Magazine "Cycle", Official National Publication of the Canadian Motorcycle Association, october 1974.
It's been a long time coming, but Heikki Mikkola is the new 500cc World Motocross Champion. You may all applaude, though I'm sure Heikki would just as soon that you threw money.
Not that Mikkola is money-hungry mind you, it's just that the twenty-nine year old Finn is an intensely realistic man, a man who's very likely to remember exactly where he's been on the way to getting where he is now.
Untill this year, Heikki wasn't even number one at Husqvarna. Instead, he played perennial second-string to twice World Champion Bengt Aberg, a man who had the credentials and who - being Swedish - knew where all the Husqvarna bodies were buried. So Heikki glowered along in Aberg's small but encompassing shadow, getting the second best bikes (if he was lucky) and the Finnish treatment. Along the way he acquired a wife, Kaija, a four-year old daughter, Hanna, and a reputation as a hard-riding win or break rider who didn't seem to be particularly concerned with the fact that what broke might belong
to him. The original "Feral Finn." No matter where Heikki might be in relation to first place, you watched him. A ferocious rider of ferocious mein, the beard and glower effectively concealing a fun-loving type who likes to drink beer, party, have barking matches with dogs and who inevitably seems to have a bad stomach the morning of a race. But not too many people knew all that, because Aberg was always there, charming, smiling Roger DeCoster was World Champion, and Heikki, well, Heikki broke a lot.
Then Aberg left Husqvarna, first for Cheney and atavistic dreams of a four-stroke resurgence, then for Bultaco. And Heikki, with Husqvarna's Swedish stable of riders suddenly thin due to age and Japanese money, was the Husky number one. It was good timing.
After three years in the wilderness, three years of never sreiously threatening for the world open title, Husqvarna had the machine. After the final moto in Luxembourg, after Heikki
had been declared World Champion and the home factory began trying to find space for another manufacturer's trophy, someone calculated that Heikki's bike had finished 55 straight international motos (both Grand Prix and nationals) without a mechanical failure. An astounding record.
And Husqvarna had the man for the machine. "If he doesn't break, he'll win," they used to say. And, "If his luck holds he can do it," the others would add knowingly, somehow confident that he would break, his luck wouldn't hold, that history would continue to repeat itself. But Heikki Mikkola had the bike, had it for yhe first time really, and he was a mature twenty-nine, the seemingly optimum age for European champions in what is usually described as a "young man's (meaning under 25) sport."
The bike itself is a 360 Husky. It displaces 354ccs, has a special one-off Motoplat ignition, Girling gas shocks, Husqvarna forks, a chrome moly frame, a stock (reportedly) lower end, and enlarged cylinder. That all sounds remarkably mild, but in practice it's not. The 360 was one of the quickest bikes on the GP circuit this season, and so light that a steel gas tank had to be used to bring the weight up to the FIM minimum for the class of 206 lb. The mechanic, to whom a good share of the credit must go for the Husky's record of incredible reliability, is Pelle Persson. But ultimately, riders win what there is to be won, and Heikki Mikkola won the 1974 500cc Class Motocross Championship. He is the undisputed king of big bore motocross.
Which, undoubtedly, won't do a thing for his stomach problems when the season begins again next April.