Former Mazda factory World Rally Championship driver Ingvar Carlsson has died at the age of 62. The Swede is believed to have suffered a short illness before passing away last Thursday.
Carlsson was best known for a brace of WRC wins in 1989, when he collected victories on the Swedish Rally and Rally New Zealand in a Mazda 323.
It was with the Japanese manufacturer that Carlsson made his name. Prior to signing for Mazda, the talented, unassuming Carlsson had driven for Datsun, Fiat, BMW and Mercedes.
Like many of his countrymen, Carlsson's rally career began at the wheel of a Volvo and was more than willing to cross over to the other side of the car in order to gain more experience of rallies, he tackled the 1972 RAC Rally as co-driver to Hakan Lindberg in a Fiat 124.
In 1984 Mazda boss Achim Warmbold employed Carlsson to try and turn the rotary-engined RX-7 into a world rally winner. Unfortunately, this was the mid-1980s and world rallying was ruled by total traction, so the rear-drive Mazda struggled from the outset.
The RX-7 was passed over in favor of what appeared to be a much more suitable rally car: the 323 4WD. Carlsson began development on this car in 1985. Both Warmbold and Carlsson gave the new car its WRC debut on the 1986 Monte Carlo Rally, but neither finished – the Swede suffering gearbox failure.
Given that it was homolgated into Group A and, therefore, had at least one year's worth of development on the likes of Lancia and Ford who entered the category in 1987 after the banning of Group B, the 323 never truly delivered. But Carlsson got the best out of it.
His win in Sweden came after his teammate Timo Salonen parked his sister Mazda in a snowbank. But in New Zealand, after a shade under seven hours of driving, Carlsson beat his Kiwi teammate Rod Millen by more than two minutes to seal his second world rally win.
Carlsson remained with the Mazda team as the 323 4WD was morphed into the 323 GT-X in 1990, but he retired from the sport when Mazda called it a day at the end of the following year.