Stefan Johansson in the early years of his race career

Born : September 8 1956

Biography Stefan Johansson

Stefan Johansson was born September 8 1956 in Växjö, a smaller city in the south of Sweden. His father, Roland Johansson, had a little body repair shop, and raced saloons at weekends: VW Beetle, Mini, an ex-Alan Mann Escort. With his father being a race driver, Stefan Johansson grew up in the paddocks of race tracks. The question was not whether he would start racing, but when. At the age of 8, Johansson was driving a kart.  But Stefan could only start competition driving at the age of 12. With help from his enthusiastic father, he rose rapidly through the national karting scene.

Race career

With help from his enthusiastic father, Stefan rose rapidly through the national karting scene. He finished 3rd overall in the Swedish karting championship in 1971 and 1972. In the next 2 seasons, 1973 and 1974, he finished the championship as a runner-up. On top of that, he won the regional Nordic  ((combined Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, and Finnish) championship as well, and finished 6th in the 1973 World Karting Championship. In 1975 Johansson climbed a step up on the racing ladder and graduated to Formula Ford, and in 1976 he started racing F3. 

1978 F3 Championship. Davina Galica, Alain Prost(?), Stefan Johannsen, Tiff Needell, Thorkild Thyrring (seated), Derek Warwick

Johannson’s successful results in F3 drew the attention of people involved in F2, and at the end of the 1979 season, he debuted at Donington Park in a works March-BMW 792.  For 1980 he started out as the clear British F3 title favorite as he signed up with Ron Dennis’ Project 4 team. Stefan wins the first race, but then bad luck was his faith. At the end of the season, however, an impressive 4 victories in the last 4 races of the season earned him the championship title. 

Stefan Johansson Tyrrell 012 Ford-Cosworth V8 1984 (probably in Zandvoort)
Stefan Johansson Tyrrell 012 Ford-Cosworth V8 1984 (probably in Zandvoort)

All these results once again didn’t go unnoticed. In January of 1980, Johansson climbs an F1 car for the first time for the Argentinian GP free training sessions. The sessions didn’t really go as planned, and it looked bad for his F1 dreams. The next 2 seasons Johansson drove F2 but without being too successful.  In 1982, Johanssen teamed up with Thierry Boutsen for the Spirit F2 team. That same Spirit team, however, now had put their sights on F1 1 after testing a 1.5-liter turbo version of the Honda V6 F2 engine. Stefan was chosen to debut the modified F2 car in the 1983 Race of Champions at Brands Hatch. Stefan and Spirit’s first GP start came at the British GP.

That same season, Stefan shared the wheel of a Group C Porsche 956 with Bob Wollek. The duo finished 3rd in the 1000KM Imola race, and ended the race twice as runner-up at the start of the season in the 1000km races of Silverstone and the Nürburgring. They won the 2nd to last race of the sportscar championship season in Mugello, and had a DNF in Kyalami.

1000 km Mugello 1983. Winners Bob Wollek – Stefan Johansson with a Joest Porsche 956 (c) Bernard Asset

In 1984, Stefan lost hisF1  seat since Honda decided to withdraw their support for the Strike team. He continued F2 racing in the national F2 series in  Japan. Meanwhile, he continued racing the Joest Porsche 956. He started the year by winning the Sebring 12-hour race in an ancient IMSA Porsche 935, which was the last international victory for a Porsche 935.  At the 1000KM Nürburgring race, Johansson shared the wheel of the NewMan livery Porsche 956 with Ayrton Senna and Henri Pescarolo.  The next 3 years Stefan Johansson did not compete in the World Sportscar Championship. He returned in 1988 and drove a few races for both Toyota and Mercedes.

1984 1000km Nurburgring - Pescarolo - Senna - Johansson
1984 1000km Nurburgring – Pescarolo – Senna – Johansson

It was only after Martin Brundle’s severe crash in Dallas in 1984 that Johansson returned to F1 to become a regular. Despite having a F1 career of about 10 years, racing for teams like Ferrari and McLaren, Stefan Johansson only succeeded in climbing the podium 12 times. He finished 2nd in 1985 twice racing for Ferrari, and scored 4 3rd places for that same tteam in 1986. In 1987 Johansson reached 5 podium spots for the McLaren team, with cars powered by the TAG Porsche F1 engine, designed by the late Hans Mezger.  1989 he stood on the 3rd step of the podium once, racing for the Onyx team owned by the eccentric Jean-Pierre van Rossem.

1997 Le Mans 24H victory for Joest Racing

The winning TWR WSC95 - Michele Alboreto, Stefan Johansson & Tom Kristensen exits The Esses at the 1997 Le Mans (c) Martin Lee
The winning TWR WSC-95 – Michele Alboreto, Stefan Johansson & Tom Kristensen exits The Esses at the 1997 Le Mans (c) Martin Lee

Johansson scored an overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1997 with Joest Racing’s Porsche TWR WSC-95 and two more class victories in 1992 (with Toyota) and 2003 (with Audi). He spent over 30 years racing at the highest levels of Motorsport where he continuously tried to perfect the craft of driving a race car at the limits of its performance.

After the race career

In parallel, he always had a strong interest in Art and Design, but it wasn’t until his close friend and driver colleague Elio De Angelis was killed in a racing accident in 1986 that he decided to pick up a canvas and a brush to paint something in his honor. 34 years later this has evolved into a new way of life and he now spends the same time and focus to perfect the craft of being an Artist as he used to when he was racing, creating new paintings and designs from his studio in Santa Monica, California.

Stefan in his studio in Los Angeles.
Stefan in his studio in Los Angeles. Source: Stefan Johansson

Source: Official website, our personal archives, and the internet, mainly 8Wforix
Pictures courtesy as credited or unknown.