Between 1969 and 1970 the Swedes doubled both production and sales over a period of only one year. There were two main reasons for this success – the growing American market and a surge in demand for offroad and desert machines, which represented a huge market. By now, Husqvarna had won their first Baja 1000 and Mint 400 races and, after two motocross world titles by Bengt Aberg, the brand name was highly respected in Europe and all over the globe.
There is a wonderful story from 1974 when the Husqvarna factory rider Hans Hansson was to ride the famous ‘Onkel Toms Hütte’ enduro race in West Germany. “For the first time, I was to compete with the automatic gearbox 360-machine, which interested the technically minded Germans who wanted to know more about our concept,” Hansson said with a smile on his face. “They looked with astonishment as there was no clutch lever on the handlebars. Despite my poor German, I managed to explain the system and that the centrifugal power resulted in the engine drive. Later that night, one of the German technicians phoned me at the hotel asking me to wrap up my engine with a solid protection in case the power plant would explode. “At least, do have a sack around it,” he said. Some genius came to the conclusion that my engine was dangerous and would have caused havoc when parts started to hit the poor spectators. Well, I was allowed to start the race and all the bystanders survived! Sadly, I broke down and had to retire when the chain collapsed.”
In the United States things were burning hot for Husqvarna. One great enduro victory would be followed by a big desert win. Not only was the brand attracted by top U.S. riders such as Malcolm Smith, JN Roberts, John Penton and Bud Ekins, but the famous film star Steve McQueen was also a true Husqvarna fan. He was often seen in the Mojave Desert, riding shotgun with his buddies Ekins and Swede Rolf Tibblin. The treble Swedish world champion was by now settled in the U.S. and lived in California. In San Diego, Tibblin set up a training centre for bike buffs. This Husqvarna-sponsored camp was also held in the vicinity of San Diego and became very popular to a large young audience.
By 1972 Husqvarna was done with their old crankcase design, which dated back to the 1950s. Now, the factory had developed a new power plant in two versions – a WR unit for offroad riding (Wide Ratio) and a CR outfit for motocross (Close Ratio). On top of it all, the Swedes also introduced a big five-speed 450 WR machine and a nimble six-speed 125cc bike. All these novelties were needed to satisfy the demanding Americans, who cued for the latest Husqvarna bikes. The directors in Sweden now had a five-year plan, aiming to sell 30,000 units yearly. In two years, sales were up by 240 percent and close to 15,000 units – already halfway to their future dreams. At this stage, there were broad smiles at the factory in Huskvarna.
In 1973 Husqvarna had two strong Six Days teams competing for the Silver Vase at the ISDT, now being held in the United States. The American team was led by Malcolm Smith and Dick Burleson while the leading Swedish men were Hans Hansson and Bengt-Olof Gustavsson. Sweden led over the United States until the final stages when Hansson drenched his machine in a ditch and was point-penalized. The victory went to the home team while the Swedes had to be content with second spot. But Husqvarna was the overall winner with two teams on the podium. The oil embargo from OPEC had a strong and negative impact on the Swedish brand. Just as things started to work out well in terms of production, sales slumped as restrictions were imposed for offroad riding in the United States.
In the mid-1970s Husqvarna worked hard to develop new machinery. In 1976 there was a 360 WR model. Two years later it was tuned to a 390 WR while the 430 WR came along during 1981. In 1974 an odd 175cc WR was presented. It was a killer in the woods where this featherweight bike had a little character from a 250cc engine. During a few years, it sold well in the USA. Also, the cross-country program with the XC-line for desert riding was now successful with good sales.
The strategy at the factory was to implement novelties in racing and see if it worked. Ideas were then developed and transferred into the production line. The offroad results in enduro and desert were unmatched during the 1970s, when the Swedish brand won a series of important trophies. In 10 years, Husqvarna won 14 Baja races in the 500/1000 classes. They also captured 10 AMA National Enduro Championships, of which the American Dick Burleson won seven titles. In 1979 the Swedish ace Steve Tell from Stockholm took the first overall Novemberkasan trophy on a 125cc Husky machine, which was a surprising achievement to everybody in the trade. Nobody expected such a tiny motorcycle, with so few horsepower, to be able to challenge the big guys on ‘stronger’ machines.
Words: Kenneth Olausson, Photos: Husqvarna Motorcycles

KTM has put a lot of effort and all of its electric know-how that’s evolved over the last 10 years into the development of the KTM SX-E 5. The result is a highly competitive electric minicycle with a comparable power output to the KTM 50 SX, yet with minimal maintenance and noise. The bike has six power modes allowing a complete beginner to step onto a READY TO RACE machine with ease, whilst the full power mode is exciting and challenging for the fastest junior. With a premium chassis developed by our KTM engineers, the KTM SX-E 5 is fully adjustable in terms of ride height, especially with the additional KTM PowerParts lowering kit, and is aimed at riders aged three to 10 years old. The bike grows with the rider both in ability, and in size – a special feature for this high-quality machine.

 

This innovative junior bike has an electric motor powered by an ultra-modern lithium-ion battery pack with a robust housing for maximum protection and safety was really at the core of the development of this new model. The power is smooth and controllable offering rideability benefits over other bikes in its class, whilst also providing fantastic agility on the motocross course. Like its combustion counterpart, the KTM SX-E 5 is fitted with WP XACT 35 air fork technology, as well as the WP XACT shock absorber, and it also features high-quality components such as premium disc brakes, cast footpegs, tapered aluminium handlebars and proper race ergonomics. In fact, the KTM SX-E 5 has undergone the same development process as the bigger SX models as raced by the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team. It’s truly an exciting, safe, innovative yet racy machine that will create new riding possibilities for riders and tracks in the future.

 

“The KTM SX-E 5 is a model we’re really excited to see arrive in dealers. It offers a premium chassis, like those on all of our SX models, but also a lot in terms of rideability thanks to the electric motor, as it’s easy to ride, but at the same time, it can be super-fast without making noise. We tested the bike with such a wide range of riders; the complete beginner can ride on a track almost straight away with this bike as it’s so easy to ride, yet a national level rider can have comparable lap times to that of the combustion bike, which is something special. The adjustability of the bike means that a rider can use it for years as they get faster – they can also be more independent in the operation of the bike, and apart from oiling the chain, there is really minimal maintenance required. In terms of safety, the electronics team worked hard to reach a really high level, and so with top-level performance combined with a huge adaptability for the rider, the KTM SX-E 5 is a fantastic new model in the KTM line-up,” said Joachim Sauer, KTM Senior Product Manager Offroad.

 

The e-mobility sector is becoming an important part of modern travel, and KTM has a dedicated R&D team working on this segment that are developing platforms for KTM’s future plans in e-powered motorcycles. This, combined with years of knowledge in creating premium sport motorcycles, ensures that KTM is at the forefront of e-technology. KTM has announced it is committed to 4kw-18kw (peak power), low voltage motors and is working to adhere to the most stringent safety standards. The launch of the KTM SX-E 5 an exciting next chapter in KTM’s e-mobility story.

The new KTM SX-E 5 will be available during the last quarter of 2019 at authorized KTM dealers.

Words and Photos: KTM Press Center

Former national champions and Kiwi internationals from the recent past will all flock together to race once again in Central Hawke’s Bay this coming weekend.

And while these individuals should certainly be favoured to dominate at the 2019 New Zealand Veterans’ and Women’s Motocross Championships in Otane this Saturday and Sunday, it’s highly likely that a few unexpected names may end up being engraved on the trophies this time around, such is the depth of talent that will be on show at the Bay Motorcycles-supported event.

The popular annual event will feature many riders who, despite their veteran status, still rate among the sport’s elite, while the female side of the sport that shares the race programme will be no less intense.

Stand-outs among those entered for the annual event include 1996 500cc motocross world champion Shayne King, from New Plymouth; twice former motocross world No.2 Josh Coppins, from Motueka; former veterans’ world champion Tony Cooksley, from Pukekohe, and former multi-time national champion Damien King, from Cambridge, who also went on to race the Grand Prix scene in Europe.

Former national 500cc motocross champion Mitch Rowe, from New Plymouth; former GP racer Cameron Negus, from Rotorua; multi-time former national champion Mike Cotter, from Cambridge, and New Plymouth’s David Furze, will also be lining up this weekend, along with Te Awamutu’s Mark Penny, Te Kauwhata’s Matt Vining, Auckland’s Steven Croad and Taupiri’s Mark Fuller, all four of whom were formerly top cross-country racing exponents.

British former Grand Prix star Kurt Nicoll, four times a 500cc motocross world No.2, is also a late entry and sure to be a drawcard.

Riders who primarily made their name on the road-bike scene, Feilding’s former 125GP exponent Kris Shirriffs and Whanganui’s super motard ace Ant Rountree, will be there to show they’re just as quick on dirt.

In the women’s section of the programme, expect to see riders such as Cambridge’s Zara Gray, Hamilton’s Amie Roberts, New Plymouth’s Mikayla Rowe, Motueka sisters Tyla and Roma Edwards, Ohawea’s Taylar Rampton, Invercargill’s Charlotte Clark and Ngatea’s Brooke Dalley to feature near the front.

Late entries are still likely to arrive from several veterans’ and women’s grade frontrunners from the recent past, including perhaps Blenheim’s Moston Wadsworth, Nelson’s Bryan Heaphy, Hawera’s Daryl Hurley, Inglewood’s Larry Blair, Whakatane’s Darren Capill, Auckland-based former Swiss international Gaudenz Gisler, Winton’s Brent Scammell, Blenheim’s Steve Lange, Christchurch’s Dean Baird, former Otago rugby captain David Latta, Lincoln’s Kelly Garland and Rotorua pair Letitia Alabaster and Mel Patterson, to name a few.

Hosted on Twist’s property at 1080 Argyll Road, Otane, the two-day event certainly features an entry list that reads like a who’s who and who-used-to-be-who of the sport.

The event again presents real value for money for spectators, with racing over two days for both the elite females, in both the junior and senior grades, and intense racing also for the country’s top male riders aged over 30 years.

New Plymouth’s 1996 500cc motocross world champion Shayne King, one to watch out for in the 45-49 years’ class this weekend.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

Would you call it a whitewash or perhaps an orange squash?

Riders of the distinctive orange KTM bike brand clean swept all three grades at round one of the New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship series in a damp Taungatara Forest near Whangamata on Saturday.

Bronze, silver and gold level courses were offered, designed to cater for all the various skill levels, and Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker (KTM 350EXC-F) led a KTM 1-2-3 in the premier Gold Grade on Saturday, finishing the day ahead of New Plymouth’s Tony Parker (KTM 300EXC) and Helensville’s Tom Buxton (KTM 300EXC).

Interestingly, Kiwi international Chris Birch (KTM 250EXC) actually won the day outright, finishing nearly six minutes ahead of Whitaker but the Thames man was classified as a non-championship rider because he will not contest the entire four-round series and was also not licensed for the Nationals.

The top 12 finishers in the Silver Grade all rode KTM bikes, with veteran Huntly rider Warren Tapp (KTM 300EXC) the stand-out competitor there, while Thames woman Natasha Cairns (KTM 250EXC) led the way in the Bronze Grade at the gruelling event on Saturday.

“Yes, Chris Birch won the day as a non-championship rider,” confirmed Whitaker, a record eight-time former National Moto Trials Champion who converted to enduro competitions just a few years ago. “Chris had a good lead over me on lap one, although I managed to pull him back a bit on lap two. It was pretty challenging and I struggled a bit with the creek bed sections. I didn’t really have the bike set up properly for the long river sections,” said the 28-year-old father-of-one. “The extreme terrain kind of suits me though and my trials riding experience helps a lot when the going gets tough like this. I think I have an advantage over many of the other riders when trials skills are needed.”

Rounds will now follow at Moonshine, off Bulls Run Road, near Porirua in just two weeks’ time, on September 22, before a two-dayer in Hawke’s Bay (at Taradale on day one and at Tutira on day two) on November 2-3.

Just as it did for last year’s inaugural New Zealand Extreme Off-Road Championship series, the competition will again wrap up with another double-header weekend, at the Nut Buster hard enduro at Oxford, near Christchurch, on November 15-16.

Only three of the four rounds of the NZ Extreme Off-Road Championship are to be counted, with riders discarding their one worst score from the three North Island rounds, while double points are offered for the Nut Buster final round in the South Island.

 

The 2019 NZ Extreme Off-Road Championship calendar:

Round one: September 7, Taungatara Forest, Whangamata.
Round two: September 22, Moonshine Extreme, Bulls Run Rd, Porirua.
Round three: November 2-3, Over The Top, Hawke’s Bay.
Round four: November 15-16, Nut Buster, Oxford, Christchurch.

Wainuiomata’s Jake Whitaker (KTM), leading the way in the Gold Grade after the opening round of the NZ Extreme Off-Road Championships at the weekend.

Words and Photo by Andy McGechan

 

The Kiwi girl was already assured of the individual World title after her victory in the weekend’s first moto at Afyonkarahisar in Turkey but everyone in the compact English team was determined to end the series on a high with yet another moto and overall GP win. And they did it in style, the lone Kawasaki girl grabbing the holeshot to race clear of the chasers at several seconds a lap, celebrating victory by an overwhelming twenty-nine seconds with a classical whip. Courtney completed the individual championship thirty-six points ahead of her closest rival and Kawasaki take the Manufacturers’ title by twenty points. It was their fourth consecutive two-moto-win maximum GP score and the third-in-a-row, an unbeaten run of success, for the incomparable 2020 KX250 which Kawasaki and the DRT crew introduced mid-summer.

Courtney Duncan: “It was so cool to clinch the title and take away the pressure. I had nothing to lose so I just put down the hammer; I had a good flow, could have fun, throw some whips and embrace the moment. What a way to end the series! Nine motos out of ten and four GPs out of five! The whole year has been so amazing. I was in a dark spot last year, in a rut mentally and physically, but Steve took a chance on me and I really gelled with the team and the bike from day one. We committed and we succeeded! I’m having as much fun this year as I did when I started riding way back at seven years of age; that’s so important and it’s what brings results. We switched to the 2020 at Loket in July and the results speak for themselves with six wins from six starts; it’s such a nice bike. I’m just so grateful to my family for all they did to make this possible for me and it’s great to have them here this weekend to share this moment. My thanks too to Kawasaki, DRT, Monster Energy and everybody who has supported me all year.”

The championship double was not only a stunning success for Kawasaki – the fifth title in the history of FIM WMX racing – and for the New Zealander but also for Steve Dixon. The DRT team owner has played a pivotal role in world motocross for more than a quarter of a century with innumerable GP victories, podiums and medals but the 2019 success is his first World title.

Steve Dixon: “The whole season was fantastic. We didn’t run a rider in the WMX for ten years but I heard Courtney was looking for a change; I put it to Steve Guttridge at Kawasaki Motors Europe, he was OK on the idea, so we took it from there. My first job was to work out what had happened to Courtney in the past and put it right. She was so relaxed this year and really gelled with the KX250 from day one. We got the 2020 model with even better performance mid-summer and Courtney really liked it. I think the results speak for themselves because this is a standard bike with an after-market pipe you can buy in the shops and she’s won every race. Courtney has signed for another two years so we can go on from here to even more success. I have had a lot of seconds and thirds in the world, even a Nations victory, in the past and now in my thirtieth year we’ve achieved a World title at last.”

Steve Guttridge (Kawasaki Motors Europe Racing Manager): “We are delighted that together the Dixon Racing team and Courtney have delivered this World title for Kawasaki. The level of racing in the WMX class gets higher every season but with Courtney’s confidence in the KX250 she could display a dominance this season which was a pleasure to watch. We are already looking forward to the challenge of defending the title together in 2020.”

Words and Photos: Kawasaki Europe