RJ: How beneficial was it to your later racing career to learn how to drive early in life as a boy on the iced-over lakes in your homeland?
KB: I think that is has always been beneficial to my racing career. In my opinion you are not much of a driver if you cannot sit in anything and take it to the limit, no matter the surface or car. To get there you need to practice on all kinds of driving.
RJ: Your successful test in a Williams at Paul Ricard in 1993 saw you make huge progress in your career - but obviously you had to overcome the issue of a wet track - did that worry you before you did the test, and did you think your best chance to impress had gone?
KB: I never worry about conditions, I just try to do the best I can. As it turned out that test went really well, everyone was pleased and it propelled me into F3000.
RJ: You tested for Williams, Benetton, Ligier and Arrows - although you didn't get as many chances as you would've liked, what was, for you, the most enjoyable car of the four you drove and why?
KB: I did not drive all those cars. I drove the one test in the Williams and then the Arrows. I signed a deal with Tom Walkinshaw to drive for the French squad Ligier F1 which he was team boss for. The contract was for testing for the first year and a race seat the second year. However, before we got started Tom parted ways with Ligier and my contract was transferred to Arrows, a team he acquired.
RJ: I remember you being linked to a number of drives in Formula 1 around 1995 and 1996. Were you close to anything being confirmed? What was the reason you didn't get a drive - bad timing/luck? You certainly had the budget as you had BIMA, H & M and Ericsson behind you, I believe.
KB: I did have sponsors for F3000 and we were winning and running up front with Super Nova but I had no sponsors for F1. That was not necessary as you could get drives on merit in those days. Me not driving F1 had more to do with my own values than anything else. F1 was not a goal of mine, winning was and I was not going to drive anything unless I could see a reasonable path to success.
For me that meant I wanted a team where I at least could get on the grid and make an impression to hopefully attract interest from a bigger team. I was offered, with the help of Keke Rosberg a testing contract with McLaren but they had good race drivers already signed for several years forward so it was hard to see this path. Bear in mind in those days test drivers were not regarded as the next driver in a race seat.
Ligier therefore seemed a better place to start, a middle-of-the-field team, reasonably financed and with a race seat opportunity for the following year. But when I got transferred to Arrows I cancelled the contract after having tested the car a few times, as the whole operation was disastrous and it was no longer possible to see the path. This was late in the season and although I was offered to drive the Lola F1 (that only did a couple of races before folding) the chances were pretty much gone.
RJ: What attracted you to racing in the US - and in particular the IRL Series? Especially so the latter because it was still quite a fledging series - so did you have any concerns about the competiveness of the series and the political upheaval going on in US racing at the time?
KB: After F3000 I had nothing so I looked for opportunities. IRL provided such an opportunity and as a driver you do not think about politics. Just an opportunity to drive and win. IRL was a competitive series on-track. After having won the championship and Indy 500, in order to compete against all drivers and teams in "IndyCars" I switched to CART, the competitor series and won there too so it worked out well for me. I also drove IROC with success against the NASCAR drivers.
I have always been a huge fan of American racing. Their style is "less rules and more individuality" although nowadays the style gap between Europe and USA seems to have narrowed a bit. From a driver competitive stand point it's hard to find a tougher challenge than IndyCar. On average over a season and the different track configurations the cars are quite similar in performance.
RJ: What reasons do you think you didn't have the success in America on road and street circuits that many people would've expected you to?
KB: On the surface this is probably true. But we ran well on road courses too but the Ford engine was more suitable for ovals so it did not show that clearly. It had lots of high end power which gave us both an edge and a disadvantage depending on track type.
Later I ran with Ganassi with Toyota power and the results were somewhat reversed and ran better on the road courses. We should have won 3-4 races that year based on our performance but we sadly only managed one win (Mexico City) due to pit and mechanical trouble. For the following year it was back to the IndyCar series again as most teams moved across from CART. The best cars in my opinion were the CART cars. They were fabulous machines, lots of power over 1000 bhp and we ran a much diversified racing schedule.
RJ: Conversely, you did really well on ovals. How easy was it for you to adapt and what was your secret to learning the art of oval racing so well?
KB: The biggest difference with ovals is that your life is at risk all the time so it requires a different mental attitude and approach. But as I said above, to be a good driver you should be able to drive anything fast, anywhere.
The biggest surprise to me was how fast you could go through the corners when you optimize everything in the set up for the purpose of just turning in one direction. Oval racing is, contrary to what many of us Europeans think very complex to get right. Both in terms of set up and from a driving perspective. The qualifying at Indy 500 is the toughest and scariest challenge you will ever come across as a racing driver.
RJ: How difficult - mentally - is it to come back from such a monumental crash like the one you suffered in Texas in 2003? What goes through your mind when you return - is it just another race or is there a conscious shift in your thinking and actions that wasn't there before?
KB: The comeback itself was not that difficult. I set the fastest qualifying time of the field. Sure, there were questions in my mind if I had the speed and mental toughness required still but that was put to rest after only a few laps. The hardest was to come back at all. It was easier to list the things that were not broken in my body after my crash!
I suffered 214 G's and my ear piece G-sensors broke at 193 G's so you can imagine it was a crash that you just do not walk away unscratched from. It took 18 months of daily rehab and training to get myself in a position to drive.
At the age I was when I made my comeback I was not prepared to continue to work that hard anymore and give every minute of my time to win. At the same time it did not appeal to me to run in the middle of the pack. That?s why I retired.
RJ: What is it that appeals to you about rallying and the X-Games?
KB: I did not drive anything for several years after my retirement until a good friend of mine convinced me to drive his Rally X car at the X-Games in L.A. We won over Travis Pastrana. I guess winning lit my fire again.
Trying new forms of motorsport is exciting and it is a challenge to try to master them. It's a challenge to try to beat the other drivers and also my own expectations. Rallying for example, learning how to interpret road notes and working with a co-driver is great fun. Although I won more rally events than I lost, I always felt I could have driven every special stage faster. I asked my co-driver before starting my rally driving adventure "how fast do you drive in rallying?" He said "what do you mean? we of course drive 100%".
But that?s the beauty of it. You cannot drive 100% as we mean it in racing terms. Because you do not know the surface, grip or road 100%. So you can always make up time by pushing that little bit harder which in racing where every inch of the track and grip is known, you cannot.
RJ: For a long time you were closely linked with Marcus Ericsson's development. How do you feel he's progressed since his move to Sauber?
KB: I say as I always say. On-track performance is key. Hopefully he can sharpen up a bit.
RJ: You've got a special affinity now with Goodwood as you won here in the RAC Tourist Trophy race in 2011 and the Whitsun Trophy race in 2013, both at the Revival. What do you enjoy both racing here and appearing at the Festival of Speed?
KB: Both are great events, Goodwood has caught a tune with the motorsport fans and for me its a pleasure to be involved. I get to meet new friends from other eras, from other fields of motorsports and in the automotive industry and a lot of new and old fans. The events are plainly one of the very best motorsport events on this planet today. My other favourite is the Indianapolis 500 (which is unbeatable but perhaps I am a bit biased!).
RJ: Are you still performing with your rock band? What do you enjoy the most about this?
KB: We do not perform shows much anymore but we are still writing and recording music. Music is a passion and a hobby of mine and that is all.
Interview conducted online but after liaison at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, 26th June 2015 with Richard, Kenny and Goodwood?s motorsport media co-ordinator, Jamie O?Leary. Thanks to Jamie for organising, and in particular to Kenny for his time, both in person, and then by email.