• A Rider From Hell

    By Kenneth Olausson

    After his 1969 world title, Bengt Aberg was convinced he would conquer the world again. He was Husqvarna-mounted and both physically and mentally ready, ahead of this gruelling season. 1970 turned out to be a strange one as Aberg's main rival was his neighbour Arne Kring who also had a contract with the weapons factory in Huskvarna. Fasten your seat belt folks – here we go with the bashful Swedes!

    The active race season for motocrossers had increased significantly after events in the USA were introduced during the months from October to December. It meant that an elite rider was on the go from March to the end of the year - practically all year around, crossing the globe. This happened by the end of the 60s, which was also a turning point for motocross in the USA. The interest for the sport grew immensely.

    “This was a big benefit to our sport,” said Aberg. “Payment increased and the status for motocross became much higher.”

    Husqvarna had introduced their 400cc engine for the 1969 season. It measured 81.5 x 76 mm in bore and stroke and gave 40 hp at 6,500 rpm. Its cooling fins were now longitudinal, and the magneto was also new. This four-speed machine was updated for 1970, although it still carried a similar performance. The season was peculiar by any standards, and as said, Bengt Aberg's main opposition came from his Husqvarna teammate Arne Kring. They lived as neighbours, just a few kilometres away from each other in Helsingland, and raced trying to beat each other since their yearly days. However, Bengt was initially the more successful rider as he won the national junior championship in 1963 on his bulky Triumph. Then the road was paved to the championship circuits. Bengt Aberg had a memorable show on his Métisse at the home Grand Prix in Hedemora in 1966. The spectators who saw him broadslide with his feet on the foot-pegs will never forget this unbelievable sight. At least I won't! As reported in a blog text from July 2014, Aberg won his first title in 1969 after a tremendous year. Now it was time to try and repeat his honour on his latest factory machine. He had already caught the fancy of the crowd.

    The Swiss track at Payerne was spectacular for its bumpy ride. The actors on their machines had to perform several circus tricks before they could fulfil one lap around this tricky circuit. Hence, the crowd loved it and came to watch by the tens of thousands. Also, this year when the battle for the rostrum began, all the elite had gathered to see what the competition was up to after the wintery off-season. By the end of the day, Husqvarna had a double win. Bengt Aberg crossed the finish line first while team rider from Belgium, Jef Teuwissen came home as the second man. A splendid start. The following week, this winning formula was repeated by Aberg in Sittendorf, Austria, and he now had a grand margin in the 500cc world championship standings.

    In the coming two Grand Prix rounds Aberg only managed to take three points. At that time, he was in second place in the championship after his neighbour Arne Kring, who in the meantime had prevailed twice. It was 42 points to 33 points. Razor's edge now. In the Finnish sand at Tikkurila, Kring beat Aberg fair and square making the table standings 57 to 43. Then came Sweden. In Västeras the two Husky riders fought side-by-side, lap after lap. Everyone was in ecstasy until the inevitable happened. Aberg and Kring were too close over a majestic jump and collided in the air. "I had to retire while Kring tried to continue with broken-off handlebars, which turned out to be impossible", said Aberg. Zero points for the two matadors, who were disappointed, but still in the lead. A month later all is forgotten in Holice, Czechoslovakia. Kring is faster than Aberg. Result: 72 - 55, advantage Kring. In Beuern, West Germany, things are the other way around. Aberg mastered his race and Kring finished in fourth place: 80 - 70 for the "Helsingland Hell Riders" as they were now nicknamed. "Helsingland" after their home county, "Hell" for their unforgiving pace.

    Unfortunately, Arne crashed heavily in Belgium at an international race and hurt his back quite severely. Bengt told me matter-of-factly, “Now the grounds were paved for me during the final Grand Prix rounds as he was a nonstarter.” Not the most comfortable way to win, emotionally.

    But Bengt Aberg secured his second 500cc world championship with his four-speed bike in the last event held in Ettelbruck, Luxemburg.

    A Champion full-page advertisement in the U.S. magazine Cycle World summed up the season well. It was published on page 125 in their March issue 1971 with the heading: "King of the Hill". The new World Champ is standing on top of a hill with his Husqvarna behind him. The bike has Starting Number One and the Champion sparkplug decal is glued to the tank. The contents of that magazine tell us how Bengt Aberg came to do the Phoenix event of the international Inter-AM series in 1970. Some local riders from Arizona walked up to the Swede in order to distract him. “They're watering the track. It's gonna be really muddy.”
    Aberg's answer: “That's good.”
    They continued trying to make him nervous.
    “Yeah, but it'll dry in an hour. It's gonna be really dusty.”
    Aberg replies calmly: "That's good, too."
    It speaks volumes.