There are many roles in motorsport that are crucial to the running of a team, and not many more important than engineers and mechanics. Often working long into the night fixing, adjusting and improving the cars, these members of the team are invaluable, aiding the team’s success on a race weekend. As with many industries involving STEM subjects, engineering is hugely male-dominated. However, Lisa Jonasson is among a growing number of women deciding to work in the field and doing an extremely good job at it. I spoke to Lisa about working in the World Rallycross Championship, racing in Sweden and her passion for motorsport.
With a family who loved the sport and attended many events, racing has always been a part of Lisa’s life. “It is a family interest and my Dad took me and my older brother to different rallies and motorsport paddocks when we were little. I didn’t know that motorsport was going to be my passion until I grew older, but it has always been a big part of my life,” Jonasson said. As soon as she was given the chance to experience motorsport engineering, it was clear to Lisa that was where she wanted to work. However, to get there she would have to study STEM subjects, and these were not her favourite at school. “I knew that I had to push and work hard with those subjects to be able to reach my goals,” she added.
Her first role in motorsport came when she was the one in the driving seat. At the age of 14, Jonasson began racing in a series in her native Sweden called Folkrace. Similar to Autocross in the UK, competitors race old road cars with speeds of up to 80km/h. Known for being an inexpensive way of getting involved in racing, Folkrace is also popular in Norway, Denmark and Finland where it originates from. However, her first role in engineering came when she was still at high school. “I got the chance to join a team in the Swedish Touring Car Championship for one weekend, Team Tidö. The intention was that I was only going to be there during one day to help the team build tents and so on, just so I could have a feeling of how it was to work in a racing team. But after that day they asked me if I wanted to stay during the entire race weekend! This was at the end of the 2015 season and after the first race weekend I also joined them for one more, and so it began…” Lisa explained. After spending 2 races with Team Tidö, Jonasson quickly realised that the Swedish Touring Car Championship was where she wanted to work. Before the start of the 2016 season she got in touch with another team, PWR Racing Team, enquiring as to whether they would need a mechanic. “The answer was yes and in April 2016 I started working as a weekend mechanic for them. At the same time, I went to school during the week. The season flew by and it was time for me to take another step forward in my career,” Lisa told me.
To find her next step, Jonasson decided to get in touch with Susann Hansen, team manager for Team Peugeot Hansen in World RX. “I got her phone number from one of my teachers and I called her and introduced myself. The first thing she said on the phone was that she had heard about me, I was shocked! I asked if there was a possibility for me to do my internship at their workshop, and they said yes. Two weeks later I started at the Peugeot Hansen workshop in Gotene, Sweden. It went well and it was a lot to learn. After a few months with them, Kenneth Hansen asked me if I wanted to join them during the entire season as one of the mechanics on Timmy Hansen’s car. I couldn’t believe my ears. We travelled around the world, it was challenging and really tough, but it was one of my best decisions ever to join them,” Lisa described.
For the 2018 season, she has returned to the STCC with PWR Racing Team. “My current role is to take care of Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky’s Cupra TCR in the workshop. Also, during race weekends we are a group of four people who takes care of her car,” she said. Working as a mechanic during a race can be an extremely stressful job and so being able to handle difficult situations in an intense racing environment is one of the biggest challenges in such a role. Speaking of the other important parts of her job, Jonasson said: “to always be on your toes, ready for every situation. Always have the car in perfect condition and the most important thing is to be a team player.”
Although her role can be difficult and present many challenges, the experience of travelling the world with a racing team has allowed her to have many unforgettable times. “Every year has brought me great moments of happiness and joy while meeting a lot of new people. I’ve learnt how to face different situations and I have grown as a mechanic,” she told me. This has helped Lisa to be more confident in her abilities, which is very important as she has big goals and dreams for her own career. “I’m so thankful for the series and championships I’ve already had the chance to work in but WRC and F1 are two series that I’ve been thinking a lot about for the future,” Jonasson explained.
At only 20 years old, Lisa Jonasson is only at the beginning of what will surely be a long career in motorsport engineering. Having already worked in 2 major championships and with aims of reaching the World Rally Championship, as well as the pinnacle of motorsport, Formula One, these are both realistic series for her to work in. With many more years ahead of her to gain experience and advice from others in the industry, the advice she would give would be: “push yourself and be determined. Know your own value and go your own way. Don’t listen to people who tell you that you can’t. It will be hard sometimes, but it will be worth it. My choice to become a motorsport mechanic is one of the best and I really do love my job,” she said.
Photo credits: Paulo Maria. Heading photo credit: Daniel Ahlgren