Tributes to Knut Söderqvist

Knut Söderqvist died in an accident at his home in Thailand on 28th April 2012.

Knut first came to prominence in the late 1970s when he imported a US Funny Car which was driven by Harlan Thompson. Knut and Harlan's racing relationship lasted for several years and was rekindled as recently as 2006 when Harlan drove one of Knut's Top Fuel Dragsters in Bahrain. Knut helped to keep European Fuel racing going through some bad times and in later years, through his rental cars, he helped some of Europe's Top Fuel stars to make their names. He kept a legendarily large supply of spares, acquired from his racing contacts in the USA with his unwavering sixth sense for a good deal, and his trailer often resembed an Aladdin's cave. In addition Knut's company Carbon By Design was responsible for some revolutionary developments in injector hat design with some of the US' most prestigious teams vying to purchase each variant as soon as it emerged.

Knut had a cheerful and healthy disregard for authority and his sense of humour was legendary. His best friends will tell you that his fuse could be short on occasion but he was invariably just as quick to recover his good humour.

Knut was a solid supporter of and could always be relied upon to provide "Bullshit" - his words - and quotes which never failed to raise a smile. When recognising your News Editor's number on his mobile he would answer "Bullshit department speaking".

When Knut retired to Thailand European drag racing lost one of its real characters and Fuel racing one of its biggest proponents.

We have received the following tributes to Knut. To send your own tribute, E-Mail

The most recently-received tributes are at the top of the page.

Jag har inte träffat dig på många år men tänker på dig ibland. Vi var ju i princip uppväxta ihop – barndom, skoltid och lite ungdomstid. Tänk när vi gick i småskolan och jag fick svara på vilket födelsedatum du var född och när vi var hos min mormor och satt och hade det gott vid hennes vedspis. Jag är ledsen över att du inte finns mer men när vi träffas igen får vi väl fortsätta med den djurpark vi hade tänkt anordna. Din barndomskamrat och vän.

-- Gerd i ängås

You didn't disappear from us the 28th of April. You will forever be Knut and live on in our memories. We've had an unusual life together. We started with racing together -76 and we kept contact since then until now. I, Lill-Tommy (Nissas) Almqvist today have great sorrow after receiving message of your passing. You will always be in our memories. I could write a long story about our history of us as friends. All the good times together within racing, and also all fond memories outside of the racingtrack. We had an amazing trip when we visited you in 2001 in America. And we will keep your smiles and laughter and also "ääh bullshit" -expression warm in heart :) You were a special person, maybe not everyone understood you, but I have been with you so long so I know… Knut - the big fighter. Dragracing was number 2 for you, number 1 was always your children, Peter and Petra. Number one, not second. I send my deepest condolences to them today.

We were a special team, Harlan, Kaj, Stefan (Jösse), me and you. We travelled everywhere in Europe. You were always happy and decisive about winning. You will be missed by many. Family, friends and probably  even your foes. Knut! I'll see you up there, and lets start over. I hope you've had time then to gather stuff! We will meet again.

Warm thoughts.

-- Lill-Tommy (Nissas) Almqvist with family in Harbo, Christel, Nathalie, Camilla and Lena

To King Knut's friends, with love from his children Peter and Petra

RIP pappa. I love you and miss you.

-- Cathrine

When Knut Söderqvist decided to conclude his involvement in the straight-line wars it was indeed the end of an era that for him began in the mid-Seventies. I well remember the entertaining times back when the Phelps family ran Santa Pod Raceway and Knut successfully campaigned a series of Funny Cars after meeting Harlan Thompson in the States and procuring the ex-Ed 'the Ace' McCulloch American Home Shield Plymouth Arrow that, incidentally, debuted over here more than thirty years ago bearing Swedish national hockey team Tre Kronor colours and with Harlan behind the wheel. Budweiser branding later adorned its flanks, during which time the single-car team expanded to two, attaining much success. Knut later moved on to Top Fuel, where he again created a multi-car team and again left an indelible mark on the sport. We shared a wicked sense of humour and it was a tonic just to meet him at races on either side of the Atlantic because he always had a warm greeting prior to regaling listeners with some great stories, at the end of which I was often helpless with mirth. He could at times be cantankerous, though primarily had a glass-half-full, sunny nature. But when it came to racing, Knut was determined to ensure that fans were given something to root for. His drivers over the years were many and his sales success with the Carbon by Design business was legendary, ditto the de rigueur wheeler-dealing for second-hand race parts and other, er, unconventional business dealings deemed necessary to keep his travelling acceleration show on the road.

When he moved back to his native Sweden, a party of friends / drag racing devotees was invited to the housewarming and a tour of the premises he shared with Johnny Nilsson and where his Fuel operation was based. It was a memorable excursion for everyone and although the always entertaining individual retired a few years back, sold everything, moved to Thailand, took a Thai bride and settled in to a more relaxed way of life, I kind of hoped that he might not have completely turned his back on blown nitro racing. I know he proposed in 2008 putting together the grandly named Funny Car World Series, but, alas, nothing came to fruition.

King Knut will surely be fondly remembered by many for the irrepressible demeanour and sheer joie-de-vivre he brought to the European drag racing scene that, with his passing, has now lost one of its most popular characters. RIP.

-- Andy Willsheer

I remember travelling with the Mad Swede to Pomona with six Top Fuel wings and four top hats as hand luggage. The customs enjoyed that, it took us ages. He was a rogue but a lovable one. He would try to do a deal on anyone it didn't matter who they were. I shall miss our time at Pig farm International and helping to build our car while I was in hospital with a brain tumour. And our pubbing nights around Wellingborough. Whereever he is now, I expect he has started doing deals and a great deal of bullshit is going on. I have a photo of Knut and Barry Sheavills, at the end of an event at the Pod, sampling Barry's magic brew being dispensed out of his petrol pump. Two old dinosaurs together! Magic memories. Thank you Knut. The King is dead, long live The King.

-- Dave and Carolynne

Such very sad news that has shocked me no end. I had the great pleasure of crewing with King Knut for a couple of years, starting at the pig farm in the freezing cold and mud. From the very start you became aware of his passion for Top Fuel and his larger-than-life personality. Every race meeting was an adventure, you knew something was going to happen but you never knew quite what and when, I remember well the time he turned up with a 45 gallon drum of "The best quality racing oil" for the whole weekend's racing... it turned out to be 45 gallons of diesel for the lorry, but as only the King of Top Fuel could do, twenty minutes later more oil than the local chippy uses in a week arrived, Knut magic. A man larger than life, who gave me some of the best memories ever, and a man I will never forget. Deepest sympathy to his family and all the many friends feeling such a very sad loss.  

-- Pete Rivers

Oh no, I do not believe this sad news. This is a shock for me. As I knew Knut, he should have lived such a long life with his great desire for life. Thank you Knut for everything you did for me. I can say you opened the world for me. You will always be on my mind. My sincere sympathy to all of his relatives and friends.

-- Lydia

I was shocked to hear of Knut's passing. The news was upsetting. I have many fond memories of him. I loved his stories. My favorite was about his monkey that rode on top of his car. He was a character. I traveled to Europe for Christmas one year with him and my family. He taught me to weld and insisted I wear full leathers while riding my motorcycle. I have never met a more well travelled man who lived his life to the fullest. He feared nothing and made you feel alive in his presence. I could go on and on about Knut even though I only knew him a few years. He loved Elvis. My prayers to his friends and family. His children Peter and Petra. God Bless your hearts.

-- Betsy Hauser

Det är med stor sorg vi i familjen fick höra att Knut gått bort i en olycka. Knut och jag var gifta på 1970-talet och vi har sonen Peter tillsammans han har också en underbar dotter Petra. Dom två åker nu till Thailand med stor sorg för att begrava sin pappa. Jag var med i början av dragracing tiden och det var en rolig tid som jag minns med glädje.  Vila i frid Knut du kommer alltid finnas i våra hjärtan.

-- Evy Österlind-Söderqvist

Very sad news. I met Knut through an ad on looking for crew then went down to Pig Farm International for a Knut-style interview in the back of a trailer. He asked about my background then called me a Mudda f**** the job is yours. Thanks to Knut I became a crew member and have made many friends from around UK and Europe and had very happy times working for Knut. As anyone who knows him there are stories aplenty. At a party in his house in Sweden I heard him saying to a vegetarian nun who was there "Noooooo don't you like to eat the meat can I persuade you to try it" followed by a wink in his eye. My friend you will be missed but, as usual, when your friends talk about you Knut it will always raise a smile and laughter. Thoughts to all family and friends. RIP Knut.

-- Peter Prichard

It was a shock to get that phone call stating that Knut suddenly passed away and we wish to send our deepest condolences to his family. Knut was a valued friend to us with a relationship built on mutual trust. He helped me into racing Top Fuel and I will never forget his words of warning before my first licensing run, saying "Are you really sure you want to do this? Because when you do there is no turning back... you will never want to race anything less powerful ever again". Oh was he right! Knut had his set ways that you sometimes had to work around, like grocery shopping at Tesco's at 2 am, but overall he was a very happy and hardworking man. Just thinking about our good old times instantly puts a smile on my face. The stories he told were remarkable and we could listen to them for hours. The memories Knut will leave us can be summed up with:   the stories, the laughter and the "rackabajsare" in the bullshit department! Rest in peace.

-- Susanne and Gordon Callin and families

Shocking news. I was sitting down at Tarlton Raceway in South Africa when I got the tragic SMS about my longtime friend Knut's accident. I and my son Dennis were in our workshop and working with the nitro Funny Car we running down there. The first time I meet Knut was in 1976 via Bruno Donati at Ital American Motor Import and since that day we have been very close friends. I have so many memories of Knut that I could write a whole book about it. I spent lots of time with him in England at Pig Farm International. When he moved back to Sweden I found him a house which he bought and we shared my workshop for five years. Then he moved to Thailand and I got all his remaining race parts including two Top Fuellers. We talked a lot about his retirement but he thought that Thailand was the right place to be. I came back to Sweden yesterday and went in to my workshop which is still full of memories of Knut . From Monday evening and today I have got lots of phone calls from all over the world wanting to show respect for Knut. Life must go on but for me it is the biggest loss of my life. King Knut you will never be forgotten. And King Knut's family are in our thoughts.

-- Johnny Nilsson and family

I was shocked today when I read that in Eurodragster. Knut was the guy who injected the racing needle into my blood. When we raced in Ensisheim, France, our small club race starting in 1981 it was a must to travel to Santa Pod and watch the big boys. Knut and Harlan Thompson with his Budweiser-sponsored team and with that big trailer was amazing. I bought my first blown alcohol engine from Knut in 1989 and I bought the legendary huge Budweiser trailer. We had a lot of fun at the pig farm we put that engine in my first Funny Car. I still remember the smell from this farm. Knut was always a real friend and we make a lot of jokes together. When I started in Top Fuel he helped me with some parts out of his trailer. I remember that when we stayed at the Hind in Wellingborough Knut fell asleep early evening in the bar and we started to to paint his face with markers and he didn't wake up. That was Knut! Thank you for the good times on the race tracks! RIP.

-- Urs Erbacher

As many others have pointed out here, there is much too much to say about the one and only Knut Söderqvist. Suffice to say that if you submitted even half of it as a movie script they would say it was fictional! Or "Unbelieve - able" as he would have said himself. He had a great, illustrative and expressive turn of phrase, often funny as hell, and most of the time unprintable. But he did create the best saying ever for a race car, and in particular a Fuel car, after all the work finally ended, he said in that accent: "The war machine is ready!". Condolences to all of Knut's family and heartfelt sympathies to all who knew him.

-- Eddie Corr

Where do you begin to talk about someone who has had such influence on your life. The nickname "The Animal" came from Knut back in 1987 if memory serves correct. I was bigger and healthier in those days and was picking up short motors and moving them about like the were cardboard hence where the nickname came from. The times we would argue  with neither of us backing down over something stupid. The amount of times I have heard the expression "Bullshit Department" or "Too much f****** Hawaii not enough work". Many more sayings too numerous to list. Driving the truck over 1000 miles up to Piteå wearing ear defenders so I didn't have to listen to his moaning when he wasn't asleep in the passenger seat. But you know what, I wouldn't change any of it. I remember the time in Finland he was drunk on whiskey in a chair, fell asleep, woke up startled, stood up and stood straight into a container of waste oil and then fell into the trailer, we laughed on that one for days.

I spent a lot of the last twelve years in Sweden with Knut prior to him moving over to Thailand and had some of the best times of my life, even if it did mean getting up at four in the morning most of the time. You either loved him or hated him but for me he was always up front and I was always looked after. Anything I ever did for him he always made sure I was never out of pocket and more often than not he would put an envelope in my pocket as a thank you for helping etc. We traveled most of Europe, America, Bahrain and Dubai, and each trip we went on was an adventure which you would never forget usually down to some sort of problem that we would have to find our way around. But he always seemed to manage it one way or another.  

I could go on and tell you all stories for hours but I'm sure others will have plenty to tell to amuse.  

In short I'm proud to say he was my friend. Drag racing has without doubt lost one of the biggest characters it has ever had in Europe. Start planning the future Knut, I want many more adventures with you when it's my turn to come and join you once again.  

Godspeed Knut.

-- The World Famous Animal (Knut's words) aka Mark Bodimeade

It was a great shock to read of Knut's death. I did not know quite how to take him in the early days but subsequently he became a great character providing many laughs with his stories. He has been missed from race events for several years but will be missed even further now. Commiserations to his family and friends.

-- Roger Gorringe

Sad news indeed, Knut and I pounded the European tracks together with Top Fuel Dragsters for ten years, during which time we became good friends. I have some great memories of the things we did together in Top Fuel racing, he had an amazing amount of energy just to make things happen, and contributed an incredible amount to Fuel racing over the years. I know that one of his proudest moments was getting all four of his cars in to the semi finals at his "home" track Mantorp Park in 2004. He always spoke his mind without really thinking about the consequences, some people could not take that, I actually got to like that trait because there were no grey areas with Knut, you knew exactly where you stood! Now you can have somebody tune a full sixteen car field and take all that prize money!! RIP King Knut, you will be missed, my condolences to family and friends.

-- Alan Jackson

We give our tribute to Knut's family and friends. A great man in European drag racing.

-- Mr Whippy Racing Team

RIP KING KNUT. Mantorp 2001. Enough…

-- Malcolm Francis

I am really sad about this news . Before I go to the point why I am really sad, Knut was the very first overseas guy I delt with. Got his number from one of our crew members (Franco Pace) who used to work with him in the past. When I contacted him and I mentioned Malta, right away he answered "Yes I'll come". And that was the start. From there he guided us to the proper way we should take. During his stay, what impressed me is that he was capable of taking all of your tension and pressure off before you go to drive. And yes I cannot forget Knut cause he gave me the the first confidence. During the Easter Thunderball 2012 where I was driving for my TF licence, we were talking to Barry Sheavills and he told us that Knut wasn't so well. After the event we tried everything to get his number because the Telephonebox Team wanted to help him in some way. So that is why I took it so badly after I heard the news because I didn't manage to get in touch with Knut before he left us. From the Telephonebox Racing Team, we wish to thank you for being so great with us. I am sure all the Maltese will feel the same for you.

-- Duncan Micallef

Can't believe it, shocking news. Always thought you would be around until the end of time. One of my first times working with you was the event we won at the Pod with Alan Jackson at the wheel of the Blue and Yellow dragster and I must admit that I was in awe of it all being a fresh young crew guy making his start. I moved on to other places but many nights of pubbing and clubbing continued with the rather sizeable Rushden drinking circle of the early noughties. Your Funny Cars were second to none and your dragsters the dawn of a new era in modern Fuel racing. Rest In Peace sir!

-- Ricky Gowen

To hear the sad news of the passing of Knut has been a shock to say the least. It was in 2002, after the European Finals, that Knut gave me the chance to get my licence in Top Fuel. I could not have asked for the day to go any better - we made three runs that day finishing with a full run at 5.07/297 and that was it, job done! His words to me as we towed back to the pits were  "Kid... you are either the luckiest kid around, or good". The advice he and Alan Jackson gave me that day is something I have kept with me to this day as I look to start racing again. Working with Knut was was always interesting to say the least and spending nearly a year living with him in Sweden was an education, character building and something I will always remember... especially the 4 am starts. My deepest sympathies to his family in their darkest hour. Knut, I will have a glass of whisky in memory of you and thank you for the opportunities you gave me to drive in Top Fuel.

-- Chris Andrews

Where do I start with the man we called King Knut. I've rolled round his trailer fighting him and drove across America as his friend. There are so many stories I could bore you with but one stands out for me. We had been travelling from Memphis to Harlan Thompson's home in New Jersey. The deal was Knut would drive while I slept then we would swap. When I woke Knut was half cut on vodka, and two hours into my stint he was three quarters gone. I decided to stop and get some food into him. After returning from the loo Knut was asleep in his soup. I carried him to the car and drove the rest of the way. The next day he took me around all the breakers in the Bronx and he was King Knut there as well. As everybody who knows him will say he was moody, funny, a dealer, a crook, a tradesman and most of all a good friend. I will miss our calls on Skype Knut, you leave a lot of good memories so get that Nitro Funny Car ready for me when it's my time.

-- Tony Betts

Tack för allt Knutte. RIP

-- Johan Engström

Knut was a character who made us smile for many reasons. As a marshal you gave me some stick, but hey-ho these things happen. You will be missed. RIP

-- Nigel Anniwell

Knut gave me my start in drag racing. I'd never even been to a race before, but Top Fuel cars were so attractive to me as both a car nut and engineer. I responded to his ad, and he told me to come down to the Main Event and see how I got on. It was a long, tough meeting (I did the bottom end of the motor alongside Franco Pace from Malta), but at the end Knut was satisfied and his fun, cheerful normal self. He just thrust a few hundred pounds into my hand (covered my flights and train fare, important for a 3rd year poor Uni student!) and said "So, do you want to come to Sweden for a couple of weeks next month?". I was honoured and overjoyed! That was the start of a long racing partnership that only came to an end when he finally retired from racing and moved out to Thailand. We had some good fights at times in the heat of the racing, but he always trusted my judgement and encouraged me to learn from Alan Jackson and Bill Schultz. He also always thanked me for my efforts and covered my travel costs. There are many who have had sour dealings with Knut, but my view is that those people expected to pay a small contribution (either financially or in effort) and to get something big out of it. If you recognised what was involved and how Knut worked, it was easy to do well and have fun! I think my lasting memory of him will be at the meet and greet in Bahrain, when he casually (and somewhat drunkenly) asked a dignitary in his Swenglish accent "Where do you get those nice pyjamas?"! Thankfully said person did not understand, and Knut was not imprisoned for insulting someone important! Rest in peace old friend, I am proud to have been your friend and will never forget you.

-- Rob Inglis

Oh no! Knut was a very good fiend of ours - and we've really missed him since he went to Thailand.  His cheery mis-pelt emails always ended 'Your fiend Knut'. Goodbye, my friend - I'd always expected to see you again.

-- Carolynne and Dave

As you know Knut was a one-off and will never be replaced. He started lots of drivers off in Top Fuel, Chris Andrews being one of them. There are too many stories to tell about him, all I can say is he will be greatly missed and im proud to say he was a friend. RIP Knut,sure he will be selling God something.

-- Gary Page

Many times I had arguments on the startline with the old sod, but he never held a grudge against me personally. That wry old smile would come over his face as much to say "Okay I tried but never got away with it". Great character who will be missed by us all.

-- Stu Bradbury

RIP "King Knut". Thank you for your engagement in European Top Fuel drag racing, the KS Racing / Harlan Thompson / Budweiser combination really got me hooked to quarter mile action. It was the first Nitro Funny Car I ever saw/heard/smelled in the early 1980s at Fliegerhorst Erlensee in Germany, as the car just kept on getting faster all the way to the finish line Harlan ran a 6.24, which was a Ruropean best but "unofficial" because the track was not sanctioned for TF. It was sad to read about your move to the "White House" years ago, and it is even more sad that your years of retirement in Thailand were too short.

-- Benni Voss

I want to be one of the first to say how gutted I am to hear of the sudden departure of Knut from our world. I think I was the only Champion from the Knut stable and had lots of good and bad things to say about him at that time. However once I understood his nature I have nothing but fond memories of a great interesting and clever and funny character who gave European drag racing a huge boost with his stable of Top Fuel cars and created an opportunity not only for li'l old me to drive a Top Fuel Dragster but to win the 2003 FIA Top Fuel Championship being the first and only rookie ever to do so at the time! The combined efforts of super tuner Alan Jackson and Knut's innovations was a force to be reckoned with and I am proud to have been a part of that. To all his family and friends around the world I raise my glass and toast one of life's true characters with a smile and a heavy heart. Rest well my friend. Half revs.

-- Smax and the Ant Hill Mob family in Canada

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