Husqvarna Motorcycles | Motorsport History

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Husqvarna Motorcycles Profile

Following is a profile of Husqvarna Motorcycles in motorsports history, from racing in the Swedish November Turnout Rally in the early 1900s, to the 2012 Dakar Rally, where the now-BMW-owned manufacturer took its first ever stage win.

Triple triumph in the 1916 “Novemberkåsan,” 82 world championship titles to date

The development of Husqvarna Motorcycles is closely tied to sporting success. Participation in competitions brought the performance and reliability of the developed products to the attention of the public.

Success became the proof of those quality attributes that also singled out Husqvarna motorcycles in everyday use. Hence, at an early stage the company competed in race events, which in the home country of Sweden took place on varied and usually mixed surfaces.

The most famous example of these is the rally known in Swedish as the “Novemberkåsan” (November Turnout), which is held annually to this day. In 1916, on only the second occasion of the competition, Husqvarna dominated in impressive style. After 475 kilometers (295 miles), ridden largely on dirt roads and trails, the first three places were taken by Husqvarna riders.

This was followed in the 1920s and ’30s by further triumphs at this and other cross-country trials, as well as numerous road-run Grand Prix successes.

At this time the young engineer Folke Mannerstedt was developing highly competitive road racing motorcycles, including the V-twin four-stroke, weighing in at a mere 127 kg, on which works rider Ragnar Sunnqvist won the 1932 Swedish Grand Prix in the 500 cc class. His team-mate Gunnar Kalén repeated the success in the following year to become European champion in the 500 cc category. In 1934 and 1935 Husqvarna was again successful in the Swedish Grand Prix.

Between 1923 and 1933 Kalén won the Novemberkåsan six times, and in 1934 he also rode a Husqvarna in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. In the Swedish TT, Husqvarna picked up a total of 13 class wins between 1926 and 1935. Sunnqvist also won the Finnish Grand Prix in 1932, the Italian and French in 1936, and the 1935 AVUS race in Berlin, all on Husqvarna machines.

Straight into a winning streak, even away from surfaced roads

With its specialization on purely off-road competitions, which became common during the 1950s, another glorious era began for Husqvarna, when off-road riding defined the character of the brand for decades. Participation in the Six Days with lightweight 175 cc machines marked the start of a success story which would surpass even the run of victories in road racing. In Motocross the first European championship, in 1959, and the first world championship, in 1960, were both won on Husqvarnas.

The European title was picked up by Rolf Tibblin in the 250 cc class, and in the following year in the 500 cc category Bill Nilsson laid the foundation stone for an impressive collection of overall world championship victories.

As well as Tibblin and Nilsson, in the years up to 1970 the Husqvarna riders Bengt Aberg, with two overall world championship victories, and Torsten Hallman with four, contributed to the dominant role of the Swedish brand in Motocross. Further world championship titles were won by Heikki Mikkola in 1974 and 1976 and by Håkan Carlqvist in 1979.

Technical innovations, new categories and the introduction of completely new competition categories illustrate the profound transformation that off-road sport has undergone in the past three decades. Husqvarna has taken up the sporting challenges associated with this and definitively influenced them through its own developments. For example, Husqvarna was one of the pioneers of the reintroduction of the four-stroke class in Motocross in the early 1980s. Then in the mid-1980s a new sports discipline came into being with the Supermoto series.

This blend of asphalt and off-road racing, also known by its French name Supermotard, has likewise proved to be a promising field of activity for Husqvarna, as demonstrated by numerous national and international titles. In 2011 the brand won the “Supermoto of the Nations” and dominated the International German Supermoto Championship. What’s more, Mauno Hermunen triumphed on a Husqvarna SMR 449 in, among other events, the “Superbikers Mettet” in Belgium, Europe’s premier Supermoto race.

In the Enduro World Championship, held since 1990, Husqvarna has also played a leading role from the outset. Until the reallocation of rankings in 2004, the brand won at least one world championship title in each season. Most recently, Husqvarna became the 2011 Enduro constructors’ world champion in classes E1 and E2.

In the rider classification Juha Salminen on a Husqvarna TE 250 and Antoine Meo on a Husqvarna TE 310 each won the world championship in their category. This meant that four of the six possible titles were credited to the old-established badge. To date, a total of 82 world championship titles in the Motocross, Supermoto and Enduro categories have been won on Husqvarna motorcycles.

Also in 2011, in cooperation with the Speedbrain team, Husqvarna made a successful entrée into rallying. In the 2012 Dakar Rally good use was made of the experience gathered prior to the event on a motorcycle based on the Husqvarna TE 449.

The Husqvarna / Speedbrain rally team ended the 2012 Dakar Rally on the Husqvarna TE 449 RR without a breakdown or any technical failure. By the end of the South American rally, Husqvarna had earned one stage win and a total of six podium places.