Mud Inferno Star HANS HANSSON
By Kenneth Olausson
Swede Hans Hansson is an important name in the Husqvarna history books with a 51-year career. Not only was he a gifted motocross rider, but he also won the famous “Novemberkåsan” five times and the national enduro title on nine occasions between 1962 and 1979. Hans was also employed by the factory in Huskvarna, where he did development work, testing new technology.
Living in Tibro in western Sweden, Hans “Hasse” Hansson started his career by pedalling his bike with a long saddle in the “Shark Team” back home. On a rebuilt Silverpilen in 1958, his race debut was organised in Örebro, but Hansson did not score. “I guess most guys of my generation started competing on the Silverpilen,” he said. It took him some practice and two years of endurance racing – then called “T” for reliability – before he was seen in the upper parts of the result sheet. In 1960, Hasse was third in the national championship in the over 175cc bike category. The following year he took his Monark machine to sixth place overall in the same class.
His serious Husqvarna career started in 1962 when Hansson also scored his initial national T-title with 51 points gained in the category up to 175cc – 11 more than second placed rider in the final chart. “By working and tuning our own motorcycles, we learnt how to manage engines as compared to the modern status when people just go and buy a fully prepared bike” contemplates Hansson. “It was helpful to know your machine back in these days when you sported some refined trim tuning according to your own standard. It resulted in a bike that suited your own riding style.” Therefore, in 1963, Hans Hansson repeated his enduro success, winning his second straight national title.
However, in the ISDT he had to retire after breaking his foot.
By 1964, motocross had caught his attention and Hasse did four seasons on a 351cc two-stroke Lindström, which was prepared in southern Sweden using Husqvarna parts. “It appealed to me and widened my vision by taking part in motocross,” said Hansson. “My best result was a sixth spot in the 500cc chart. I only did a few enduro races during these years, but was back on top again in 1968 when I took my third Swedish enduro title”. Husqvarna now had their eight-speed military automatic prototype; which Hans Hansson had helped develop. Now, he was racing this machine successfully and was automatically associated with Husqvarna. They hired him to develop the new eight-speed gearbox together with the technical engineers lead by Ruben Helmin. The four-speed was OK for motocross, but lacked speed range, revving too high in offroad competition. The complex solution was a high and a low ratio gearbox where riders had to stop for shifting in between. The concept was a two-speed primary drive, controlled by a lever on the handlebars. Also, the installation of this kit was complicated and costly. The whole power plant had to be disassembled, which was time-consuming.
With time, the pro’s learned how to shift between high and low range at speed, but Husqvarna never acknowledged shifting in motion. However, the result was positive and using the eight-speed Husky was more flexible than ever. When Hans raced in the “Novemberkasan” in 1968, he took an outright victory riding his newcomer with an unorthodox engine concept.
“The difference between riding in motocross and enduro is the knowledge of the circuit layout,” tells Hansson. “In motocross you can prepare how to attack the track. But in the forest, you can only do as much as possible and keep your eyes open for any obstacles.”
So, now Hans Hansson was employed as a “lab rat” in the test and experiment section of the company. His daily work included both mechanical tasks as well as riding the hell out of the prototypes that he helped develop. He was candid to me when talking about this very special Husqvarna project, Hans always being a dedicated, smiling man.
“During the 1970s, I devoted most of my times to finalising our army machine,” said Hansson. “This bike with an automatic gearbox is very interesting, which is why I also raced it under real circumstances. At the beginning I took part in competitions because of our experiments in our laboratories, but it soon turned out that our automatic – as we prefer to call it – also has many advantages under race conditions.”
Among other things the lights proved to work better in connection with the automatic gearbox. “Under constant pressure, we got better light, which helped me win my third and overall Novemberkåsa in Örebro in 1974,” remembered Hasse who was a soulmate with his employer. “With my old motorcycle, the light only had full power at peak revs, but with the automatic, we received an even and more reliable light transparency already from 1,200 rpm. Consequently, we had to replace the generator and find an improved version.”
Hans Hansson won five victories in the “Kåsa” that gave him one trophy for good after three wins. He also triumphed nine times all in all for Husqvarna in the national enduro championship. On top of it, Hasse went across the Atlantic to take part in “the Mint 400” run out of Las Vegas. He won his class in the Nevada desert, which today is a proud memory for Hans, who had a 51-year-long motorcycle career.
“Well, I’m not racing any more, but it does happen that I ride my bike along some dirt or gravel tracks,” he says with a big smile on his lips. Some time ago, Hasse was out on his machine together with a mate, when they suddenly had to brake hard to avoid hitting a man crossing the road. His friend leaned over and shouted to Hans “Just think when we have to transport ourselves with a walking stick.” “Then I want to be the quickest,” was the fast reply from the tiger Hansson.
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