By Kenneth Olausson
His career included more than 750 races of which he won not less than a third, 250 victories in a little over a decade. Swede Jan Johansson was a successful rider who shared Husqvarna with the local brand "Lindström" - a colourful make based on Husqvarna technology. 1966 was his crown season with both a national championship and a Grand Prix win in the 500 cc class.
Jan Johansson was born in 1942 in the Swedish province of "Småland" and he became interested in motorcycles at an early age. At 17 he bought his first Husqvarna and made his debut on a Silver Arrow:
- I remember this motocross event very well, Jan Johansson tells us, we were racing on the west coast in Uddevalla and I was lying second until the engine seized. This was of course a great disappointment, but at least I got a clear message of being fast enough to make me compete also in the future.
- My second mx was far better. Held in Vetlanda near my home town I took my first win in 1959 and came out a proud winner with my Silver Arrow which proved to be a reliable partner in the long run.
The following year Jan Johansson was still competing as a junior rider.
- I was able to get a German-made Müller cylinder from the Husqvarna factory which was blessed by their competition manager Bror Jaurén, says mister Johansson from Habo near Huskvarna where he lives today, I paid back by winning all my following 11 motocross mountings which also made me a senior rider at the age of 18!
Being promoted to the senior class Jan Johansson managed to be accepted for the Swedish round of the 250 cc world championship held in the province of "Skåne" at the famous Hyllinge circuit back in 1961.
- The Grand Prix was a total new experience, remembers Jan Johansson, I had a brand new 250 cc factory machine from Husqvarna, with double exhaust pipes, and had to fight well in order to stay with the pace of the expert riders. Dave Bickers won the event while I managed to place myself on 6th spot overall, taking my first ever world championship point.
In 1962 Jan Johansson was discovered by race engineer Göte Lindström who took Husqvarna engines to his mechanical workshop in Limhamn, where they were trimmed to his custom-made specifications. The Lindström engines, often mounted in Husqvarna frames/machines, had a good perfermance as mr. Lindström of Limhamn soon became famous all over Europe for his "souped-up" twostroke engines.
Jan Johansson took his new machinery to Barcelona in 1963 for the season's first Grand Prix race and he managed to finish third which opened the eyes of many experts in the field. Jan Johansson was now a man to count on in world championship racing. The Super-Swede from "Småland" followed up on his season-opener by also coming home 3rd both in the Dutch and the Czech GP races in 1963. This gave him fifth place overall in the 250 cc world championship. For his efforts Jan received the FIM Gold medal and trophee. He was only 21 at the time.
The biggest success for Jan Johansson in 1964 came at the Tropée des Nations, the 250 cc team wc, then held in the Dutch town of Markelo. In the sand dunes the Swedish team inclusive Johansson managed to outperform all of its competition and won the trophee outright after two gruelling heats. Jan Johansson contributed by finishing 12th in the first race while he was 9th in the decider. In the individual championship table Jan Johansson was 11th after a good third place in the Belgian wc event.
Jan Johansson took the big step from 250 to compete in the half-litre class, 500 cc, for the 1965 season.
- I trained harder than ever physically ahead of this important season where I knew I would face tough opposition, recalls Jan Johansson. In this year's third round "Janne J" came 4th overall after having fought in the Finnish sand with great riders such as Jeff Smith and Paul Friedrichs. In the following week it was time for the home GP event at Knutstorp in Hyllinge. In the first race Jan Johansson overtook the lead and held it until the very last lap when the cylinder-head failed and went into pieces. He tried in vain to push his machine the last 200 metres over the line, but the day was spoilt. With his 351 cc Lindström Jan finished in 16th place in the 500 cc wc table.
The best year of his career came in 1966 when Jan Johansson won the Swedish 500 Grand Prix outright in Hedemora. He was also rewarded second spot at the Luxemburg GP which in the end of the season gave Jan 6th place in the championship table. At this stage of his life Jan was also working in the assembly division at the Husqvarna factory. Jan was unbeatable on home turf and also won the Swedish national championship in the 500 cc class, ahead of Torsten Hallman.
Three years later the Lindström epoque was over and Jan Johansson switched over once again to Husqvarna. He was also a test rider for the factory and tried out the new front forks used in the Baja 1000 race back in 1969 (where Gunnar Nilsson won on his Husky).
Jan Johansson continued racing in motocross, but did not race as seriously as before. In his 60-ties he bought some KTMs to race successfully in some local events.
- But now it was more for fun than anything else, says mister Johansson who now turns 74 years of age.