It’s Flashback Friday with Husqvarna, and the tale of Torsten Hallman’s third world championship in 1966.
Begin Press Release:
The Good Old Times Blog takes another look into the Husqvarna Motorcycles archive to recount some great race action back in 1966 when Torsten Hallman, “Mister Motocross”, claimed his third World Championship title in the 250 cc class on a muddy track in what was then the Soviet Union. Hallman was, and remains, a Swedish motorsports legend and a true Husqvarna hero.
Read the full story below:
27-year-old Torsten Hallman won his third world championship crown back in 1966 following a hard season of racing. The Husqvarna-mounted rider from Uppsala, north of Stockholm, had just finished his studies as an engineer when he hit the jackpot in the 15-round Grand Prix season. Five victories and four-second place results secured him the 250 cc title.
“The rider who succeeds in winning the year’s first Grand Prix is doomed to lose in the title chase”.
This was always a bad omen and had the reigning champion Victor Arbekov been more superstitious, he might have refrained from taking two moto wins in the opening round, held in Spain. Torsten Hallman avoided this jinx by finishing second overall behind the Russian rider. In France the Swede wanted revenge. At the same time the Russians were at hand early inspecting the superfast track in Pèrnes-les-Fontaines. They wanted to be sure on having the utmost prevailing chances of yet another victory. And it paid off in the opening heat when Arbekov managed to take the chequered flag ahead of mister motocross – Torsten Hallman. However, in the second and decisive moto, Hallman had his revenge and won convincingly. Victor Arbekov overdid things and his efforts were in vain as he crashed heavily, being unconscious for half an hour after the spill.
This incident spoilt the entire season for Arbekov who did not make a comeback until on home turf in the 14th round of the championship. But Hallman had to look out for his ever-strong opponent and contender Joel Robert from Belgium. In France the overall order was: 1. Sweden and 2. Belgium – eight world championship points as opposed to six for second man Robert. Husqvarna beat the Czech brand CZ.
However, the third round was on Joel’s home turf in Belgium. The rain poured down and the circuit was left in a terrible state, almost impossible to conquer. This suited Robert well as he was an outstanding rider in such circumstances. Rain and mud were Joel Robert’s favourite! On top of it Torsten Hallman lost third and fourth gears at the start and contemplated giving up. But this was never his style so he continued the race with only first and second gears available. Going up the first uphill he had to avoid a mass of riders who had been caught standing still in the mud as they did not make this steep part of the track. Among the bystanders was Joel Robert who looked unhappy and then finished in 10th spot after this first moto. Who won? Well, Hallman had overtaken one after another and managed to take the heat win despite very poor odds. In the second Robert was out on his own leading Torsten by three and a half minutes at the finish. But the overall victory belonged to Hallman and his Husqvarna.
In the fifth round Hallman took his 50th victory and his 25th Grand Prix success was now a fact. The Czech track suited him well and there was never any doubt who would be the overall conqueror in this event. Bielstein was a famous place for motocross in West Germany. Hallman missed the start of the initial race and had to be content with second overall after Joel Robert. The fight between the two giants was now quite even, at least after seven championship meetings. In Italy Hallman gained once more the lead as he passed the finish line first in both races. Robert’s CZ engine was out of order and the Belgian was so mad that he took a hammer and crushed his 250 power-plant entirely. He explained: “I’ve asked for a new engine for a long time now!” This strategy seemed to work as Joel won both races in Poland with his brand new CZ machine. At this point it was four to four in GP victories between the two rivals.
East Germany held their GP at Apolda. Here both Hallman and Robert failed to score on the top level. Robert hurt his foot, but without breaking any bones he was fit for the rest of the fight. The Swedish round was boycotted by most foreigners as the organisers refused to pay a decent starting fee. The Belgians all stayed at home and instead taking part in international races. They probably made ten times the money without having to drive all the way to Motala. Hallman won this event with pride and now looked good for taking his third crown. Bot there were still three rounds to go…
”If you ride like that tomorrow in the race, you are absolutely going to win, Olle,” said Hallman to his Husqvarna team mate Olle Pettersson after the practice session on Saturday afternoon. The riders were now in Finland and had to compete in the sandy dunes at the Hyvinkää track. True to Hallman’s verdict, Olle Pettersson won this gruelling event and passed Hallman to the second spot. The championship was now almost decided, as Robert did not clinch any points in Finland.
In the Soviet Union the track was muddy waters after some heavy showers. Joel had to win in order to have a chance on the title crown, but came second, which spoilt his chances for 1966. So, Torsten Hallman clinched his third world 250 cc championship here despite some bad luck in the race when his chain broke and came off the sprocket. However, this did not make any difference in the final moment of the exciting season back in 1966.
Hallman & Husqvarna were the overall winners of the FIM world title!