The Funeral


Directly after the autopsy Ronnie Peterson's body is flown from Milan to Sweden, on the afternoon of Wednesday September 13th. It is Colin Chapmans black private jet who transports the coffin to the airport in Jönköping. Riding along in the plane is Barbro, Åke Strandberg and Staffan Svenby. 


At Axamo Airport a car from the funeral parlour awaits to drive Ronnies remains teh last 200 kilometers home and at two o'clock, early Thursday morning, Ronnie is back in his home town Örebro. The coffin is placed in a room adjacent to the crematorium until the funeral in the S:t Nicolai church friday afternoon.

Ronnies mechanics have sent flowers and a long letter as a last greeting to their deceased friend. Another bouquet is placed along with a cast plaque with the inscription: Peterson Bengt Ronnie 1978

Already in the morning people gather to follow the funeral - Friday September 15th 1978. Garland and flowers literally gushed. An hour or so before the funeral the guests arrive. 


Anderstorp Raceways' Sven "Smokey" Åsberg and Eje Elgh came to Ronnie's funeral

The crowd outside the church grew larger. Police estimated that around five or six thousand gathered for the funeral.


Ronnie's wife Barbro was accompanied into the church by the pastor Inge Blomquist and Ronnies brother Tommy. The nearest relatives took their seats at the front right of the church. At the front left three of Ronnies colleagues sat - all World Champions; James Hunt, Niki Lauda och Emerson Fittipaldi.

The cermony was simple and worthy. Only a few memoral speeches were held and all was over in 45 minutes.


The ceremony was begun with Kyrie Eleison by Wikander, played on the great organ by Olof Andersson. After that Göran Fristorp sang "Men går jag över ängderna" by Leif Strand. He started with a solo and after the first Han inledde med att sjunga helt solo och efter första verse he accompanied himself on a guitar. After that the Swedish hymns no. 105 verse 1-5 were sung and then the funeral was officiated.

Pastor Inge Blomquist of Almby parish was officiant. In his speech he said:

"God is close to us in hard times. Let us in mind and feeling come to rest with this conviction when we bid Ronnie Peterson farewell. We all know how his wholehearted commitment in motorsport has led him to success and glory. His yearning to become a racedriver thet once began so modestly in Almby in Örebro. Over the years he evolved and at the end he one of the greatest in his profession. If his name carried a special glow around the world, there was also a large background of courage, skill and strength. He loved his work and accepted its terms.

Most of all we all wish we never had to see the picture that tells us of the accident that happened. The tragic outcome has brought a strong dejection to everyone who knew Ronnie. The hardest blow hits his wife Barbro and his nearest. in this moment we think with strong sympathy of you.

The eternal road. In the hymn we heard that word and it wants to bring God himself into our lives. Beyond our limitations He is, the limitless and eternal. Sometimes Ronnie also spoke about Him. I think of what he said, when he shared some of his inner thoughts. «I think somebody up ther likes me.»

So simple and beatifully he expressed the conviction that God is a part of our lives even in death."

Then followed the rituall three shovels of earth, the prayer and the blessing and yet anoteh hymn - the first three verses of nr. 331.

Ronnies family had expressed their wish for a limitations of the speeches at the funeral. It was only the chairman of Svenska Bilsportförbundet (Swedish motorsport Association), Bertil Lundberg from Gothenburg, and the chairman of the city council in Örebro, Ove Lindberg, who held a short speech each.

 


After that Ronnies colleagues carried the coffin to the waiting catafalque. 


John Watson, Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, Niki Lauda, Jody Schekter and Åke Strandberg carried the coffin together with Gunnar Nilsson who was severly marked by his cancer. Barbro and Tommy Peterson followed.


Inside the church 500 had attended the ceremony - outside along the way to the cemetary 5000 had gathered to follow Ronnie to his last resting place. In the procession to Almby cemetary relatives and guests followed in seven rented limousines a. 


At Almby cemetary the coffin was lowered into to grave and. Relatives and friends took a last farewell and then proceeded to a restaurant in Örebro for a short gathering.


Barbro at the coffin with Ronnies brother Tommy and pastor Inge Blomquist leave a last rose.

Prins Bertil, the motorprince was at the last moment forced to cry off, but had sent a garland of yellow roses, white pimpernels and cypress motorprinsen to his friend. The prince was also supposed to represent Riksidrottsförbundet, whose garland had blue and yellow ribbons. There were also garlands from the city of Örebro Där fanns kransar från Örebro kommun ("Your hometown celebrates your memory") and the province Närkes atheletes association.

But above all it was the world of motorsport racing that honoured Ronnie. Lotus ("With deepest sympathy from directors and staff of Lotus Cars") and its mechanics ("Racing Mechanics"), but also from Lotus Car Club of Sweden who had sent a garland of yellow roses and black ribbons("Tack för det Du betytt för oss och motorsporten (Thank you for what you have meant to us and to motorsport"). Team-mate and newly World Champion Mario Andretti, who despite serious attemts could not cancel a long since agreed engagement in the USA ("Mario and Deanne Andretti"). Geoffrey Kent, PR-manager at John Player representing one of Ronnies sponsors. The Swedish F3-drivers (Among others Anders Olofsson and Eje Elgh) had sent a garland with blue and yellow ribbons. Picko Troberg, ex racing star and old friend of Ronnie honoured him with a garland of yellow flowers and yellow ribbonsden ("Lena and Picko"). Rallydriver Harry "Sputnik" Källström and his codriver Claes Billstam had sent a garland with a last greeting. Svenska Kartingvännerna (The Swedish Kartingfriends), as well as Svemo (Swedish Motorcycleassociation), had sent garlands. Among other garlands: "The friends at Saab", Speedwaystar Bengt Jansson (Smederna, Eskilstuna), racingdriver Rune Tobiasson (who, as Ronnie, drove BMW), Dala Motorklubb, Karlskoga Motorklubb, SMK Valdmarsvik, Gokart-friends in Tierp, Racing Drivers of London, Sportvagnsklubben i Göteborg, Mercedesklubben and Örebro BMC-klubb. Tyrecompanies Goodyear and Firestone. Alfa Romeo and BMW. The other teams next to Lotus (e.g. McLaren and Brabham). A last greeting from Ronnies British friends Pam and Alan Turner with a bouquet of red roses ("The more we got to know Ronnie, the more we loved him. We will miss him so much."). 30 students of the Riksgymnasiet in Örebro (among them Peter Zacsko) had collected a garland for Ronnie. And among all the other garlands and flowers a bouquet from Barbro "Lill-Babs" Svensson ("A last thank you and farewell"). More than 400 garlands came to cover Ronnies grave.


Some of hte many friends who came to say goodbye:

  • Colin Chapman. Ronnies employer and manager of Team Lotus. They knew each other well after having worked together for almost four years.
  • Ken Tyrrell. Ronnies Team Manager in 1977, the last year of the dpectacular six-wheeler. The man behind Jackie Stewart.
  • Alan Rees. One of the founders of Team March, for whom Ronnie drove in1970-72 and 1976. Also a close friend in private.
  • Frank Williams, Bernie Ecclestone, Teddy Meyer, Walter Wolf and Jochen Neerpasch. All team mangers in Formula One. Good friends in motorport and admirers of Ronnie. Frank Williams said at the funeral that Ronnies death came as a hard blow and that it felt difficult to continues.
  • Niki Lauda. Once Ronnies student and still one of his greatest admirers. Three times World Champion. Close to burning to death in his car in 1976.
  • Emerson Fittipaldi. Double World Champion and one of ronnies closest friends. Team mate at Lotus in 1973.
  • James Hunt. The hero from monza who risked his own life to get Ronnie out of the burning car. World Champion in 1976.
  • Gunnar Nilsson. F1-colleague and very close friend of Ronnies.Very gratful for the support Ronnie gave him during the illness that finally took his life one month later.
  • Tim Schenken. One of Ronnies oldest and best friends from the F3-days. Shared car with Ronnie when they helped to win factory Championship for Ferrari in 1972. Neighbours for several years in London.
  • Jody Schekter. Freind and colleague. One of the six to carry his coffin. World Champion teh year after (1979).
  • John Watson. Competitor in Formula One, but also a good frend (who later came to live with Ronnies widow Barbro).
  • Åke Strandberg. Worked as a mechanic for Ronnie during several years. Became one of his best friends outside the track.
  • Patrick Tambay. One of the younger drivers in F1. Has always looked up to him as a teacher.
  • Bobby Clark, Rex Hart and Nigel Bennet of Team Lotus. Bobby and Rex were Ronnies personal mechanics. Nigel were as engineer the man responsible for Ronnies car.
  • Picko Troberg. A very old friend who competed against Ronnie during his first season in F3 1966. Discovered his talent at an early stage.
  • Reine Wisell. Ronnies true pal and competitor from the years in formula 3. Was also the one to give Ronnie his license to drive F3-cars. Replaced Jochen Rindt in Team Lotus after Jochen was killed at Monza in 1970.
  • Ingvar Pettersson and Sten Gunnarsson. Clubmates with Ronnie In Klubb Karlskoga Motorklubb and very old friends.
  • Gunnar and Torsten Palm. Brothers, both good friends of Ronnie. Gunnar has made himself famous as a co-driver in Rally and Torsten was at one point predicted to be Ronnies crown prince (defeated Ronnie in some Races).
  • Erik Carlsson "På taket" and Björn Waldegård. Fmous Swedish motorsport colleagues - both in rally, where Ronnie made some shaky attempts.
  • Stig Blomqvist and Per Eklund. Stars in rally and rallycross. Good friends of Ronnie and also competitors in the few races he drove in muddy pits and forests.
  • Sven "Smokey" Åsberg. The man behind the f1 races at Anderstorp, these Grands Prix became possible since Ronnie reached the position he had in motorsport, one of Ronnies most avid supporters.
  • Nina Rindt. Widow after Jochen Rindt who was kill in a Lotus during Ronnis first season in F1. Posthumously World Champion 1970. Ronnie and Barbro named their daughter after Nina Rindt. 
  • Marianne Bonnier. Widow after Joachim Bonnier, who was killed at Le Mans in 1972. Jo was the first to believe in Ronnie and employed him. They often raced together in different sportscars.
  • Märt Metslov. As a General Secretary for Svenska Bilsportförbundet and personal friend of Ronnie since many years.
  • Eje Elgh. Clubmate from Karlskoga since the go-kart years. Had great help from Ronnie to almost reach an F1-contract.
  • Sveneric Eriksson and Staffan Svenby. Old friends of Ronnie and also his managers and businessconsultants. Staffan was there at the hospital when ronnie passed away.

Sten Bergling had a full page on Ronnies funeral - Unfortunately the article focuses on the millions that the drivers in Formula one make, but Sten is probably still prowd of the way he said farewell to our greatest racingdriver ever.

Ronnies funeral was probably the largest ever in Örebro.

On the same day the German F1 driver Rolf Stommeln announces that he will quit motorracing.:

"Im simply scared. Every race is driven with your life at stake. I can't drive any more since my friend Ronnie was killed."

In the book "Ronnie - racerföraren" (Ronnie - the Racingdriver) by DN-journalist Rune Månzon (1978), Ronnie said about the risks in Formula One:

"If I were scared in the literal meaning of the word, I would never had started racing. Racing is dangerous, everyone knows that. The risks are there all the time and we who race count them in. We know that sooner or later we run off and land in some safetynets or barrier. It's part of the job. But I don't sit and think of killing myself. Death comes when it is supposed to. They just put you in the ground."

Ronnie Peterson, one of our greatest athletes was dead.




Read more:

The Final Grand Prix

The Accident

The Medical transport

The Operation

The Death notice

The Funeral

The Aftermath

The Cause of death