As far as sponsors on F1 cars go, we’ve had cigarettes, beer, men’s top shelf mags, and condoms, to telecoms, airlines, banks, and pharmaceuticals. We’ve had every type of company or organisation under the sun. Anybody who pays ready cash and who wants to go racing is a welcome sight to any team owner. Having certain types of sponsors can have its perks, and depending on what type of sponsor you end up with will dictate some of the teams whereabouts in between races. In 1981, the ATS team ran a car in the second half of the season displaying the name of a well known Swedish pop supergroup -ABBA!

With a sponsor such as a pop group of ABBA’s standings -Eurovision song contest winners and multi-million selling albums during the 70’s, you’d expect some free tickets to a show at least and the chance to meet the group. The German ATS (Auto Technisches Spezialzubehör) Wheels team (to use the full title), went a step further with their sponsor by having a driver who actually played drums with ABBA’s touring and recording band! Slim Borgudd was that drummer and driver rolled into one. He was from Sweden too (which was handy for rehearsals) and his real name for the record is Karl Edward Tommy Borgudd, but he prefered to be known as Slim for some reason. It must have sounded more rock ‘n’ roll to him!

For those too young to remember ABBA’s music, let me refresh your memory. ‘Dancing Queen,’ ‘Money, Money, Money,’ ‘Voulex Vous’, ‘Mamma Mia’ and countless other catchy tunes littered the world’s charts between 1977 and 1984 -which was the lifetime of the band, and beyond, including a current London West End show! The band were fronted by two blokes with thick hair, along with two ladies with blonde and red hair respectively, whilst drummer/driver Slim slotted in at the back, banging away on his tom toms! There was no escape from hearing them everywhere you went! Some might ask, why would such a successful band like ABBA stick their name on an F1 car? Well, an easy answer is that they didn’t have to stump up any dosh for the privilege! The ATS F1 team in 1981, were short of sponsors and hoped that at least putting some kind of name on their car (albeit the driver’s other work-mates) might attract a sponsor with a bulging wallet! ATS had been salvaged from Penske Racing in 1977 by Gunther Schmidt. He thought he could use an F1 team to promote his German alloy wheel brand and hadn’t bargained on promoting a Swedish pop group for free too!

Going back to the beginning of the story… Slim Borgudd had initially made a connection with the band, by drumming in Bjorn’s (one of the blokes with thick hair) previous group the Hootenanny Singers. Now, a name like that suggests an LP lurking at the back of your grandma’s record collection -and you’d be right! Scary stuff indeed, but they did achieve some acclaim in Holland! Just to complete the discography, Slim performed with other jazz-rock outfits  – Made In Sweden and Solar Plexus. These were slightly more cool in a late-night-BBC2 kind of way, but not really my cup of tea! Made In Sweden did scoop a Swedish Grammy, which was a success worth noting.

At 34 years of age, Slim was late entering F1, but he got his head down at Silverstone for the British GP (see photo above) and qualified 21st out of 30 entrants. This was his best effort to date and was topped with a searing charge to 6th at the finish, and his only championship point to date! This was incredible on any day, but he’d driven with a cramped left leg due to his foot rest breaking. Once out of the car he could barely walk! He should have been credited as Gladiator Borgudd on record sleeves from then on!

Before the Silverstone race, Slim asked his team to ‘Take A Chance On Me’, then drove brilliantly like a ‘Super Trooper’ to score a point, which means ‘Money, Money, Money’ and that’s ‘The Name Of The Game!’ Phew!

Photo credit: Chris Young.