International Dealer News IDN 147 February/March 2019 - Page 58

INDUSTRY EXTRA racing career. “The results really lit a fire for motorcycle racing, and it became the one thing on earth to live for,” Hallman said in his 1970 book, Mr. Moto-cross. Hallman’s big break came in 1957 when he won a major junior team race riding a Husqvarna. It was then that Bror Jauren, manager of Husqvarna’s racing team, gave Hallman the chance to become a factory-supported rider. By the 1960s, Hallman was competing in the world championships. He would go on to win the 250 cc motocross world title four times. His first, in 1962, was thanks to a new engine and gearbox that Husqvarna had said would be the last throw of the dice. Without Hallman’s 1962 Championship win, a series that BSA had been dominating, ‘Husky’ may have gone out of motorcycle production at that stage. His battles with Belgium’s Joel Robert were considered some of the best in the history of the championships. Hallman might have won even more titles, but he was dividing his time as a full-time racer with also being a full-time university student. Hallman made his first trip to America in 1966 at the request of Edison Dye, who had taken the first Husqvarna motorcycles to America, and went on to be the brand’s importer – along the way “converting” the equally legendary Malcom Smith away from Greaves, his first race machines, to becoming an all-conquering Husqvarna racer. In addition to bikes, Dye also imported the stars of European motocross. Dye came up with the idea to bring the top riders to America to race after the European Grand Prix season was over. In 1966, he flew Hallman over for a series of U.S. races. Hallman won every motocross race he entered. The following year, Dye brought over Hallman again, along with other top riders such as Joel Robert, Roger DeCoster, Dave Bickers, Arne King, Ake Johnson and, a little later, Lars Larsson. Hallman’s method of introducing himself and motocross racing into America was to enter scrambles and other off-road events throughout the fall, which he dominated like no other rider had Torsten Hallman was among the Husqvarna riders from Europe who pioneered motocross in the United States. 58 INTERNATIONAL DEALER NEWS - FEBRUARY/MARCH 2019 done before. One race in particular gave Hallman a great deal of notoriety – the Hopetown GP held near Simi Valley, California, which was then the foremost motocross-style scrambles race in America. “The Hopetown race was where I sort of became famous in America,” Hallman recalled. “The newspapers wrote quite a lot about me and my Husky after my success. No one had ever dreamed that it was possible to ride so fast on a motorcycle in motocross.” With his reputation established in America, he and Malcolm Smith briefly opened a motocross school in Riverside, California. For the next several years, Dye continued to bring the best European stars to America to race, which led to Dye forming the influential Inter-Am motocross series, with Hallman as its first star, and setting motocross racing (and eventually supercross) on course to be the most popular form of motorcycle racing in America and triggering its boom years of the 1970s. During the late 1960s, Dye and Hallman also founded a motocross accessory business to provide motocross riders with imported racing gear that provided better protection than what was generally available in the United States at that time. Initially the supplier was a company in Sweden that produced hockey gear. It turned out that much of the protection worn by hockey players was perfectly suited for the needs of motocross racers as well. Besides being a world champion racer, Hallman also proved to be a world-class businessman. He became a Husqvarna dealer in Sweden and then began to sell motocross pants and gloves at the races to help supplement his income. This eventually led to the formation of Thor. From the company’s beginnings out of the trunk of Hallman’s car, Thor grew to become one of the leading off-road racing apparel companies in the world. Hallman later sold his interest in the company but remained Sweden’s Thor importer for many years. The buyer was Fred Fox, of Parts Unlimited, and now Parts Europe fame. Fox, an engineer by training, numbered motorcycle importing among his early career highlights and is another who did much to promote the growth and success of motocross (and many other motorcycle race series) in the United States through the support Parts Unlimited has given to “supporting the sport” through series and rider sponsorships. A back injury slowed Hallman by the end of the 1960s. His results suffered and Husqvarna dropped him from the factory squad. The fledgling Yamaha motocross effort quickly picked up, and Hallman and the factory made the most of the world champion’s knowledge. With Hallman’s input, Yamaha developed its championship-winning YZ series of motocross bikes, the first production motocross machines to utilise mono-shock rear suspension. Fast forward to 2019, and Wasserliesch, Germany based Parts Europe will itself be celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, and from its state-of-the-art 16,500 sq m European warehouse and headquarters facility now distributes the Thor Motocross line throughout Europe and maintains the founder’s, indeed both founders’ – Hallman and Fox – dedication to investing in motocross racing.