By Kenneth Olausson
Ake Jonsson won every title there is in motocross - except that of individual world champion. He got close, very close on several occasions, and was well-known all over the world for both his fighting spirit and his two wheeled achievements. Nowhere was this more so than in the United States where he made a name for himself with victory in both the Inter-AM and, two years later, the Trans-AMA series.
Ake's first bike was a 125cc DKW – a homemade machine that he entered in several events close to his backyard. Later, when Ake turned 15, he switched the motor to a 250cc engine. He then stayed true to this category for many seasons.
Barely out of high school, Ake started his real motocross career in 1961 when he bought a used 175cc Husqvarna. Actually Ake had messed around on his enduro machine during the seasons before, doing races in the woods since his teenage years. “In Sweden we called them reliability events,” says Ake. His parents thought it was a waste of time and money and asked their son why he was so interested in motorcycles!
Ake Jonsson was born in Hammerdal, Sweden, on the 5th of October in 1942. He has an engineering degree and speaks several languages, among them English and German. "You had to take language lessons at the university in Sweden", Ake remembers. He did his military service in 1963, hurrying home each weekend to compete in motocross.
“In those days I would get around 30 dollars for a victory,” Ake reveals. And after just a few seasons, things started to look bright for the young talent, living in Västerås. Then in 1964, he was studying at college and raced MX at the same time. How was that possible? “I left school on Fridays in order to make my weekend schedule racing motocross,” says Ake, “it was tough, but I managed to learn a lot, both in school and on my Husqvarna machine. Sometimes I would drive to an event in mid-Europe and do the Grand Prix on Sunday before heading home during the night and then back to school on Monday morning.”
By the middle of ‘64 Ake was going well in the national championship - behind Torsten Hallman, the inevitable favorite. The Husqvarna factory had noticed Jonsson's success and phoned him to offer a factory machine by mid-season. “It was on a Thursday, I remember, and I was at school when Husky offered me a machine for the home Grand Prix,” tells Ake.
One of Ake's first races on the new Husky saddle was the Swedish 250cc GP at Hedemora. At that time the two titans Hallman and Joel Robert were fighting for the world title. Ake was given orders from the team to stay behind Torsten and trying to get in the way of Belgian Robert. As it turned out Joel won the GP ahead of Hallman and Ake came third, not having the permission to fight with his teammate.
Ake's second Grand Prix was held in Tikkurila outside the Finnish capital Helsinki. It was a sandy track and an exhausting race for everyone involved. Ake had a real good fight with Joel Robert and finished second in this grueling event. “With a little bit more experience I could have won that Grand Prix,” he recalls.
Towards the end of 1964 Ake came second and fourth in two of the GPs, which meant that mister Jonsson placed sixth in the overall standings that year with 19 WC points scored. Mind you, it was his first world championship year - and he was still going to school. On top of that Ake Jonsson won the national championship in the 250cc class! The icing on the cake came as the Swedish 250 team won the Trophée des Nations in Markelo, Holland - with Ake J as a winning team member.
The 1965 season started just as well for the Husqvarna factory rider. Ake won a moto and came seventh in the other, giving him second overall. Six new valuable championship points were gained at the opening Grand Prix, which was held outside of Barcelona in Spain. In the 15 GP events in 1965 only the seven best race results were counted for the title that year. Ake had a few crashes but overall performed well, which put him on 5th spot in the final table. Two good years were over for Ake Jonsson, who was looking for the top scores now.
Establishing himself among the elite riders and being on a very competitive machine, Ake Jonsson set out for a new season in 1966. But he missed the three initial GPs due to his studies and only came to the start in the fourth GP event of the season. This was in Switzerland and Ake did well coming fourth and fifth respectively in the two motos. This gave him fourth place overall and he was now rolling towards a new good year. Before the eighth round in Schifflange, Luxemburg Ake had taken part in an international race where he broke his frame. The Husqvarna factory flew a new one to be mounted for the weekend's GP. Ake came third in the first heat and won the final, which was enough to secure the very first Grand Prix victory of his career. “It was a fantastic feeling,” remembers Jonsson.
With 28 scored points gained Ake came fifth in the final 250cc standings in 1966. In 1967 Ake Jonsson switched to the 500cc class, but due to his studies and bad luck strong results eluded the Swede. His only points were gathered at Namur in the Belgian Grand Prix where he finished fifth. 1968 was far better. He was riding the factory's 420cc machine and had good results during the entire season, finishing the championship table in third place with 34 points gained.
Ake Jonsson would race for another ten years on different brands, ending his career coming back to ride for Husqvarna again. All in all Ake Jonsson won the national mx championship no less than eight times during his 17-year career. He never made the world title, but came very close.