click upper image to enlarge
1973 YZ250 Monoshock Hakan Andersson
featured here is the very bike Hakan Andersson won the 1973 250
World Championship with. It was Yamaha's first World
Championship and just as important, this was the first long
travel motocross bike in history. This is the bike that
started it all. Looking back, it is easy to come to the
conclusion that this is one of the most historical motocross
bikes of all time. The long travel suspension that we
enjoy today started right here. It made its debut at the
third round of the 1973 250cc Grand Prix season at Wuustwezel
Belgium. It had over fifty percent more travel than any of
the other bikes that day. All the work that Torsten
Hallman did in 1972 and all the work that Hakan, Hakan's
mechanic Eije Skarin
(pronounced Aya) and the Japanese
engineers did in months of rigorous testing, was about to pay
off. Hakan won the overall that day and then went on to
absolutely dominate the season. With four Grand Prix's to
go at Hyvinka Finland, Hakan clinched the World Championship.
It wasn't until the seventh round at the French Grand Prix that Adolf Weil's Maico
came out with the forward mounted shocks. In this race
during the first moto, Hakan got a last place start and came
blazing through the pack to nearly win. The FIM officials
were sure something was not right and ordered that Hakan
immediately take a drug test. Drugs were not the issue
here. Hakan was riding fantastic and also he was on a bike
that was changing motocross history. Things would never be
was a junior in high school when all this was happening. I
would take all my motorcycle magazines that covered Hakan and
this special bike to school and read them over and over, just
dreaming of being in Europe at these races. I actually got
to meet Hakan at the 1974 Trans-am at Honda Hills in Ohio.
I remember being so nervous just to ask him for his autograph.
It was a special time for me and many others that lived through
this era. I never thought I would one day own this bike.
In 1997 I
went to Belgium with Jim Pomeroy for the 50th anniversary of the
500 Belgium Grand Prix. We stayed at Joel Robert's house
and the night before the Grand Prix there was a party at the
Citadel. At about one O'clock in the morning Joel and
I were just starting to leave, and there was Hakan sitting at a
table by himself. Joel stopped to talk, and introduced me
to him. We then sat down at the table and talked for a
while. One of the first things I asked him was if he still
had the 1973 Championship bike. When he told me he did, I
just sat there in shock for awhile. I asked him if he
would sell it and the answer was no. He told me that over
the years at least a hundred people had tried to buy the bike and he
wanted to keep it. At that point I was just glad that it
still existed and I hoped that one day I could see it.
Weeks later back in the states, I could not get that bike out
of my mind. I dug out all of those same magazines that I
used to take to school and went through them over and over.
I couldn't take it anymore. I phoned up Jim Pomeroy and
asked him to call Hakan and ask him about selling the bike.
The answer was still no. I then asked Jim to call him back
and ask if it would be alright if I called him. The answer
was yes to that. I phoned Hakan and introduced myself
again. He actually remembered me from Belgium and believe
it or not from Ohio in 1974. I explained to him my passion
and goal of preserving motocross history and after Pomeroy
calling him, Joel putting in a good word, he decided to sell me
the bike. When the crate arrived, inside along with the
bike was the jersey he was wearing at the Honda Hills Trans am
from 1974. It was and still is a dream come true.
purchase, Hakan and I became good friends and he invited me to
Sweden to watch the 500cc Swedish Grand Prix. Hakan is still
involved with motocross and infact it is his club that puts on
the race. I took him up on the offer and there I met
his long time mechanic Eije Skarin. Over dinner one night
Eije told me the history of this bike. They used a total
of four bikes that year and this one was used in a total of
three Grand Prix's. Finland, Russia and Sweden.
Hakan also used it in some post season races in Sweden. I
also learned that Eije was very instrumental in the development
of the bike, working along side the Japanese for hours on end to
develop it into a World Championship winner.
Getting Hakan's autograph at the 1974 Trans Am at Honda Hills
The first time I saw the
monoshock was in February of 1973. It was at a
very remote track in the woods, near a small
village in northern Belgium named As. The
Japanese chose this place because the monoshock
project was top secret and they were very
careful not to be seen. I was very skeptical
about the bike when I first saw it. After
testing it, my first impression was that it felt
very strange. It was very harsh in the rear and
the seat kept hitting me every time I went over
the bumps. The rear shock had too much
compression damping and there was no rebound
damping at all. I was very surprised that my lap
times were about equal to my best lap times on
the two shock bike. The Japanese really wanted
me to start the Grand Prix season on the
monoshock bike, but I felt it wasn't ready yet.
They put no pressure on me and left the final
decision up to me as to what bike to use. For
the first two GP's I used the standard bike. It
took about two months of testing nearly every
day to get the compression and rebound damping
and also find the right spring, preload and gas
pressure before I felt the bike was up to its
potential. The Yamaha engineers and my friend
and mechanic Eije Skarin did a great job to sort
out all the problems in the beginning.
At the third round
of the GP's in Belgium, I felt the bike was
ready. We picked Belgium for the monoshock debut
because the track at Wuustwezel was similar to
the one we tested on for so many months. This
was a calculated and well thought out decision.
The bike was working very well that day and I
was riding very well too. I had just recovered
from the flu that I had at the Italian Grand
Prix and was feeling very good and confident.
When the day was all over I had won the overall.
The bike preformed excellent. Yamaha was very
happy and we decided to use the monoshock for
the rest of the season. The next GP was at
Payerne Switzerland and I won both motos there.
We were really starting to gain momentum. In
between Grand Prix's we tested all the time,
mostly in Belgium but we tested at other places
as well. We would also test at a track that
would be similar to the track at the upcoming
Grand Prix, and set the bike up for that type of
track. We basically had a different shock for
each Grand Prix. It was in Yugoslavia that we
had our only mechanical failure. The frame broke
near the swingarm pivot. My mechanic Eije welded
the frame in between motos (neither one of us
thought it would last but it did) and I went on
to win the second moto.
We had two Japanese
engineers that traveled all over Europe with us
and after the races and during testing they were
always in contact with the factory in Japan.
Every little detail was reported and parts were
being changed, updated and flown over all the
time. The bike was changing every week and it
was improving every week too. Yamaha was very
serious about winning. I had so many parts that
there was no way I could ever use them in ten
lifetimes. It was crazy. The other factories
were seeing our advantage and were now trying to
play catch up. In France we got our first
counter attack. Adolph Weil showed up with the
first bike with forward mounted shocks on his factory Maico.
That day in the first moto, I started dead last and worked all the
way up to second at the last lap. One more lap
and I would have won for sure. The F.I.M.
officials did not believe it was possible to
come from behind like that with out being under
the influence, and they forced me to take a drug
test. That was the first and only drug test I
ever took. After that race we had so much
momentum, we had the best bike and I was riding
at my best. It was then that I thought I had a
real good chance of being World Champion. Going
into Finland, with four Grand Prix's to go I had
enough points to possibly clinch the World
Championship that day. When the day was over, I
had won both motos and was crowned World
Champion. My life long dream had come true.
When I look back
now, I realize that it was Yamaha and myself
that started the whole suspension revolution
more than thirty years ago. And that how
important it was for the whole motorcycle
industry. In my opinion this was the single most
important advancement in motocross. All the
bikes today now use a single rear shock
suspension similar to the one I used, only
On May 2nd 2001 Eije Skarin died after a long
battle with Brain cancer. He was Hakan's best
friend and mechanic from the beginning.
Eije was a major contributor to the development
of the monoshock, often working late hours
behind the scenes. Eije was a kind and
soft spoken man. His brilliance and hard work
played a major role in this Championship. He is
missed by all those who new him.
click either image to enlarge
click either image to enlarge