By Kenneth Olausson
Mx stars Bengt Aberg and Arne Kring came to Hawaii before Christmas in 1969. They out manoeuvred their opposition on a unique track in the sunny Pacific shores.
The scene had to be seen. After a gruelling series of motocross events on the US continent, the Swedes Bengt Aberg and Arne Kring were tempted to make one final appearance before heading for home celebrating Christmas. "Actually, we’d had enough of racing after a couple of months in the USA", recounts Bengt Aberg, "but racing in Hawaii was a thrilling opportunity. And the pay was of course presidential..."
The Yankees always know how to make PR for an event. The press was already gathered at the field when we landed in Honolulu airport. We hadn't given this occasion much thought and were surprised to get so much media attention upon arrival. I was quick to bring out my cameras mingling with local photographers, taking action shots of the Swedish neighbours who stumbled down the stairs from the PanAm jetliner. Curiously, they live just miles away from each other at home in northern Sweden. At the same time, the Husqvarna bikes were unloaded from the airplane's cargo-belly. I took a brash decision and got one of the stewards to help me get one of the Husqvarna machines over to the ladder. There I also managed to persuade a Hula girl to give Lei flower rings to the Swedish ambassadors. The picture is epic and has travelled the world ever since.
The following day, 24 hours ahead of the event, we were all on Hawaiian television getting all the local alohas and greetings together with good luck wishes between interviews. No wonder some 9,000 spectators came to this international event, which was new here in a sport that the islanders had hardly heard of before.
Race day in paradise, a bright sun in an exceptional heat – a flawless day. But the crowds did not gather to enjoy the scenery from the sandy coast. They came to see three mind-blowing races. Each moto was to be covered on a sandy beach track that consisted of a few thousand meters in length. This circuit, which lay along the gentle surf lapping over dark lava rocks, was in fact done on a military base at the Kanehoe Marine Air Station. Four Europeans, a few mainlanders and some local Hawaiian stars with ace John deSoto consisted of the somewhat meagre starting field at Kaneohe outside of Honolulu. But under the circumstances we expected good racing, especially as Belgian Roger DeCoster consisted of a threat from the competition. And deSoto was to marry his beloved later the same week. Celebrations galore ...
The two first motos offered close racing although the Europeans did not have to punish themselves in order to win. John deSoto was a threat during the initial stages, but he was not used to long heats and his physical condition stopped him going all the way. Falling back he had to see his European competitors make way in the forefront on the bumpy, curvy and hilly track at Kaneohe Bay.
During the interval I saw the strain taking it toll on both my Swedish friends. They drank an enormous amount of water & juice, when I suddenly had an idea. Presenting it to them, they both laughed and responded: "We'll see". In the third moto Kring and Aberg presented their professionalism on their Husqvarna machines in the serpentine course. Under an almost too blue to be true sky they took their final turns in the decisive heat of the day along the packed grandstands. Through mid-race I entered the scene by offering them a can of juice at the trackside. They slowed down in front of me and came to an abrupt halt drinking a few seconds before they continued racing again. Before leaving they gave me a high-five! The crowds were cheering enthusiastically and reasoned that these Swedish guys were indeed another calibre of racers. 27-year-old Arne Kring crossed the finish line inches ahead of his home neighbour 25-year-old Bengt Aberg. Small margins here!
In the newspapers it was noted that both riders were straddling a Swedish 400cc machine by the name of Huskqvarna. Thanks for that spelling. "The Honolulu Advisor" of December 22nd 1969 noted that "the machines came to life with a sputter which then mounted to a full-song brrrapp". It was also quoted that the two Swedish professionals thought the Hawaiian track to be both bumpy and hard to compete on. The final words of the day were impressive: "Each rider races his own race. It is he and his machine against the clock and the terrain. This is no place for the faint hearted, nor the unsophisticated. Motocross men are a breed apart. Any resemblance between these professionals and the motorcycle guy down the street is entirely coincidental".