Many countries around the globe have a rich motorsport landscape that is little-known beyond their borders. The well-established domestic touring car championships of Brazil and Argentina, for example, visit some truly superb tracks – anyone remember the Potrero de los Funes Circuit around a reservoir that briefly appeared as part of the FIA GT1 world championship? – that capture the imagination and make worthy bucket list additions.
Sweden has no shortage of its own hidden gem circuits too. And having raced around the world in sportscars and single-seaters, including a doomed attempt at cracking IndyCar, it’s one of his local tracks that three-time Swedish Touring Car Championship winner Fredrik Ekblom choses as his favourite.
The success he enjoyed at Falkenberg is clearly a large part of Ekblom’s reason for picking out the 1.145-mile track. It was certainly a happy hunting ground, as Ekblom scored eight wins there in touring cars between 1999 and 2017 across Super Touring, Super 2000, TTA silhouette and TCR rule sets.
“I was very good in touring cars there, I won many races,” he says. “It’s a very small track, but it’s been very good to me.”
But there’s more to it than sheer stats. With laptimes around 41 seconds in Super Touring and only a shade more than that in the subsequent eras, getting into a rhythm is vitally important. Ekblom says the flow of the circuit “suits me well” and allowed him to use a very specific set-up that made use of his experience of racing Stateside in Indy Lights.
“There’s so many right-handers, you can do the set-up so it’s more a little bit like an oval-style,” says Ekblom, who made just three IndyCar starts in as many years between 1994 and 1996, including a solitary oval appearance at Michigan.
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And, aside from the slow right-left chicane added in 2004 which opens the lap and is also the most obvious overtaking spot, average speeds are fairly high.
Having experienced UK circuits when he finished runner-up in the 1991 British Formula 3000 championship, Ekblom reckons it is comparable to Thruxton, where keeping up momentum is similarly crucial for laptimes.
“It has a quick corner on the back which is really nice,” he says when asked for the British circuit it is most similar to. “It’s such a smaller track than Thruxton, but Thruxton is such a quick track. It’s the best I can come up with!”
Ekblom’s oval racing approach clearly paid dividends, although success at Falkenberg eluded him in 1998 as he won the STCC title in his first attempt aboard a West Coast Racing BMW. After finishing second to Jens Edman’s Flash Engineering BMW in that title-winning campaign, he got the ball rolling in 1999 by leading from the front after poleman Thomas Johansson’s Ford missed the start with engine trouble.
In 2000, upon switching to Kristoffersson-run Audis, Ekblom mustered a best finish of third at the Bergagard track as Eje Elgh Nissan driver Tommy Rustad’s race two victory helped the eventual champion to force his way back into the fight. Autosport’s correspondent Tege Tornvall reported that his “domination of the series was halted, thanks in part to the introduction of rolling starts, which negated the advantage of his four-wheel drive Audi A4 Quattro”.
After two years away from the domestic series, racing in the American Le Mans Series and then the European Touring Car Championship, Ekblom returned to the STCC for 2003 with the Kristoffersson Audi squad and rediscovered winning form at Falkenberg by converting pole to a straightforward victory. He then took third from the reversed grid race, and added a runner-up finish in the STCC’s second visit to the track that year in its usual mid-July slot which helped him to edge Jan ‘Flash’ Nilsson to a second STCC title.
"You have to place your car and be early on the power in certain places, and you gain the whole back side and things like that. You just drive on instinct. I really liked that" Fredrik Ekblom
Ekblom's 2003 efforts prior to the introduction of the complex to slow the cars down underlined that overtaking was still possible for ambitious drivers.
“Going into the last real corner, that’s a good overtaking one,” he says. “And also on the back side, it’s not that bad. It’s quite difficult, but you can do it.”
A third Falkenberg STCC win arrived in 2004, when he capitalised on a puncture for Richard Goransson’s BMW and then took Tomas Engstrom’s Honda Civic, and Ekblom was a winner at the track again in 2005 – the first season he finished outside the top three in the STCC standings.
A switch back to the West Coast BMW team for 2007 yielded his third STCC crown. He finished second to Kristoffersson Audi driver Thed Bjork at Falkenberg and went one better in 2008, although lost out on the title to fellow Orebro native Goransson by just seven points. Ekblom reckons West Coast’s 320si E90 was the best-suited machine he ever had at the track – and that year BMWs locked out the top four places as a new track surface caused problems for several rivals.
Ekblom enjoyed enormous success at the Falkenberg track over many years and different rule sets
Photo by: Cyan Racing
“You have to place your car and be early on the power in certain places, and you gain the whole back side and things like that,” he says. “You just drive on instinct. I really liked that.”
Ekblom’s return to the Kristoffersson team, which was developing a biogas-powered VW Sciorocco, for 2009 meant he didn’t score another Falkenberg podium until 2011, by which time the series had merged with the Danish championship to form the Scandianavian Touring Car Championship. But it was on the coveted top step that he stood, for a sixth time, after seeing off Goransson and Chevrolet driver Rickard Rydell – who pipped him to the crown by two points.
A fourth Swedish tin-top title for Ekblom arrived in 2012 when the STCC was split apart, Ekblom joining the Polestar Volvo squad in the breakaway TTA Racing League.
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It was unified again for 2013, this time with the STCC running to TTA rules, and Ekblom took a brace of podiums before a seventh Falkenberg win arrived in 2014 after he’d been taken off by Goransson in race one.
He took second at Falkenberg in 2015 before heading to the World Touring Car Championship with Volvo in 2016. But there was still time for another Falkenberg win in 2017, the STCC’s first year running to TCR rules, as Ekblom held off eventual champion Robert Dahlgren’s PWR SEAT aboard a Kristoffersson VW Golf before retiring from racing at the end of 2018.
There aren't many left-handers at Falkenberg, which allowed Ekblom to tap into his oval racing knowledge when devising set-ups
Photo by: Cyan Racing2023-03-31T12:01:18Z dg43tfdfdgfd