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A champion among welders

Customers come from far and wide to ME Racing Service in Borlänge, Sweden, for the welding skills of Lars-Göran Eriksson.

Lars_Goran_Eriksson_11Making a nice weld gives Lars-Göran Eriksson enormous satisfaction. “When no one can understand how I’ve managed a weld and I can impress even myself with a nice shine or weld that I’ve made in a difficult spot then I’m happy,” says the welder, mechanic, crew chief and co-owner of ME Racing Services AB (MERS).

LG, as he’s affectionately known, runs the business with his father, European drag racing champion Mats Eriksson. Their company supplies chassis and roll cages for rally, drag racing and circle track racing cars. Together with local steel company SSAB, they have developed Docol R8 tubing, a high-strength, low-alloy steel ideal for chassis building, which they make using tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding.

Stateside apprenticeship
From the age of 13, LG was spending his school holidays working for his father in the racing car and sheet metal business. At 17, he spent several weeks in the US learning the ropes from veteran drag racing driver and mechanic Carl Ruth.

After taking a degree in forestry engineering, LG attempted to make it on his own, but the lure of the family business was too strong to resist. When new safety rules for Top Fuel dragsters came into force in 2008, it meant that the back half of dragsters had to be redesigned to break away on impact. LG has been racing and building cars and components ever since.

A second trip to the US saw him learn all about welding and chassis construction, with LG building Top Fuel dragsters under the tutelage of another veteran, Murf McKinney, at McKinney Corp in Lafayette, Indiana. “I’ve never learned as much as I did in that one month,” says LG, who went home to build the first of many dragsters that rolled into the shop.

Master craftsman
TIG welding of a chrome-moly or Docol R8 chassis can vex even the most experienced of welders. “Too much heat will make chrome-moly harden in the heat-affected zone and become more brittle beside the weld,” Eriksson says. “Whereas Docol R8 will soften, meaning it will flex a little more, but can still snap, so you have to be careful.”

LG knows how to apply just the right amount of heat to get the perfect weld, but it is time-consuming and painstaking work.

When a Top Tuel dragster team from Switzerland contacted LG at the last minute to repair a broken car just before the second European Championship race in Finland, they assumed it would be a quick fix. “We had already loaded our own car and were on our way to the race in Finland, so I told them I would fix their car at the track. I cut some tubes here in the shop and took them with me and grabbed my tools before taking the boat over,” he says. LG also put in a call to McKinney to bounce ideas. “Murf and I had the same solution in mind, but he mistakenly thought that I was going to do the work in the shop,” LG says.

At 11am on the day before the race, LG was in the pit cutting the car in two to replace some of the tubes and safety sleeves. Twelve hours later, the dragster was back in one piece – and in better shape than the driver who had a restless night knowing that his car had been taken apart. He needn’t have worried. He led the first day of qualifying and went on to win the European Championship.

“It was like changing a kidney or something,” LG says. “I just replaced some bad parts to give the car a longer life and then welded it back together again.”

 

LG’s best tips when TIG welding Lars_Goran_Eriksson_08

  • Be patient if you haven’t done TIG welding before. Practice makes perfect.
  • If you are TIG welding on chrome moly 4130 or Docol R8 tubes, the most important thing to consider is heat. .
  • If you have enough heat in the weld it will flow out nicely together with the filler wire and the tubes. Get a nice radius on the weld with no ditches or overlying welds. Try to look inside the tube at the heat-affected zone. If you have too much burn-through you are welding with too much heat.
  • Always have good support for your hands when you weld, so you are in control of the electrode and filling rod.
  • Try to use the same angle and distance of the electrode and a good gas lens. Make sure you have a good view, and good control, of the electrode and filling rod.

 

Video: See more of LG’s workday and ME Racing Service.

 

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  1. Bob Dreher says:

    Very sound advice my friend!!

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More than 35 years ago, we went to the shipyards of Sweden to study welders working conditions. We found skilled craftsmen blindly striking arcs as they continually nodded their shields down.

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