By Kenneth Olausson
Swede Christer Hammargren never dominated the motocross world, but he was an avid racer with several championships and titles to his credit. The lanky rider from the Smaland district had his best seasons from 1967 until the middle of the 1970s, during which time he mostly enjoyed factory support from Husqvarna.
From a young age, Hammargren had an early interest for the motoring world. He was born in Vaggeryd on October 5th, 1944. Living a mere 30 kilometres away from the Husky factory, Christer soon took an interest in offroad racing, which at this time of course was dominated by motocross.
In his teenage years Hammargren went from being a keen fan idolising the country's most well-known names such as Torsten Hallman, Bill Nilsson & Rolf Tibblin, to starting to race himself. He soon found that one of his specialties was racing in deep sand. Hammargren felt at home on most kinds of circuit and was always capable of good lap times on any ground. There was just something special about his pace in the challenging and gruelling sand.
After a few years of competition, Hammargren had gained some experience and had a go at the national junior championship. The year was 1964 and the event was organised on the very famous Ulricehamn motocross track. On a muddy circuit Christer had the upper hand already in the early stages of the race. He was being chased hard by his opponents but managed to hold them off, winning his first big victory.
Happy and content, he went on training even harder than before. Unfortunately, he had a bad crash which resulted in severe back injuries.
Doctors told him it would take considerable time before he would be back in the saddle when they learned that Christer was determined to make his comeback in motocross. After several months in plaster, Hammargren could finally start practising again, but it took a lot of determination and a long time before he was back on track.
“I went to my chiropractor maybe fifty times before my back healed and recovered,” Christer remembers.
Christer Hammargren's international breakthrough came in 1967 when he managed to finish second in the Swedish 500cc Grand Prix round. As ever he was riding Husqvarna, who by this time had opened their eyes and closely followed the talented rider from Vaggeryd. In Hammargren's first world championship season the Swede managed to finish in seventh position overall in the final 500cc standings.
His biggest success came when Hammargren took part in the 250cc team championship, this year held in Payerne, Switzerland.
“I was teamed up with Bengt Aberg and Bengt-Arne Bonn and we managed to beat all other nations,” told Hammargren. “It was quite a feeling being able to say that I was a world champion.... sort of...”
In the following season Christer had a really good year in the national 500cc championship. Always smiling and never far from telling another joke, Christer was a popular face in the paddocks among his international competitors. He now enjoyed full support from Husqvarna, which together with a good performance rendered him second place in the national championship standings. In the world series, he came home 10th.
Despite his breakthrough two years earlier, it was in 1969 that Hammargren really got noticed in the world of motocross. Not only did he win the Swedish 500cc championship, but he also came eighth in the top international series (the World Championship). The season started at the right level and Christer won a spring race held in Strängnäs, 80 kilometres from the capital of Stockholm.
“It was a tough race,” said Hammargren afterwards. “The muddy track made me almost blind and my shirts and riding-pants were so heavy that my trousers almost fell off!
“My girlfriend Ann-Charlotte would have some work to clean the equipment,” he laughed.
25-year old Christer won both motos in grand style, well ahead of all his competitors. He had a good season to look forward to.
In 1970 Hammargren made his best ever world championship performance coming fifth following top rider Bengt Aberg, who won his second outright 500cc title for Husqvarna. Both riders, together with Arne Kring and Ake Jonsson, also took the prestigious win in the MotoCross des Nations in the team 500cc class. The event was organized in the town of Maggiora, Italy. Christer Hammargren was at the top of his career, but it did not end there.
In 1971 he was once again selected to represent Sweden in the big-bore class team race. This time the motos were held in Vimmerby, not so far away from Christer's home turf of SMK Värnamo. Again he was teamed up with Aberg, Jonsson and Olle Pettersson, the latter usually a 250cc rider. In Vimmerby the quartet were victorious in front of the Swedish crowd, who were cheering for their home team. Once again Christer also won the national championship for Husqvarna. This was his second local 500cc title in just three years.
Before retiring, Christer Hammargren competed for another five years on other machinery, but he never gained any bigger success before packing up his career. Later on in his life, Christer began racing in veteran motocross.
“This was of course just for fun,” said the lanky rider from Smaland, who can now look back at many successful years for the Husqvarna factory.