Mon 20 Feb 2023

The teenage talent managing a world champion’s tyres

Amongst the unsung heroes supporting Johan Kristoffersson’s successful title charge last season was an unassuming 15-year-old – the youngest member of the Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS set-up – who started out sweeping the floors and ended up managing the five-time world champion’s tyres. This is his story...

Sixth grade in Sweden means work experience time, and with racing in his blood – his father Erik worked on Per Eklund’s rallycross cars, his grandfather Ove ‘Findus’ Friberg was a car salesman and rally driver, while his great-grandfather, after who he was named, was the legendary ‘Sulviks-Einar’, a master craftsman who designed his own vehicles – it was perhaps inevitable that young Einar Friberg would look for an opportunity in the motorsport sphere.

Barely a handful of kilometres down the road from his home in Jössefors is Kristoffersson Motorsport’s workshop, and an enthusiastic Friberg – who describes himself as ‘always full of energy’ – needed no greater encouragement. After introducing himself to Team Principal, Tommy Kristoffersson, he began by washing race cars for the squad, returning during the school holidays to further indulge his passion.

By the time pre-season testing came around last year – ahead of the start of World RX’s new electric era – Einar was taking care of the Cooper Tires on Johan Kristoffersson’s Volkswagen RX1e. It was a role he would retain throughout the campaign.

“When I heard Tommy read out my name as a permanent team member, I got goosebumps,” he confesses. “In Hell, I put in as much work as I could, wrote down all the times, tried to keep track of the weather, checked the temperature of the tyres and talked to Johan about how he wanted to prioritise.”

The weekend resulted in victory – the 28th of Kristoffersson’s glittering World RX career – but his young tyre manager had to put the brakes on his own racing exploits to pursue his dream of working for a world championship-winning outfit at the international pinnacle of the sport. With two bronze medals to his name in the Swedish Crosskart Championship, Friberg is clearly a talent behind the wheel too, but he describes his choice as ‘a sacrifice well worth making’.

Other compromises have similarly had to be struck, yet despite missing school to be able to accompany KMS on all events, Einar is also excelling academically. The gifted teenager proved so advanced that he was able to skip fourth grade, meaning he is now in his first year of upper secondary school, a year younger than most of his classmates in the vehicle and transport faculty.

“I was away from school a lot last year,” he reflects, “but I’m aiming to become a truck driver. Travelling with the team is a great opportunity to get some experience of that. It’s perfect to travel with the truck and learn all about shipping rules, driving times, tickets and other things. I also practise my languages during race weekends, speaking English at least 80 per cent of the time. I have to make up for what I miss at school, but it’s easily worth it.”

So many trips have additionally meant a lot of personal responsibility. From Barcelona last October, Friberg had to get home on his own – an adventure involving a wrong airport terminal and late change of gate – but as he admits, he was ‘brought up to fend for myself’.

It’s an approach that is already paying dividends.

“I see a bit of myself in Einar,” says Kristoffersson Jnr. “I was about his age when I started working in the team. He’s doing great and I’m not really surprised he has worked his way up so quickly. He’s always there and keen to learn, hanging over the shoulders of the more experienced mechanics. If you’re doing a good job, you will soon end up with more important duties.”

Those sentiments are echoed by Kristoffersson Snr, who explains that Friberg is not treated with kid gloves inside the team.

“Einar is fantastic!” he enthuses. “He is the first to arrive in the morning and last to leave in the evening, wrapping bumpers on his own late at night. He’s always really willing to get stuck in. He started at the very bottom of the ladder and has worked his way up. Despite his age, he has become an integral and very natural part of our team and is completely accepted by all the others. He is clearly the youngest member, but nobody notices...

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 8:30:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 9:30:00 AM