Vefmyndavél

Fjórgengisbyltingin

Mér datt í hug að etv. hefðu einhverjir gaman af því að lesa um manninn sem er ábyrgur fyrir því að koma fjórgengisbyltingunni af stað.  Það er Thomas Gustavsson, fyrrum hönnuður Husqvarna 510 en nú heilinn á bak við Husaberg.  Greinin var skrifuð í fyrra og í lokin eru svo stutt viðtöl sem ég tók við Everts, Jacky Martens og Joel Smets í á síðasta ári.

Kveðjur 4.


01/14

2002

Southwest
of Stockholm is a sleepy town called Röfors.
Right turn of Röfors main road takes us on another road, this not a
paved one, called Endurovagen which winds on between the seemingly endless
trees. After a short drive you´ll start to notice
tiremarks made by knobbies on the soft ground along the road and moments
later old stone houses become visible. It´s the Husaberg factory.
Although not big, or perhaps because of it´s smallness Husaberg makes
one of the fastest and most unique bikes you can throw your leg over. That´s
about all I know of that Swedish toy factory. I have an appointment with Thomas
at 11 o´clock this cold January morning. The
first person I see when I park the small Renault is Thomas himself, seemingly in
a hurry with some papers in one hand, holding a phone with his other. I recognize his face from a nearly 20 year old photograph I
have back home in Iceland. Beside
the missing orange enduro jacket he
looks exactly the same although on second look there might be a little more gray
hairs. A tad nervous I walk
towards him but he notices me and before I can open my mouth he says “ Are you
looking for me, I am Thomas”. His
office and the rest of the R&D department is in a gray and tall stone house,
over 200 years old and we walk the walk under constant ringing of the phones
Thomas is carrying in his belt. Busy
old place. I learn later that all
the Husaberg factory riders are expected tomorrow to pick up their new rides for
the upcoming season. Danm had I
come one day later!

Shortly
after, we sit in front of each other, the office walls covered with old racing
diplomas and after a zip of the tasteless machine coffee I turn on the tape
recorder.

What
was the Husqvarna TE 510 all about?

Well,
Urban Larsson a engine designer at Husqvarna had been working on a new
fourstroker since 1979 and in the year of 1981 he pushed me very hard to test
it. When I had tested it I told him
that the bike was light but the powercurve was no good. A typical powerband for
the old fourstrokers, just a lot of power in the mid range but then nothing
more. So he went home thinking and shortly after that we started to
get some ideas some from speedway racers and started making the bike with
powerband more two stroke like with
a smooth bottom and then increasing kick through the powerband. We built a new
fourstroke engine from an existing two stroke crank case, designed new camshaft
and new special cylinderhead and started tesing soon after.
So, after a year of testing the bike got better and better and in 1982 we
figured it was OK to start racing it. I
went straight to the European Championship with it.
In the first year it broke half of the races, but when I managed to
finish I was usually in the top ten or even winning some.
What was the bike about……? Well
it was really light, about 104 kgs
(229lbs) and had a good racing engine with wide powerband.
The other fourstrokers were heavy and had a very bad and narrow
powerband, but this one was built just for racing.

What
would you say were the Husky´s strong pionts and it´s weak pionts? Powerful
but too hot?

Yes.
It was light and had unique and good powerband for racing.
The problems were many, mostly though overheating.
We were taking lots of power from the engine but it was aircooled and
prone to overheating. But I fixed
that in 1985. I welded some
waterchannels to the cylinder and then it was no problem, I won a lot of races
on that bike. But the Husqvarna
management weren´t too happy since I did it by myself and was going to the
races with a bike they saw as a prototype.

So
manufacturing of the Husky 510 started in 1983. Now, what I see is a bike ahead
of it´s time. From what I´ve
learn´t from the airplane industry is that it often causes distrust in people
to see something new, hurting sales even though a new looking plane would have
less drag and fly better. Would you agree the new and radical Husky did not get
deserved attention? And if so why,
because of image, lack of advertising or not reliable enough?

I
agree on your comment about new looks and new concepts. As exiting as they can
be they can also hurt sales. People
often aren´t too keen to spend their hard earned money on products unheard of.
But as for the Husky, people were happy to see it.
The new powerband and all that. But
of course the overheating and the overall quality of the bike was not good
enough. I think everyone who raced
it loved it but it was a handful for most people, breaking down and all that.
So yes people had mixed opinions of it.

When
Husqvarna decided to start to make the 510 I was against it. I protested alot.
It had to be tested much more. But
the management wanted to start production of this new bike, and in that time
Husky was loosing customers to the Japanese manufacturers so they wanted this
bike. So when it came out there was
a problem with the quality, so that is the biggest reason for people not to like
it.

So
in a way your effort was not a total success yet, since the bike was not
reliable enough and that prevented the publics interest?
Would you say that pherhaps the world was not quite ready for this bike.

That
might be. Yes. But also the engine problems are also some factor.

In
my opinion the fourstroke revolution really started there.
But I also think it went unnoticed for so long. I would say the general
public first started to show real interest in fourstrokers in 1988 when Yamaha
made the YZ 400F.

Yes
I think I must agree with that.

Now
lets talk about the year 1986. That
year Husqvarna was sold out of Sweden. Did
that come as a surprise and how did you feel being out of work and not able to
work further on the Husqvarna superthumper?

Well
to begin with I finished engineering and started working with Volvo.
In 1980 I started to work as an engineer at Husqvarna.
Although we were busy working and testing we were also aware of the
financial problems Husky was having. So,
no the sale did not come as a surprise. Not
really a surprise. But when it was
sold it was split up and the motorcycle division of Husqvarna was moved to
Italy.

So
in 1986 you were out of job right?

No
actually I worked until 1987 testing the fourstrokers.
At first when Husqvarna was sold we were glad since then we got a stonger
financial foundation. But then we
learned that the motorcycle division was to be moved to Cagiva Italy.

Was
that not clear from the beginning the factory would be moving?

No.
Not to us. Maybe to them but
not to us anyway.

Was
that a tough pill to swallow?

Yes
it was very hard to see it go from Sweden.
Very hard. Then all the
people was offered a job in the chainsaw or the grascutter factory Husqvarna had
in Sweden. But for me, not very
interesting.

So
you did not see yourself as a chainsaw test rider?

No.

I
can imagine it was difficult to see Husky go, the Swedish crown and all that.

Yep.

So
now we move on to the next chaper, Husaberg. You guys out of job, no money and
all that. When did the idea come?

Well
it was not started so we could pay our bills.
The first idea comes from Björn Elvin and Urban Larsson ex-employees of
Husky and also Ruben Helmin a technical adviser at Husqvarna.
I came in late October 1987 when they had begun some work on a new firm,
but I still had a factory contract with Husqvarna to race so I came in a little
after the Husaberg idea started. So
in the 1st of January we officially
start Husaberg and at the end of February we start the first bike.
Urban had made a new motor and I made the frame in my garage.

You
must have a picture of that bike to show me?

No,
I dont think so. But it was a very
special bike. Nothing like the
first Husaberg we sold. It was red,
very light and easy turning but not so stable so when I was riding it I did lot
of “looking into the headlight”!! So
we tested alot that year and made few more bikes.
So bike no. 4 went into production in 1989. I still have that one in my garage.

When
you start a new motorcycle company so shortly after Husqvarna was sold, many
must have questioned the decision to start a new motorcycle business.
Did you have any problems financing Husaberg?

Oh
yes that was big problem in the
beginning. The first years were really hard. Yes. But we were
quick out on the marked. We started
selling the first bikes in June of 1989. We produced 80 bikes that year. The
year after we made near 200 bikes but were having money problems.
But the state had a program to help new companies grow, but we had to
declare a bankrupcy to clean the company to get a help from the state. So to get
help we were forced to go bankrupcy. And
it was hard decision. But if you
look at it now it was a good decicion because it gave a good base for the
future. So me and Sivert Westlund started Husaberg again and ran it
until 1995. In those years we were
very happy with our bikes but since we were so small and make few bikes we had
no money to grow. So in ´95 we
started looking for investors so we could grow and that year we made a deal with
KTM.

I
hope you made a good deal. I know
KTM must have made a pretty good deal. Their
search for fourstroke power was over.

Yes.
You know they send people here to learn more about engine design and you can see
that the KTM motors are basically a mirror image of the Husaberg engine,
everything is just turned around. So yes they got some good ideas from us, but
we also got a great help from KTM with financing, purchasing and such things.

So
the deal is basically; KTM can have your ideas and you can have KTM´s money? Is there a fixed amout of money for each year or does it
depend?

Well
yes that is correct in most ways. But
there is not a fixed amount. It all
depends on what we are making, marketing opportunities and how much we plan to
grow. But it has been good for us
and we plan to be the biggest from the smallest.
KTM is now working on being the biggest among biggest.
But like I told you they get a lot of ideas from us that they use in
their bikes. Sometimes things we
make in Husabergs show up in KTM´s maybe two years later.

The
Husaberg 501 is perhaps the best known “Berg”. Was it a improved Husqvarna
510 or a whole new concept?

A
whole new concept. I think the only
part fitting from the Husky was the oil cap. To ride the Husaberg was nothing like the Husky.

80
bikes produced the first year. How
many this year? And how many people
work here? Do they live in the
village?

Now
we plan 2800 bikes (compared to 50.000 from KTM).
In the factory work, I think 69 people and most live near by.
But sometimes we get people in from other places all over Sweden mostly
for the R&D department work.
In this area there´s a lot of interest in engines, both motorcycles and
car. We export 95% of the bikes to
35 different countrys.

You
have to excuse me if I sound rude but this is a thing I´d like to know about.
Husky, was working on a new thumper, did not do well and was sold.
Then you start Husaberg and continue this work on revolutinary
fourstrokers. Nevertheless Husaberg
is also sold to outside Sweden. There´s
some Deja Vu here! What does this
mean. Is your work not being
successful enough or what?

Well
we were not forced to sell Husaberg. We were doing well but had not money left to grow, you see we
make so few models each year and the cost on each motorcycle is therefore higher
than othervise. So I would not
agree we were not successful enough with Husaberg. We had so many ideas but could not do anything without
the money. We choose to go with KTM
because they supported us in doing our own things and that was what we needed.
We were doing OK but had no extra cash to invest in things like new plastic.
Before, we grew like 10% each year but after ´95 it was up to 25%. We tried to
find money in Sweden but the economy was down then so KTM was the best thing us
and we were a good and chead investment for them at that time.

Our
talk is interrupted by the rumble in the diningroom behind the wall.
It´s lunch. “Are you
hungry?” Thomas asks. “Yes,
should we go eat?” I reply. And
so it´s time to stuff our faces. Most
kids in the eatery are my age 25 to 30 years old. “Do these guys ride?” I
ask Thomas. “Yes most do. We
often do a Lunch Race during lunchbreak, we have plenty of space to ride behind
the house”. I am keen to know who is the fastest rider in the factory.
“Well some are pretty good riders.
Some might even try to tell you they are faster than I am but as far as I´m
concerned there might be a long wait for that to happen”.
With a good tasteing and almost homelike food we sit down with the guys
in the R&D department. I ask
them about their work and try to fish for some some secrets.
They all have Husabergs and one is even riding next years FC450 Husaberg
after work. Lucky bastard!! It´s a pleasant lunch and even though these guys build world
class thumpers they act just like the rest of us, easy going and not taking life
too seriously. After lunch Thomas takes me around the whole place.
I am shown every room from the welding and the home made dyno room to the
R&D offices and final assembly area. And
I tell you it´s a motorcyclist heaven. I
felt a stong urge to behave like a crazy kid in toyland but like a professional
journalist I kept a poker face and bit my lip.
I could scream all I wanted when I drove away in my small Herz rentalcar.
Yes it´s a impressive place and the way these people work is also
inspiring. Handmade with attention
to detail. That´s the key.
There were all kinds of goodies to drool about; next years engines,
carbon fiber swingarms and so on. Lots of top secret stuff. “Shure you can
take pictures in here but then we will have to kill you”.
After a wonderful sightseeing we again sit down to finish our talk. With another cup of the machine coffee we start the second
half.

OK.
We were talking about the marriage to KTM.
The next question is, what is the single most important thing for a new
motorcycle to become success?

It´s
a lot of things. But making
motorcycle in Northern Europe, we cant really make a cheap one.
Wages are higher here than in other part of the world and also our the
structure and the quality system we operate makes things not so cheap.
That means for us to succseed we must build a higher quality bike.

The
rules of Enduro competition seem to be getting more and more copmplex every
year. I guess at the pace the sport
is growing and money start to play a bigger part in the game. Do you have any
worries concerning this new environment in racing?

Well
for me, I like when the sport is open, I mean when the rules are flexible. When you have very tight
rules like they had in speedway here, nothing new happened technology wise.
Nothing new from the grassroot people. Then what happened is that the
public stopped showing up at races. The 500 cc class in MX was fading away, but
then they opened up the rules and made it open
for fourstrokers and twostrokes. Now the class is on the top again.
So make it free, open, then comes the interest.
For example if they want to decrease the speed in races just reduce the capacity of the engine but allow
free tuning, so then we will still have some developement in engines.

Back
to the toy factory. How is Husaberg
doing today?

Yes,
very good. Like I told you before
we now grow like 25-30% each year.

25%
a year. Impressive.
But if you grow so fast, what about internal problems?

Yes
that is right. Too many new people
without experience, that can be a problem. We are going
from a garage company to a big time company so we are aware that we must also
keep our focus on our indoor work here. We
made a very good quality system here in the factory. So yes we work hard not only to grow but always have the best
quality.

What
titles Husaberg has won are dearest to you?

The
first one. Our first year 1989.
Noone knew Husaberg and we had no money for a race team.
So we took a very young Swedish rider, 19 year old and went out and won
the European championship. Very
good I think. In 1990 the Europen
Championship changed to World Championship and then we won again.
The rider was Jimmy Erikson. Then
we had Joel Smets, he got us three
titles in the 500cc class before he went to KTM. From 1990 we have won 17 world
and manufacturer titles.

What
kind of a man is Joel Smets?

Smets?
Very professional. A nice person but everything he does is to be number
one. He is training, eating and living to be the best motocross rider.
He started late racing, I think he was 17 or 18 years old but was in the
top level three years later.

The
pressure to start young racing is so obivous today.
Would you think a person should mature before going racing or is it
necessary to start racing at young age, say seven or eight?

I
think it´s best to start training your body early, thats is an advantage.
But not too much racing. First
kids should grow up a little, find out about life, you know girls and drinking,
and when they have tried that they will have more focus and now better what they
want.

Will
Husaberg be a visible force in racing this year?

Yes.
We can afford to be bigger in racing and have a good teams in enduro,
supermotard and in motocross. Jacky
Marteins is your team leader for the motocross team and is doing a really good
job.

Name
the most impressive fourstroke bike of all times.

Well
I remeber seeing a picture of a very old four stroke bike from the 1920´s I
think it was a Rudge.

What?
I was expecting the Husky, Yamaha or perhaps KTM, but….

Yes
I think from the 20´s. A “Rudge” I think.
It had a four valve cylinderhead. Yes
they could do many good things back then but of course the material was not
good. You see many things we do
today have been done before. It is
just so often forgotten how many good ideas are very old.

So
in my opinion you are talking about yourself here. I mean you guys had a radical
fourstroker in 1983 but many believe it was the ´98 YZ that was the first
racing fourstroker.

Yes.
Yes that can be right. But
if you have a vision, I mean if you dont even try do do it………you
know….you have to try….

Yep.
(zip of luke warm coffee)

You
know if a man has a good idea in our factory it is very importand not to find
reasons NOT to do it but find a reason TO DO it.
Be open to new ideas.

What
one bike would you safe out of your burning garage?

Ahhh,
the ´83 Husky. I also have the
first watercooled Husky from ´85. Yeah
I´d try to safe that one too. But
there is also the original Husaberg, a red one.
Well I would try to safe three bikes.

You
were a world class rider more than 100 years ago.
What was you biggest accomplishment?

I
won the European Enduro Championship twice that was World Champ back then.

What
was the best day of your life?

(Without
thinking) It was when we won in Wales the first time……

What
about your kids? I bet your wife will not like this answer.

Uhh,
that was also OK. But in 1983 I won
my class in the six days enduro. Yes
my wife was there with me. But of
course my kids too. I had my first
one in 1984, a daughter. I have two
more boys, teenagers.

Did
you race agains any well known Yankees, Malcom or Dick Burleson?

Oh
Burleson I know very well. And
Malcom Smith was there also. Very
fast.

But
Thor, all this discussion has been about the past.
I really want to talk about the future.
Thats when all the things will happen you know.
I look forward.

OK. The next question should fit there. What do you do here at
Husaberg today?

I
work with the racing teams and also some parts of the developement.
I like that. There is so
much happening. Like we have now a
new type of counterbalancer direcly on the crankshaft and we safe a lot of
weight. That is the future. We
develop fast and there is a new FC450 model nearly ready.

What
about hobbies. Golf, drinking good
red wine….?

No
my life has been motorcycles. That
is all I know. In my lunchtime I go
out racing with the boys in the factory. So
that´s what I do and weekends I try to be with my family.

Describe
these caracters for me:

Guy
Perret:
Crazy
Canadian. Long and tall. Very fast, I know him well.

Jeremy
McGrath:
Good. The
best in supercross overall. Yes the
best.

Jacky
Martens:
We speak every day.
Very very nice.

Hakan
Carlquist:
Very nice man but when his helmet is on he
is not that nice.

Juan
Roma:
Good Spanish rider. Did very well in Paris
Dakar but had a bad crash.

Joel
Smets:
He is the absolute best, now on a KTM. Very
hard working.

Well
the sun is setting so I guess we should hurry to shot some pics.
But what are the good things you´ve done for the motorcycle world and
are you willing to talk about those you are not too proud of?

Well
it should be when I told Urban Larsson in 1981 that the fourstroker was no good
and needed a powerband like the two stroke.
You know he had been pushing me very hard to test it.
I was on two strokes back then, a Husqvarna with automatic transmission.
When I rode his fourstroke I had never before touched a fourstroke bike.
It was my first time. So
then I told him I did not like it and it had to be changed.
So he went home thinking and after that we started developing a new race
fourstroke. The biggest mistakes I
think, were coming out on the marked with the new fourstrokes too early in ´83.
That hurt the sales badly in the long run.
But I knew it was too early because we needed more testing. But you
know……

Is
being ahead of the rest good or bad for business?

It
can be both. It can be a big risk
to be ahead of your time. It is
good for interest to be in advance. But
sometimes people are afraid to buy such new things. It can be difficult to make
the decision when to go out with a new product. If you are way too early people think you are crazy.
If you are too late, well that is no good either.
We made a bike five years ago that we decided it was too early to show.

Have
we seen it yet?

No!
Some ideas like the balance shaft and perhaps the cylinder.
But we decided to wait a little. But
is is very different. Some years
ago I wanted to take the next big step. But
like I said it was a little too early. The
first was in ´83 with the Husky then in ´89 with Husaberg but soon it will be
the right time to make the third step, with
Husaberg this time of course. There
is a lot of things in the pipes. Of
course we are growing, making and selling more bikes, and have to make sure we
can deliver all our promises. There
are many ideas but between them and a cycle ready for production is a long way,
so we are constantly testing.

A
250 fourstroker? Two stroker or a four wheeler?

Well
no 250 for next year at least. We
have so much to do making the big bikes for customers.
Not a two stroker. I think there is so much pressure about less pollution that I
think two strokers will be less and less visible. A fourweeler?! No
that one we quit. But a 250 bike,
yes mabe in a few years when we are ready.

So
your biggest problem is not selling but making enough bikes?

Oh
yes. But it should be more about
quality than quantity though. I
think we could make more bikes but we would soon get into trouble with the
quality. So we try to take steps
that are not too big.

Now
we really should be going out to shoot pictures before sunset. The last
question. You agreed that you as a
pioneer had maybe suffered sometimes for being ahead of you time. Do you see anyone else today, a fourstroke maker, in the same
steps you were in earlier? Cannondale?

Cannondale?
No, not really. But of course there might be people that I dont know of.
Yes why not. But you know
all the big Japanese manufacturers look for what is in in the marked and make
their bikes from there. So nothing
new really. But when you write this
you must not say that I make the revolution alone.
There were and are more people, those that started Husaberg with me.
I did not do this all alone you know.

Like
all good things they come to an ending. The sun is already behind the trees. It´s been great day with the elves in the Husaberg toy
factory. Thomas strikes me as a
unique, focused person. Not one of many words. A thinker I´m sure. I´d say his
superstrong bikes give some clue that there is lot of thinking going on in that
head. A fire is burning somwhere in the woods. It´s time to track my way back
to Stockholm. We shake hands, hope
to see each other again and with that I turn to my little car.
Walking away I can tell Thomas has turned his phones back on, they´ve
begun ringing again…….

AFTERTHOUGHTS ON THE THUMPER WORLD

STEFAN EVERTS ON THE THUMPER CONCEPT

When did the fourstroke idea first cross my mind.
Did I have any problems with the bike?

In
1999 I went to Husky, but most of the season with them I was injured.
It was a good bike but I had some problems with starting.
I went from the two strokes because I felt there was no developement in
the 500cc class. But the
fourstrokes had so many possibilities. I
wanted to go on thumpers because it was the most logical step in my career.

Did I have any problems adapting to a fourstroke bike?

No
not really. It took me very little
time to get up to speed. The
biggest problems I have with fourstrokes is the starting.
That can be difficult and take too much energy and time in a race.
Also I had some trouble with stalling the Husky 610 at the beginning but
I overcame that mostly by using the cluch in a different way.
But my riding style fitted it well.

What is the basic difference riding a fourstroke v.s. a
two stroke?

That
is hard to answer since it depends on track, rider and weather. But I would say that the two strokers make a rider be more
agressive while the fourstroker souts better technical riders I think.

On
tight track the four strokers are harder to ride than the two strokers but
generally outdoors like GP the fourstrokers are much better.

What was the most groundbreaking fourstroker?

My
YZ 426 I´d say. It is a full blown
works bike. But if we aim for stock
bikes that were revolutionary I always remember those old BSA´s.
I dont know much about them because I was so young but they were so cool.

My greatest accomplishment on a thumper?

The
French GP last year was sweet.

What is my ride for this year?

A
factory 426. At the moment I am in
Spain training for the season. The
weather is always great and so is the food and the tracks are pretty good.
I dont feel much pressure but I aim at the top and have good confidence.
I have been training to get in good shape and am happy with the bike.
I alway try to get some time in Spain in January and I´ll be strong this
year.

Will we see thumpers in supercross in the future? Will
the two stroker be eliminated in the future?

There
is a good change that the four strokers will take over.
I think pollution regulations will play a big role anh puch the two
strokers away. The thumpers
are doing well outdoors and are staring to do some good indoor as well anthough
the two strokers are still stronger in Supercross.
I´ve noticed that in roadracing teams are increasingly working with
fourstroke bikes. But what I think
mattes most is the fact that two strokes have developed to their maximum while
the fourstrokers are so good and can still be developed alot.
So the future is fourstrokers.

JACKY MARTENS ON THE THUMPER CONCEPT

When did the fourstroke idea first cross my mind.
Did I have any problems with the bike?

In
1991 I was riding for KTM a 500cc two stroker.
Things weren´t too good since KTM was having financial problems.
I saw a Husqvarna 610 motocross bike and got interested.
So when my season was near end I called Husky Italy and asked if I could
ride their bike. They said OK. I rode it and was pretty happy with it but I am used to work
on the bikes myself so I told them I could do some good things as long as we
could reduce the weight. So I
worked to reduce the weight but keep the same power.
At the end of ´91 I started racing the Husky TC and I told everyone that
I would work to make a better bike and win the championship title within two
years. I did both.

Did I have any problems adapting to a fourstroke bike?

Well,
it did not take much time to adapt but although I had to think in a little
different way. Generally I can open
the throttle up quicker on the fourstroker since weelspin is not such a big
factor. I can also ride in higher
gears than on the two strokers. But
really I had no problems riding a fourstroker.

What is the basic difference riding a fourstroke v.s. a
two stroke?

In
my opinion I think you must be on a higher alert when riding the two stroke.
You can not ride as agressive because of factors like wheelspin.
So you can ride faster on the thumper and because of the engine
characteristics you have the suspension working much better on the foursroke.

What was the groundbreaking fourstroker?

I
have to go with the 1993 Husaberg. That
one was great. Also the 1998 YZ
400. It had a good motor and the
new counterbalancer was very important.
Made the bike good.

My greatest accomplishment on a thumper?

I
won the 500cc World Championship title in 1993.
That one was great. The next
year I won it again. So I´d
have to say these two.

What is my ride for this year?

This
year I am a team manager for JM racing in cooperation with Husaberg.

Will we see thumpers in supercross in the future? Will
the two stroker be eliminated in the future?

That
is hard to say. Doug Henry did
great things on the 400 YZ and last year the YZ 250 F was also impressive in the
125 class. But I think that there
is still some time until the fourstrokers will take over.
For supercross the thumpers have to develope furthar than today so it´s
hard to say if and when they will eliminate the two strokers.
The new CRF looks pretty good but I really don´t think it will do
anything big. I mean for Grand Prix
the 450 engine is just too small to compete with the bigger ones like the KTM
and Husaberg. So my guess is that
the Honda needs more time and developement.
But really, it is hard to tell exacly

JOEL SMETS ON THE FOURSTROKE CONCEPT

When did the fourstroke idea first cross my mind.
Did I have any problems with the bike?

In
1992 I was all set for the season and was riding a Honda CR 500 that year.
It was pretty much all settled for that year.
Then one day there was this fourstroker
a Husaberg at the same track I was practicing on.
The rider asked me if I wanted to ride it and I sayd sure thing.
I kept on with my practice though and was hammering the Honda pretty much
all day long. Then after the
workout I gave decided to give the “Berg”
a try. The rider had it set
up for his style, the handlebar was low and stupid and the suspension was also
very low. He was short and as you
might know I am rather big. Anyway
here I am riding the bike for the first time and and was pretty exhausted from
riding the honda. I did three laps
on the bike and even though I was tired and the bike not dialed in for me I was
nearly as fast as when I was riding the CR 500.
So it was love at first sight. I
raced the Honda that year since it was all a done deal but kept contact with the
Husaberg people. Then the next year
I started racing the fourstroke. I
remember all those people giving me strange looks and thinking I was crazy going
on fourstrokers. Some thought I
would never win again. I proved
them wrong.

Did I have any problems adapting to a fourstroke bike?

Not
at all. It is a bike made for my
riding style. Exacly what I need.

What is the basic difference riding a fourstroke v.s. a
two stroke?

When
you are riding the fourstrokers you have to be precice. I mean they don´t get away with big mistakes an the thumper.
On a two stroke you can ride more aggressive.

But
what is best about the fourstroker is that it is easier to be precise on it than
on the two stroker.

What was the groundbreaking fourstroker?

I
think the Yamaha 400 was a big thing. I
mean it started a lot of interest and talking.
So in a way that was a revolutionary bike. But it was not so reliable.
So I have to say it was the KTM 520, and this is not because I ride one.
I mean the bike has it all, easy starting, good reliability and very very
fast. It has the power of a big
bike but a handling of a smaller bike. Other bikes did not come close to this
one. The KTM 520 and aslo the 400
are here to stay, that´s for sure.

My greatest accomplishment on a thumper?

Winning
the world title in 1995. I wanted
so much to prove myself and had been working very hard. I knew all along I could do it on a thumper and wanted to
show all these that said I could not do it.
So when I won it was not
only the world title but also a great personal achievement.

What is my ride for this year?

The
KTM 520.

Will we see thumpers in supercross in the future? Will
the two stroker be eliminated in the future?

Thats
for sure. We will see a lot of thumpers in supercross both in the 125 and 250
classes. Doug Henry proved it could
be done and it will be done again. I
think in about five years most of the two strokers will be gone from racing.
Not all but most.






THOR. JAN 2002

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