- September 08, 1956
- Not Active
Stefan Johansson is probably best-known as a former Formula 1 driver but he achieved the best results in the sportscar racing. He scored an overall victory at 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1997 with Joest Racing's Porsche and two more class victories in 1992 (with Toyota) and 2003 (with Audi).
In Formula 1 World Championship, he recorded 103 entries (79 starts) between 1980 and 1991, scoring twelve podiums.
Father instilled a passion for motorsports to Stefan
As the son of touring car driver, Stefan was involved in the world of racing. He started to race karting in 1968 and five years later he became the champion. After that, Johansson was ready to step to a higher level and bought an old Formula Ford. He raced at the national Formula Ford championship, and he won the title in 1977 and after two years he moved to the United Kingdom.
Unexpected debut in Formula 1 and a quick return to the lower tiers
In 1979, Johansson started to compete in the British Formula 3 championship and won one race driving for Project Four team, owned by the future McLaren F1 team boss Ron Dennis. A bit surprisingly, Shadow team offered him a Formula 1 seat for the 1980 season but once he failed to qualify for the season-opening races in Argentina and Brazil, Stefan lost his place and had to wait for another opportunity in Formula 1 for a couple of years.
Johansson returned to the British Formula 3 and took the 1980 title with six wins on his account. In 1981, Swede moved to Formula 2 championship, driving for Toleman team and after one year he started driving for Spirit Racing. The team also had a plan to promote Johansson to Formula 1. Luckily that happened in 1983.
Return to F1
His second attempt to be victorious wasn’t successful. The car prepared by Spirit wasn’t fast and reliable, so he wasn't able to make a serious impact. His best result in 1983 was 7th place in the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. He also had the first experience in the endurance racing. Driving for Joest racing alongside Klaus Ludwig and Bob Wollek, he finished 6th in 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Johansson parted ways with Spirit at the end of 1983 and next year, he acted as a stand-in, first for Tyrrell and later for Toleman with whom he scored the 4th place at the Italian Grand Prix. The same year Johansson also finished as a runner-up at the Japanese F2 championship and won the 12 Hours of Sebring race of IMSA Championship.
Stefan Johansson got surprising call from Ferrari Formula 1 team
In 1985, Johansson started Formula 1 season with Tyrrell, replacing Stefan Bellof, but drove only one Grand Prix, the season-opener in Brazil. It was a big surprise when Ferrari called him to replace Rene Arnoux for the rest of the season. He spent two years with the most popular team and that was the peak of his F1 career.
During his time with ’Prancing pony’, Johanssen failed to win a single race but had some notable performances. In his first year with Ferrari, Stefan finished 7th in the Drivers’ championship and 2nd places at Canadian and Detroit Grand Prix were the highlights of the season. The season of 1986 was slightly better. Johansson moved up to the 5th position overall, scoring four 3rd places – in Belgium, Austria, Italy, and Australia. Stefan’s final place would have been better if he hadn't retired from 6 out of 16 races.
One season with McLaren
Ferrari opted not to retain Johansson’s services for 1987, so he moved to McLaren with whom he had another opportunity to achieve a good result. However, Stefan met the expectations only partially. Second places in Belgium and Germany, as well as third places at the Brazilian, Spanish and Japanese Grand Prix, were his best results of the year. Johansson finished 6th overall and was replaced by Ayrton Senna for 1988.
Swan song at Estoril
Johansson spent another two years as a full-time Formula 1 driver. He spent the 1988 season with Ligier and that was an almost disastrous year during which Stefan retired from most of the races and he barely finished in the Top 10. Without earning a single point, he left the French team and joined Onyx Grand Prix team in 1989. Even though he wasn't so successful when it comes to racing, Johansson managed to score some good results that year. Stefan finished 5th in the French Grand Prix and 3rd in the Portugal Grand Prix in Estoril. At the end of the year, Johansson finished 12th in the Drivers’ championship.
In the next two years, Johansson made a couple of appearances with Onyx, AGS, and Footwork but he failed to qualify for 5 out of 6 races. Then he decided to retire which was a pretty inglorious end of his F1 career. Things could have been better.
Departure to the US
In 1992, Stefan Johansson entered the CART Series in which he spent five years, driving for Bettenhausen Motorsports. He was named Rookie of the Year after he clinched two 3rd place finishes. Unfortunately, in 1993 he wasn’t so impressive. In 1994, his best placement at the championship was 11th place.
Stefan Johansson was also the owner of a pretty successful Indy Lights team and later he was the owner of the CART Series team called American Spirit Team Johansson but the project collapsed at the end of 2003. He also raced in the 2008 Speedcar Series but without too much success, as well as in the American Le Mans Series.
Accomplished endurance racer and Le Mans 24h winner
However, Johansson remained in the world of racing as an active driver and as the team owner. In 1992, he scored a C2 class win at Le Mans, driving a Trust racing Team’s Toyota 92C-V alongside George Fouche and Steven Andskar. In 1993, he was the overall winner of the world’s most prestigious race, driving a Joest Racing’s Porsche alongside Michele Alboreto and Tom Kristensen. His last success at Circuit de la Sarthe was in 2003 when Johansson finished 3rd overall and 1st in LMP900 class, driving a Champion Racing’s Audi alongside JJ Lehto and Emanuele Pirro.
Artist, manager and a businessman
Besides racing, Johansson is pretty successful as a watch and accessories designer and a manager of some well-known drivers, with Scott Dixon being one of them. He was also a guest commentator of Formula 1 races for the Swedish Viasat channel. Stefan has also consulted on a number of Race Track design projects. He is also the Sporting Director for Ferrari GT racing program.