By Geoff Meyer | 19 Jun 2013
The country of Sweden has a long and very rich history with the FIM World Motocross Championships. In fact it was the Swedish riders who dominated the early days of the FIM World 500cc Championships, the first major series to be given World statue.
Bill Nilsson started the winning, taking the 1957 World 500cc Championship, and names like Sten Lundin, Rolf Tibblin, Torsten Hallman, Bengt Aberg, Hakan Andersson, Hakan Carlqvist, and Marcus Hansson followed.
In the period from 1957 until1970 Swedish riders won 12 of the 23 titles, Nilsson getting two in the 500cc class in 1957 and 1960, Lundin picking up two in the 500cc class in 1959 and 1961, Tibblin also getting a double in the 500cc class in 1962 and 1963. The great Torsten Hallman scored four 250cc World titles in 1962, 1963, 1966 and 1967 and finally Bengt Aberg won himself two 500cc titles in 1969 and 1970.
The greatest Swedish rider of all time Torsten Hallman remembered well the early days of Swedish domination. Typically Hallman also remembers his battles with his greatest rival Joel Robert.
"Of course guys like Bill Nilsson, Rolf Tibblin and Sten Lundin were my heroes and they were the best. It was hard for us when the Belgian riders started winning, but every era has a change and our era was coming to an end. I feel proud that we did what we did and could win Sweden so many titles, but then with riders like Joel Robert and Roger De Coster it was Belgians turn to succeed.
After such success in the early days of the World Motocross Championships Sweden riders were shocked as the arrival of Belgian riders Joel Robert and Roger De Coster meant wins were hard to find for the Swedish competition.
The Swedish riders had based themselves in Belgium during the Grand Prix season and the Belgian riders got to watch and learn from the very best.
From 1971 until 1994 Sweden won just four World titles, those going to Hakan Andersson in the 250cc class in 1973, Hakan Carlqvist in the 250cc class in 1979 and the 500cc class in 1983 and a surprise victory by Marcus Hansson in the 500cc class in 1994.
Since that victory by Hansson no Swedish rider has been able to come to terms with the tough Belgians, British or Italian riders. Swedish Motocross also lost the Husqvarna brand which was sold to an Italian company and their other important brand Husaberg soon followed.
While great Swedish riders will always be remembered for their courage and determination that great legacy of the 1950's, and 60's looks unlikely to be repeated. Sweden has few leading GP riders, although the Grand Prix of Sweden, held at the Uddevalla circuit continues to be a very enjoyable stop for the FIM World Motocross Championships.
Photo: Sten Lundin and Bill Nilsson
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