mats bjerknes - rallycross racer with a joystick
it takes a lot of nerve & skill to drive at high speed with a joystick. it takes viking spirit!
IT TAKES A LOT OF NERVE & SKILL TO DRIVE AT HIGH SPEED WITH A JOYSTICK.
IT TAKES VIKING SPIRIT!
My name is Mats Bjerknes - I am 27 years old.
I was born and live in Flå in Norway which is about 2hrs drive north west of Oslo.
I was born with a muscle disease called SMA type 3.
I have always been interested in motorsport, but when my older brother Steffen started racing I was knew this was something i wanted to do too.
He started racing «bilcross» - its a low-cost form for rallycross.
My first car. A VW 1302S, my big brother is behind the car trying to make it faster. Photo: MRT
I got my first car when i was 9 years old. I had some more strength in my arms and legs that time, so I managed to drive it with a steering wheel and use my foot on the throttle pedal.
But I couldn't shift gears.
After that I owned a couple of cars with automatic gear boxes - first a Mazda 323 and later a Opel Kadett E.
When i was 15 years old my father started working serious with building a car I could drive properly - with joystick steering system.
We found a system that had been taken from a wrecked handicap-car.
My friends and family worked hard to get the sponsorship we needed to buy expensive parts.
After a year, they had gathered around £13,000 to buy my first real racecar and all the parts we needed.
My first racecar. A 1986 BMW 325. I raced it from 2006-2010. Photo: MRT
This was the start of Mats Racing Team – now MRT.
The first racecar was a BMW 325, driven by two joysticks.
One joystick to throttle & brake – driven by an electric motor.
The other joystick was used to steer the car - a hydraulic system connected direct to the rack and pinion.
My third racecar – Renault Laguna V6. Same joystick system in every car. Photo: MRT
With the BMW I had a lot of good memories.
My best result was in 2008 when I came 2nd place OA.
Really fun and impressed a lot of people.
I also managed two 4th places OA in the BMW.
These two photos are from when i got my 2nd place with the BMW. Photo MRT
After the BMW was wrecked we built up a Volvo 940, and after two years we changed to a Renault Laguna V6.
In 2015 I imported a Nissan 350Z from Japan.
Sponsorship had grown and I wanted to take my racing up a level.
Now this car really got the attention from people in Norway, as well the rest of the world.
I'm still learning to go faster with it. It's difficult but I'm getting there.
My best result so far has been 17th out of 40 drivers.
The system is the same as in the first car, but we have converted it to a 4 way joystick, so now I throttle, brake and steer with the same joystick.
Going hard with the Z in Uvdal – Norway. Photo: MRT
A bit difficult, but as I was getting weaker in my left arm, this was necessary.
In August 2016 I got a golden-ticket to race in Norway's biggest race - the National Final.
I raced with 150 of the very best drivers in the country.
A cool experience - I finished 117th out of 150.
Me and my always supportive and mechanic-boss Dad - Per Narve. Photo: Matias Nordahl Carlsen
Next year I will be competing for the full season in my Nissan aiming to continue to improve my pace and performance.
As well as racing, my next goal is to become a co-driver to my little brother in rally.
We have bought the car – a Peugeot Sport 306 S16.
I am waiting for authorisation from the Norwegian Motorsport Federation - it's all about safety - but until then I am Team Manager for my brothers.
I have 3 brothers and we all race.
Here is the four brothers who is racing. Photo: Matias Nordahl Carlsen
Check out these 3 short videos - be a passenger with me and watch how I use my joystick to control my Nissan.
Articles, photos & video supplied by Mats Bjerknes