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Life in the fast lane

He set a new European record in Pro Mod drag racing in 2009 and commands a top 10 place in the European Championships year after year. Nothing gets in the way of Mats Eriksson and his beloved door slammers. Ever since he was a boy, Mats Eriksson has had an obsession with fast cars.

Mats_Eriksson_02“It’s a sickness!” says the 57-year-old European drag racing champion. “It’s not just the cars and the racing, but also the social life around it and the family feeling. Life would be empty without it.”

Fords were, and continue to be, this Swede’s passion. Eriksson got his first Ford before he even had a driving licence. It was a green 1956 station wagon, which he got for free from his teacher’s neighbour who wanted to clear out his garage. After tinkering with that, Eriksson bought a 1962 Ford Falcon, which he rebuilt with a tube chassis and a new Ford engine. His efforts paid off at the 1986 European drag racing finals at Santa Pod Raceway in England, where Eriksson recorded a time of 8.45 seconds, making him the fastest in Europe in the SA class.

 

Driver turned businessman
Burdened by the costs of his racing “addiction”, Eriksson had started his own company, ME Racing Service AB (MERS), in 1985, and followed it up a couple of years later with a sheet metal business, his focus shifting to restoring other people’s racing cars. Today, ME Racing Service has gained a following far beyond Sweden’s borders. “For me, building a car is much more important than racing it,” Eriksson says.

ME Racing Service specialises in racing car chassis and roll cages made of Docol R8 steel tubes and chrome-moly steel tubes, with the company supplying chassis to several elite teams in the rally, drag racing and circle track racing worlds. Together with his son Lars-Göran, who has earned a reputation for his welding skills, they are drawing a steady stream of customers to the steel milling town of Borlänge in central Sweden.

“It’s a pleasure when you work hard and it pays off,” says Eriksson, adding that at the same time, it’s a sport that requires more than money or big sponsors. “It’s the knowledge and competence within your team and what you have learned over the years that determine if you can win a championship.”

This expertise helps boost the level of safety in what is widely presumed to be a dangerous sport. Eriksson insists that it is safe and points out the strength and protection afforded by a steel roll cage as it is being assembled. Every car is built to strict regulations and Eriksson, who is actively involved in a number of safety organisations, is well versed on the safety guidelines. “I’m really proud to be on the SFI Top Fuel chassis committee,” says Eriksson, the only non-American member and one of just seven people who have the right to vote on the committee, which is responsible for structural and safety regulations for drag racing worldwide.

Back in the driving seat
While growing his business, Eriksson built another car in his spare time. His Ford “Green Goblin” which took about 10 years to complete, was built from a 1956 Crown Victoria body shipped to Sweden from the US. By 2002, he was back in the driver’s seat and racing seriously again.

It paid off: 2009 was a “dream season,” with Eriksson winning the Swedish, Nordic and European Pro Mod (Professional Modified) championships. In Hockenheim, Germany, the Green Goblin became the first European Pro Mod car to do under 6.1 seconds. The same year he broke the 6-second barrier, accelerating from 0-388 km/h in 5.98 seconds. “That is the biggest thing you can do in drag racing and it was an incredible feeling,” Eriksson says.
His current project, which will be ready this autumn, is to build a car with the new Docol R8 tubing and race it in the US. It will be green, of course.

A dream year
There was no stopping Mats Eriksson’s Green Goblin in 2009:

  • The first European car to break the pro-mod class 6.1 and 6-second marksMats_Eriksson_07
  • Driver of the Year: Bilsport (Swedish car magazine)
  • Eagle of the Year: EDRS/Speedgroup
  • European Champion
  • Nordic Champion
  • Swedish Champion
  • Royal Motorsports Medal (awarded in 2010)

Favourite car: A Ford ’56 Crown Victoria, aka the “Green Goblin”, with 3,000 horsepower.

Future plans: “I’ve bought a Mustang as a stock racing car for my retirement. It takes less work so I can sit and drink coffee with old friends between races.”

Learn more about Mats Eriksson and ME Racing Team at www.meracing.com

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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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