THE NEWS that Husqvarna will be heading back to the World Motocross Championships is big news for motocross enthusiasts throughout the world and thanks to the backing of KTM you can bet that this won’t be a half hearted effort. Let’s see how this all came about. Before I go much further I want to take you back in time.
The 1960s and 1970s was a period when Husqvarna was the dominant force in the off-road racing world with Husqvarna riders winning 14 World Motocross Championships in the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc divisions as well as 24 World Enduro Championships and 11 Baja 1000 victories. Back that up with 100s of national, state and club championships, there was time that if you weren’t on a ‘Husky’ you were simply not competitive, and with the likes of Rolf Tibblin, Torsten Hallman, Malcolm Smith, Bengt Aberg, Heiki Mikola, Kent Howerton, Jacky Marten and Alessio Chiodi winning at the highest level, the ‘Win-On-Sunday-Sell-On-Monday’ marketing machine was working overtime for Husqvarna.
Remember, at this stage America had little influence on the moto world but Husqvarna was making huge inroads into the American market with Kent Howerton throwing caution to the wind to get his Husky to the front of the pack and right here in Australia we had Matt Daley winning the first ever Australian Motocross Championship on a Husqvarna in the late ’60s before the likes of Ivan Miller, Gary Flood, Hans Applegren and Pelle Granquist had great success on the Swedish machine.
Unfortunately things start going pear shaped by the mid ’80s and in 1987 Husqvarna was sold to Cagiva, becoming part of MV Agusta Motor Group. After a decade of debacle after debacle Husqvarna was purchased by BMW for a reported 93 million euros and right from the get-go there was a huge investment in the brand and its development to get back to the top of the off-road world. The rewards are there to see, with several World Enduro Championship trophies entering the now dusty trophy cabinet.
Antoine Méo won the 2010 and 2011 E2 World Enduro Championship while Juha Salminen won the 2011 E1 World Enduro Championship and in 2013 we have our own Matt Philips very close to wrapping the World Junior Enduro Championship on the awesome TE310 Husqvarna. So just as all of the ducks are starting to line up for Husqvarna we wake up on the 31st of January, 2013 to the news that the BMW Group has sold Husqvarna to a company that is headed by Stephan Pierer who is in fact the CEO of KTM. His company Pierer Industrie AG owns 51 per cent of KTM and now has 100 per cent ownership of Husqvarna.
Hmmm, is this good news or bad for Husqvarna fans? Then we hear that the ‘other’ brand that KTM owns, Husaberg, is going to be merged with Husqvarna….what does that mean? I for one LOVE the new generation Husqvarna off-road motorcycles, do we lose all of the good work done by BMW and what is gained by incorporating Husaberg?
So, it all seems a bit up in the air but just a few weeks ago we get the official news that Husqvarna will field a factory-backed team in both the MXGP (350 to 450cc) and MX2 (250cc) World Championship classes with two riders in each team AND they are established teams that will switch from KTM to Husqvarna machinery. The hugely successful KTM racing program is run by none other than former GP winner Pit Beirer and here is what he said about the return of Husqvarna to the GP paddock.
“Husqvarna is a top brand with a lot of history, if you look back in history Husqvarna is important for the sport as it is one of the top brands that founded Motocross. “We have a clear strategy for the brand in the FIM World Motocross Championships, we have great plans and I have seen drawings of the new bikes and of course what is most interesting is we plan to create a factory team for next season. “We have two different sizes of company, KTM have sold 100,000 bikes, while Husqvarna have to reach 20,000. To win a race you need one good rider on a good machine, so if we do things at Husqvarna like we do at KTM then we will have success, I am sure of that. What is important is having the people who are really good at their job and we need to find these people, because we can’t use the same people who are at KTM, we cannot spread those people too thin, because they are busy with our KTM project.
“It will just be step by step, I am sure we will see some really nice things in the coming years. You know what we learnt from KTM experiences, you cannot just buy the top rider and put him on a bike that isn’t ready, we need to have a good bike, good team, good structure, and then we can get the rider we might want. We should get a medium rider and then develop the bike. We will not spend crazy money on a rider, we don’t need to win races in 2014, but for sure I hope we can get some top ten finishes in 2014.”
So this is how it will pan out. Husqvarna will be represented in both classes of the 2014 World Motocross Championship with factory teams ICE1 Racing in MXGP and the Wilvo Nestaan Husqvarna Factory Racing team in the MX2 class and if that doesn’t give you a stiffy it has been confirmed that superstar of the future Romain Febvre will definitely pilot the new Husqvarna TC250R in the 2013 MX2 World Championships. This kid is a dead-set contender. The other three riders are yet to be confirmed.
So far there hasn’t been any news on how all of this affects the World Enduro Championships, the American racing scene or what will happen right here in Australia but history has shown that the current structure at KTM know how to take an ‘also ran’ brand into a true contender, both at the race track and on the showroom floor.