30/11/2017 Munich. Six promising, talented youngsters are part of the BMW Motorsport Junior Programme for the 2017 season. They are all at the start of their careers, but already have an interesting background behind them. As part of a series of interviews, we introduce the individual BMW Motorsport Juniors. This time: Joel Eriksson (SWE).
Joel Eriksson made his debut in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship aged just 17 in 2016. He claimed his first race win in his debut year, along with ten podium finishes and the honour of being the season’s top rookie. He reinforced those strong performances in his second season, in what is one of the most prestigious junior series in the world, eventually ending the year in second place overall. Since June 2016, Eriksson has been part of the BMW Motorsport Junior Programme. He was given a taste of how it would feel to achieve his dream of driving in the DTM, when he attended the Young Driver Test at the Lausitzring (GER).
Joel, having completed your season in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship, you have been back in action in the BMW M4 DTM at the DTM Young Driver Test at the Lausitzring. How was that?
Joel Eriksson: “That was without doubt one of the biggest moments in my career so far. The DTM is one of my goals. As such, I would like to thank BMW Motorsport for giving me this opportunity. The test was really very good and I enjoyed every second in the car. The team and I performed well together, and it was great fun working with BMW Team RBM.”
Was this test a reward for your excellent season in Formula 3?
Eriksson: “You could say that. It certainly felt that way. I also drove at last year’s Young Driver Test in Jerez, so being in that car was not a completely new experience for me. However, after such a good year, it is great to end the season in a DTM car.”
You had a very successful season in Formula 3 – particularly at the end of the season, where you put together a great race to catch up to finish second in the championship. Why were you so strong at the end of the season?
Eriksson: “We also made a really strong start to the season. In actual fact, it was just as strong as the latter stages. However, I had a few issues with the balance of the car in the middle of the season. We did not get the tyres working properly. We dropped too many points at three race weekends in a row. You cannot afford to do that in such a strong championship. At the moment, it is one of the toughest motorsport series in the world. It was very important to me to end the season strongly again. All-in-all, it has been a very good year, although it could have been even better. To finish runner-up in one of the toughest championships in the world is not so bad, but I wanted to win the title. I am happy and disappointed at the same time.”
How did your motorsport career begin?
Eriksson: “When I was five or six years old, my father and a few friends built their own kart in our garage at home. I was then given my first kart when I was six, and it was just about having a bit of fun at first. After about a year, I wanted to get out on a real racetrack. My brother was also given a kart, and we both had loads of fun together. He started to race, but I had to wait about a year until I was seven before I could start competing. After that, we entered a lot of karting classes, but only ever drove nationally, as our plan, even at that early stage, was to switch to Formula racing as soon as possible. That is how my career started.”
Do you have a role model in motorsport?
Eriksson: “Yes, my idol has always been Kimi Räikkönen. Even as a young lad, I always used to watch Formula 1.”
You have been a BMW Motorsport Junior since 2016. How did you come into contact with BMW?
Eriksson: “They got in touch at the start of 2016. After a few meetings and a bit of planning, I joined the programme at the Norisring.”
What does the BMW Motorsport Junior Programme offer you?
Eriksson: “Everything you need, actually. On the one hand, you have the driving itself. But on the other you receive mental and fitness training. There are driver coaches at the circuit. The fact that Formula 3 events usually share the bill with the DTM was perfect for me. It meant that I could always approach the BMW DTM drivers and discuss the track conditions and characteristics, driving style and racing lines with them. It was very good for me to be part of that team.”
How is your relationship with the other Juniors?
Eriksson: “I already knew most of them, particularly Dennis Marschall. We drove together in the same team in the 2014 ADAC Formula Masters. He is a good friend of mine, as is Mikkel Jensen. I have also known Beitske Visser and Nico Menzel since 2014. We have a lot of fun together.”
How would you describe your character in three words – both on and off the track?
Eriksson: “I would say: precise, cool, and quick.”
What do you do best, besides motor racing?
Eriksson: “Tune my old Volvos at home. I have a few of them and restore them. That is one of my strengths, as well as motor racing.”
Is that perhaps an option for after your racing career?
Eriksson: “I am sure I will always work on my cars. If I wanted to do so professionally, I would open my own workshop. That is certainly an option alongside or after racing.”
What have been the best and worst moments of your career?
Eriksson: “The best moment came last year, when I won the Formula 3 Masters at Zandvoort. And the worst was in my first Formula 3 race last year at the Norisring. I had a commanding lead halfway through the race, and was controlling my lead over the guys behind me when Callum Ilott braked far too late in turn one, lost control of his car, and ploughed into the side of me. That was the end of the race for me.”
Do you have a definite goal for your career?
Eriksson: “My goals have always been Formula 1 and the DTM. At the moment, however, the DTM is above Formula 1. I really enjoy driving the DTM car, and it is very well suited to my driving style. As such, the DTM is my goal. Formula 1 was a dream as a young child, and it will always remain a dream. However, you have to be a bit realistic. It is difficult to make it into Formula 1.”