John Haugland – The Discreet Norwegian

John Haugland is regarded as one of the best Norwegian rally drivers ever, widely known for his lifelong connection with the Czech manufacturer Škoda, a fairly unusual association back in the days of the Iron Curtain. Quite a coincidence I wrote the first version of this article, more or less three years ago, precisely on the day in which the world celebrates the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first big step to end the Cold War, if it really truly ended…

John Haugland on his early days (Google Images)

Returning to our man, Haugland was born at Stavanger, nowadays known as the centre of the Norwegian oil industry, on the 23rd September of 1946. Even if Norway hasn’t the same racing pedigree such as Finland and Sweden (after the 1955 Le Mans tragedy, Norway enforced severe motor racing restrictions that, even if they weren’t so wide as the Swiss ones, hampered its development), it hosted a thriving motorsport scenario during the sixties, not only on rallies – discipline we use to associate immediately with Scandinavia and their epitome, the Flying Finns – but also on racing, both on gravel kilometer ovals and ice racing. And it was in this thriving scenario that young John caught the motorsport bug, initially with motorbikes and only later on four wheels. Nevertheless, money was vital to have a chance of starting a motor racing career, and it wasn’t properly John’s strongest point. Also, his choice – rallying – proved more expensive than circuit racing, so Haugland chose the latter to debut and, at the same time, went into an apprenticeship as a car technician with Škoda Norway. These circumstances led John to buy, in 1965, a Škoda Octavia TS, which he then updated and entered on some minor track races. Continue reading