Niclas JÃ¶nsson believes his royal experience helped save his race car when a tire puncture caused a blowout during the March 4 American Le Mans Series race. The Swedish driver, now living in Aliso Viejo, Calif., trained Swedish royal family ...
Niclas Jönsson believes his royal experience helped save his race car when a tire puncture caused a blowout during the March 4 American Le Mans Series race. The Swedish driver, now living in Aliso Viejo, Calif., trained Swedish royal family bodyguards early in his career. His course included strategies to maintain vehicle control after tires were shot by terrorists. "I've had tires blow up on me before because that's something we trained," he explained. "But when we were practicing it, I knew it was coming and I was ready for it. It's different on the track, but it's a reflex action, I guess, because I felt it so many times in practice."
His advice for street drivers? "When a tire blows, people start trying to work the wheel too much and they over-correct. The same thing happens in other panic situations, for example when something appears in front of them and they try to brake hard and do big movements with the steering wheel. That's wrong. The way to save the situation is to let the car do most of the work. Small, gentle movements will bring you out of the situation."
Jönsson's personal logo features a crown, the symbol used by leading Swedish sports teams and athletes. His striped helmet design includes the blue and yellow colors of the Swedish flag, together with bold red and green bands.
"I'm proud to be a Swede," he noted. "I prefer the simple design of my helmet, with the trademark blue and yellow of Sweden. Living on the other side of the world, it brings some harmony to have something that goes back to my childhood and home country."
Jönsson has been trained to help the North American importer build and repair helmets for the French safety equipment manufacturer Stand 21. His training is a boon to his wife Helene, who is the North American vice-president and operating manager for Stand 21. The helmets are constructed with a high-pressure injection-molding technique to make a one-piece outer shell. Specialty styrofoam liners are customized and frozen before they are positioned inside the helmets. They expand at room temperature to fit the shell.
"These helmets have the highest ratings of [the industry standard] Snell certification. They're the safest and lightest on the market," Jönsson said. "My teammate Hans Stuck is now using a Stand 21 helmet. He is very particular when it comes to safety and comfort, so the fact that he chose Stand 21 speaks for itself."
born: Aug. 4, 1967 in Bankeryd, Sweden
residence: Aliso Viejo, Calif.
family: 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 with Bill Auberlen of Redondo 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 bwcause of his 5'7" height. He also played semi-pro bandy, a fast version of ice hockey, played with a small orange ball instead of a puck. His fitness regime includes three or four workouts per week, plus running and endurance training.