• King of the hill

    By Kenneth Olausson

    Bengt Åberg won the exclusive 500cc world title twice individually, in 1969 and 1970. His Husqvarna powered victories came on a machine taken, more or less, right off the factory's assembly line…

    I was sitting with him in his caravan the evening before the deciding race in Wohlen, Switzerland. Bengt Aberg only needed one single World Championship point to score his first 500cc title the following day. Bengt was calm, relaxed. His wife Lisbeth had prepared a light meal for us, nothing fancy, but good portions of real food. It was raining outside, but that did not bother the champion in waiting.

    "When did you start thinking about the world crown, Bengt?" I asked him.
    “Contrary to most riders, the world title was not really my top goal for years. It was in France this year that I started to think that I could conquer the world,” said Bengt Aberg modestly with a slight grin on his face.

    I thought of another Swiss Grand Prix, three years earlier. It was Bengt's first race outside Sweden and he astonished the world then with his spectacular riding style. Standing on the pegs he let the bike slide around corners: "Aberg has an unbelievable balance, like a well-trained wire walker without a safety net", said one of his competitors at the race. Bengt Aberg is still remembered for his exceptional riding style, where his mastery of the machine is phenomenal by any standards.

    The farmer's son was 25 years old when he scored his first World Championship title. Born in Sörbo, Hälsingland, Bengt Aberg is a quiet northerner who conquered the competition in this muddiest and physically demanding motorcycle sport, where it takes guts to balance the act in the dirt. And here, at motocross in Wohlen, it was more muddy with more dirt than most riders had ever experienced before. Some did not even make it up the hills. But Aberg, standing on his Husqvarna pegs, controlled the race and won the day.

    “My only worry was my last few laps. Dirt covered the machine, which was 40 kilo heavier than usual. This made me doubt whether it would put up with the strain until the finish line”.

    But Bengt did not have to wonder about his wonder bike. The first calibre material took him to the chequered flag and after ten years behind the handlebars, Bengt had fulfilled an ambition. His season plans were to start on the safe side, but winning the opening round in Austria made Bengt quickly change his considerations. “I knew I could put up a good fight”, he laughed, “but then during a long season, anything may happen”.

    Halfway through the year Bengt Aberg was leading. The Brit John Banks took over after Aberg had missed out. The order was put back to order during the final stages of the season. “Many people say I ride with too thin margins”, Bengt Aberg said philosophically, “but that's just my habitual riding style. I ride to stretch the margins wherever it's possible”.

    In Wohlen Aberg came back alone after the first lap. 20.000 spectators had watched the Super-Swede avoid a severe pile-up after the start. He disappeared up the steep hills alone and into the woods on his initial lap on his fast 400cc Husqvarna. Bengt had a comfortable lead of 40 seconds ahead of the pack who struggled to make the muddy hills.

    “Strangely enough it was my easiest win of the entire season”, laughed Aberg, who would be on top of the world for a long, long time, outbalancing his competitors with his riding act...

    In 1970 Bengt Aberg's career took on a new phase after his second 500cc title when he was riding "shot-gun" in the United States. Bengt competed successfully in the Inter-AM series and was awarded a Colt gun and a colourful Stetson for his achievements.

    “Cowboy on a bike is OK, but offers from Hollywood were humbly declined ... Being a devils rider, as they call us Husky riders here in the US, is quite enough!”