A Few Minutes with Little Leaf – Stefan Johansson

We recently had the opportunity to ask Stefan Johansson a few questions about his endeavor with Corsa Motorsports and some of his past experiences in motorsports.

Mecca of Speed: Unlike the hybrid system currently in Formula One, which is a push to pass system, the system on the Ginetta Zytech hybrid power is integrated continually into the driveline. How does this delivery system compare to the traditional non-hybrid system?

Stefan Johansson: We don’t really notice too much at the moment because we are not getting a huge power gain out of it. Right now we are running with small amounts in the system, making sure everything is reliable The power gain is minimal compared to the drawback of carrying the extra weight which wears the braking and other systems in the car.

Mecca of Speed: You have a wide range of experience including ownership and management of various open wheel and sports car teams in the past. Is your role with Corsa Motorsports strictly driving?

Stefan Johansson: It’s the whole process. If I see something I can give input on or make a suggestion on I’ll voice my opinion, but it’s not my team. There are a million different ways to run a race team. There is no straight line between A and B so I’m primarily focusing on my job as a driver. I give input and feedback as a driver on the whole development process.

Mecca of Speed: How did you get involved with Corsa Motorsports?

Stefan Johansson: I’ve been racing the Zytech on and off for quite a few years, so I know this car quite well. When this program came along and continued to evolve, Steve Pruitt asked me if I wanted to come and help out.

Mecca of Speed: You have raced at Road America several times in the CART series. How does this car compare to the open wheel cars you have raced here in the past?

Stefan Johansson: Sports cars and open wheel cars are completely different. You can’t really compare the two.

Sports cars are great cars. They are very sophisticated and generate a high amount of down force like a single seat car. They are very refined.

Mecca of Speed: There is a strong tie between watch design and motorsports. How did you get started designing watches?

Stefan Johansson: It started way back in Formula One when I was asked to endorse a watch. The product the company had wasn’t that great. I’ve always been interested in design and asked the company if I could give it a try.

It didn’t work out, they were looking at something very low end and mass-produced. I like more high-end trick watches with mechanical movements, so I just decided to do my own thing in the end.

Mecca of Speed: In the mid 80s you were teammates with Michele Alboreto at Ferrari and then again in 1997 winning Le Mans. Are there friendships that you have kept through the years in motorsports?

Stefan Johansson: Yeah, there are. It’s not like I’m staying in daily contact with anyone in particular, but there are some relationships that are more lasting then others.

With Michele, we were bitter rivals at Ferrari, but respectful. It grew into a friendship because our paths crossed so many times in sports cars and other events and we became good friends.

Mecca of Speed: How did you get the nickname “Little Leaf”?

Stefan Johansson: My nickname in Sweden is Little Leaf, which came from my dad who was called a Leaf when he was racing. He grew up in a little village called Leaf Town or an abbreviation of that.

Mecca of Speed: So you have carried the leaf montage on your helmet ever since then.

Stefan Johansson: Yes, exactly. It’s been my trademark I suppose.

Mecca of Speed: What are the circuits you look forward to during the ALMS season?

Stefan Johansson: I like this track (Road America), and Road Atlanta is a good track. North America has quite a few good tracks that are similar to the European tracks.

Mecca of Speed: Good luck on the remainder of the season.

Stefan Johansson: Thank you.

Content credit Stefan Johanson and John Vatne. Photo credit John Vatne. 

10/4/2009