Jessica Bäckman: a TCR star in the making
Updated: Nov 2, 2019
Young Swede Jessica Bäckman is quickly establishing herself as one of the upcoming touring cars stars after an impressive second TCR season. She will represent Sweden at this weekend FIA Motorsport Games.
Among the profiles of elite female racing drivers, several names from formula championships are often mentioned. Many noteworthy upcoming talents are indeed making their ways up through the fields of the most competitive Formula 3 and Formula 4 championships.
Interestingly enough, though, the Scandinavian premier racing series STCC (or TCR Scandinavia, as it was branded in 2019) has also developed some very talented ladies such as Emma Kimilainen and, lately, Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky and Jessica Bäckman.
Bäckman, a big name on the Scandinavian karting scene with 3 national titles under her belt and plenty of experience at the highest level of European karting, always had very clear ideas about her racing career: the 22 year-old Swede from Boden decided to focus her efforts on touring cars and, after a debut season in national championships, she completed a stunning sophomore season in the hyper-competitive TCR Europe.
With three podiums in three different series, Jessica Bäckman quickly established herself as one of the most exciting touring cars drivers racing internationally. So much so, that she will be representing her country at this weekend's FIA Motorsport Games, the inaugural edition of the "motor racing Olympics".
Held at Vallelunga, outskirts of Rome, the FIA Motorsport Games will feature six different motorsport disciplines: GT, touring cars, Formula 4, karting slalom, drifting and digital motorsport.
An interesting concept that was first pioneered by the A1 GP championship and then resumed by the GT Nations Cup. Main feature of the special event is the single entry per country, selected by the respective National Sporting Authorities. Three ladies will get to represent their nations in the top categories: Christina Nielsen for Denmark, Belen Garcia for Spain and Jessica Bäckman for Sweden.
We had the opportunity to chat with the young Swede at the last round of her European TCR campaign in Monza.
"I thought that maybe I could have be in the top-10, but I never thought that I would be able to fight for podium positions."
RACERS: You had a pretty good career in karting before switching to cars. How was that step?
JESSICA: It was very difficult, because when I drove in karts, I always drove without gears. It was all about braking and acceleration. But when I switched to racing cars, I first had to learn how to change gears, and doing it at the right time!
It was very difficult in the beginning, and also this one [the Hyundai i30 TCR] is the only racing car I've driven. I never drove any other racing car so far, so there was a lot to learn in the beginning, with all the rules as well last year. It wasn't easy: also, because of the front-wheel drive, you have to re-learn everything about how to brake and accelerate, how to get the right speed on new tyres and how to save tyres as well.
I have learnt a lot from last year and this year I feel more comfortable with everything and it makes a big difference.
R: Unlike many youngsters, you didn't go down the road of formula cars after karting. You chose to jump straight in a TCR car, and so far you've driven in pretty much every TCR championship around Europe.
J: Yeah, last year I did the TCR UK and learned a lot, as well as the TCR Scandinavia. This year I was supposed to only do TCR Europe, but then after I finished third in Hockenheim I was invited to do a race in TCR Scandinavia, where I finished third as well, in the same car.
Also, before Barcelona we did one race in the German TCR and I finished second. So I did a lot of championships and I've been at the front in every one of them.
It feels quite good, but still I need to be a bit more consistent. For example, in Monza I had a very bad qualifying, so the races were really hard for me, as I was starting at the back and with so many drivers in the field it's very difficult to come back at the front.
That's also something that I need to learn in order to develop myself: how to react and overtake in traffic.
R: How would you sum up your second season in TCR championships?
J: A lot better than what I expected. Especially in the European TCR, I thought that maybe I could have be in the top-10, but I never thought that I would be able to fight for podium positions. This is why this season has been much better than what I expected.
Also, I'm happy that I could go back to Sweden and finish on the podium, compared to last year when I didn't even get to score a point in the championship. This year I came back in one round and scored a podium, and the same thing applies for the TCR Germany. This really proves how much I improved as a driver.
I think I've got everything in me, I just have to develop some more in situations like when I'm at the back, or in wet conditions.
R: You also did some rally-cross before. Obviously, it's a very different experience compared to this, but do you think is there anything that you can bring to TCR?
J: Yeah! If you get a big slide in touring cars, you have to be confident to keep pushing the throttle, everything you have, and it will sort itself out!
I actually got a lot of car control skills out of rally-cross, it's kind of the same thing. Also, the start is very important in rally-cross, as you only have four laps: if you get a good start, you'll be first into the first corner, and it's up to the others to overtake you.
So it's both about reaction and car control, and I've brought a lot of that experience to TCR.
R: You have been racing alongside your brother Andreas this year. How is it to race with a sibling as a teammate?
J: We're quite nice with each other: of course I want to beat him and he wants to beat me, but if one is faster than the other, we won't take too many risks or push each other off track. In a sense, it's good to have someone in the team that you can really trust.
R: You are one of the most interesting female up-coming talents worldwide. What do you think about the W-Series?
J: It's hard to say. I don't think it would suit me very well, as I've never driven a formula car. But I think it's a nice thing to do to bring more females into motorsport, and we need more of them. But it doesn't really fit me: my focus is on TCR and touring cars. I don't want to mix that with formula cars as are they're a bit different. But I like what they are doing, because I also want more women in motorsport: it's one of the few sports where you can compete equally, on the same terms.
R: As you said, you've been focusing straight on touring cars, since the beginning of your career. What is your favourite racecar? What would your dream race car be?
J: Hard to say, as I've only driven this one! I don't know, really. Maybe GTs look cool, it would be nice to do some 24 hours race in the future, but I don't really know in what kind of car.
Right now, my goal is to go to WTCR in a few years, that's my goal. After that, we'll see what will happen in the future.
R: Do you have a favourite track where you've driven in those two years of TCR?
J: I like the technical tracks, as I'm quite of a smooth driver and on technical tracks you can't push too hard otherwise you lose time. For example, I like Oschersleben a lot, and I also like Hockenheim, where I did two podiums: it suits me very well!
R: Do you have any plans in place for next year already? Maybe TCR Europe again?
J: Nothing is confirmed yet, but I think that I'll do another year of TCR Europe to get even more experience, but we don't know yet.
"I also want more women in motorsport: it's one of the few sports where you can compete equally, on the same terms."
The FIA Motorsport Games will take place in Vallelunga, Italy, on 2-3 November. You can follow the races live here.
Ph credits: Racers-BehindTheHelmet.com