car and the tires that will last."
A former driving academy owner, Jönsson has a tip for summer drivers. "In summer, there's a lot of glare from the sun, so it's very important to look to the side instead of directly into the sun, so you can stay on your line," he said. "It's much better to stay a bit too far to the right instead of the middle of the road. And, as always, don't drive more than an hour and a half before you stop and stretch, and make sure you have a lot of fluids to drink in the car. Stay fresh and able to think clearly."
Jönsson put his carpentry degree to good use this summer, when he visited his parents in Sweden. He helped his father with a new garage and basement renovations. "Doing things for myself and my family is fun because I don't have any time pressure," he noted. "And most of the time, it comes out alright!"
born: Aug. 4, 1967 in Bankeryd, Sweden
residence: Aliso Viejo, Calif. 2family: wife Helene
Niclas Jönsson started racing karts at age six. He made his first professional race start in 1989 in Scandinavian Formula Three, and won the series championship in 1990 and '91. He was the 1992 Scandinavian Touring Car champion, finished second in the 1992 European Formula Three Cup and was runner-up in the 1995 Formula Asia championship. He competed in European touring car, American Le Mans Series, United States Road Racing Association, Indy Racing League and Indy Lights races from 1996 to 2000.
Jönsson joined BMW Team PTG for several American Le Mans Series races in 2000. His consistent, fast race stints impressed the team and he was selected as a full-time driver this season. He is driving the No. 10 BMW M3 GTR with Bill Auberlen of Hermosa Beach, Calif.
Jönsson's thoughtful approach and understanding of engineering priorities have made him a popular test driver. He tested the Reynard Formula Three car in 1993 and '94 and tested for designer and race engineer Ken Andersson in 1996 and '97. He tested and raced the Lola U.K. prototype sports car in 1998 and '99 and also tested Riley & Scott Inc.'s world sports car.
Jönsson has lived in England, Japan, Malaysia, Sweden and the United States.
Jönsson used his racing skills to train Swedish royal family bodyguards and secret-service agents in high-performance and self-defense driving. He also conducted corporate driving schools in Sweden, and negotiated an insurance reduction for his graduates. He has a college degree in carpentry and a university degree in recreational therapy. While racing in Sweden, he worked at a rehabilitation center for abused youths.
Jönsson played competitive badminton until age 17, when he declined an opportunity to play with the Swedish national team because of his 5'7" height. He also played semi-pro bandy, a fast version of ice hockey, played with a small orange ball. His fitness regime includes three or four workouts per week, plus running and endurance training.