It is quite amazing to think about how our expectations of Husqvarna have changed so much in such a short space of time, despite the fact that there have not been any results (yet) to justify why we would suddenly think that the manufacturer are in a position to contend. However, the brand has been catapulted into the limelight recently, as it now seems like a foregone conclusion that they will be battling for wins at the highest level in the very near future.
Obviously, the transformation that the brand has made in recent weeks would not have been possible without KTM. By now, most of you will know that KTM have merged with Husqvarna. It is certainly a unique situation, as KTM are jeopardising their position at the top of the sport by allowing another brand to have access to their equipment, and ideas. But, even if Husqvarna do eventually surpass KTM (which is unlikely), it will still help KTM, hence why they have elected to begin this partnership.
Essentially, the Husqvarna will be almost identical to the KTM to begin with. However, the plan is for the brand to become it’s own entity within a few years. So, even if some weekend warriors decide to sell their KTM in order to buy a Husqvarna, their money will still end up with the same person. It is really quite amazing that KTM have reached such a high level of dominance in Europe that they now need to create some friendly competition, as it does not seem like the Japanese manufacturers are in a position to battle with KTM at the moment.
Overall, I do think that the decision by KTM to merge with Husqvarna will help the sport grow. It is not healthy for the sport to see one brand so dominant, so chucking Husqvarna into the fray will undoubtedly spice things up, and interest most fans. However, do not expect Husqvarna to challenge for race wins immediately. Although KTM are pulling the strings, the program will still be new to the technicians, teams and riders. So, they will undoubtedly have to contend with the same teething pains that KTM were faced with not too long ago. But, make no mistake about it; the Husqvarna will be relatively strong straight out of the box.
Of course it all falls on the rider in the end, as you would expect. Honestly, I do not think that Husqvarna has the type of riders capable of challenging for a title in the FIM Motocross World Championship next year, hence why it would be surprising to see a Husqvarna on top. But, if a Husqvarna rider were to finish on the podium at round one, in Qatar, I would not be shocked – despite the fact that the idea of a Husqvarna rider finishing on the box seemed absurd just a few months ago.
There are some perks to being a Husqvarna rider, as you have access to some of the things that are exclusive to KTM riders. For instance, Tyla Rattray was out testing a 350f Husqvarna just a few weeks ago, which is an option that his rivals (that aren’t on a KTM) do not have. It will be quite interesting to see what machine he decides to go with, as he has had his best years on a 250f, which would indicate that the 350f is the bike for him. However, he is a bigger guy, so the extra power could be something that he finds useful.
Although Tyla Rattray has been a contender for various titles in the past, I just cannot see him battling Antonio Cairoli for the MX1 World Championship next year. Why? Well, the last two years have been disastrous for him, as various injuries have halted his progress. But, when he has been healthy and on-track, he has not had the speed to match Ryan Dungey and Ryan Villopoto in the USA, which is the sort of speed that Cairoli is running over here. Of course, a return to the familiar surroundings of Europe could revitalise him, and the fact that he will not have to compete in supercross will undoubtedly be positive for the South African. Overall, he could finish first, or seventh – I would not be surprised either way.
Todd Waters will join Tyla Rattray on the Ice1 Racing Husqvarna team; in his first MXGP campaign, the Australian will have the mountainous task of getting accustomed to the new bike, and setup. However, he has piloted a KTM in Australia all year, so really, it should feel exactly the same, which undoubtedly helped him when trying to decide whether to head on over to the FIM Motocross World Championship. Honestly, I think Todd will be an underdog. I do not think that he will challenge his superior teammate, but he should be able to battle it out just outside of the top five, I believe.
I believe that the transition that Husqvarna are making will be much easier in MX2, as KTM have long been the most successful brand in the class. Honestly, no one else really comes close. So, Husqvarna should be able to feed off of that, and slot in right behind their sister company. Obviously, Romain Febvre and Aleksandr Tonkov are more than capable of achieving these sorts of results, as they are proven podium contenders. Again, it will be difficult for the brand to top the podium in the near future, but it will come in time, I am sure of that.
Despite the fact that there were some rumours suggesting that Chad Reed was going to pilot a Husqvarna in the USA next year (these proved to be false – Chad will almost certainly be on a Kawasaki), it does not seem like the brand will be entering the American market just yet. Of course, it took KTM many years to reach the highest level in America, so that will undoubtedly be a much tougher task for Husqvarna. Presumably they will not attempt that for a couple of years. Although they are not breaking into the American scene just yet, Husqvarna will be making an appearance in Britain – rumours suggest that the Evotech team could be running the manufacturer’s UK effort. Currently, there is no word on whether Husqvarna will have an MX1 team in the Maxxis British Championship.
So, Husqvarna will undoubtedly have a little bit of work to do before they reach the top of the sport. But, they know that, and they know what is required of them to get there, hence why I am so confident that they will eventually find their way to the top. It is an exciting time for the sport, as the pecking order is rarely shaken up like this.
Words by Lewis Phillips
Image courtesy of Jeff Crow