By Kenneth Olausson
Rolf Tibblin won the European championship on his 250cc Husqvarna in 1959. The following year he chose to step up the ladder and go for the big-bore 500cc class. Tibblin already had some experience from Husky’s newcomer as he had done the initial tests when the machine was introduced at the beginning of October, 1958. Now he was to use the machine with number 18-61 printed into the frame. The Husqvarna power plant had a displacement of 485cc from a bore and stroke of 79 x 99 mm. The compression ratio was measured at 10:1 and it gave a performance of 36 horsepower at 5,800 rpm. The big-bore beast from the factory showed big potential and had already won the 500cc title in 1960 with Bill Nilsson.
Six events out of 10 were counted for the top of the podium. The season opener was held at Sittendorf in Austria, a famous 3-kilometre track that has been used extensively in MX championship races. The circuit was fast and this year it was also very dusty. 40,000 spectators came to watch, and they were in for a total Swedish dominance. Out of six riders, five Swedes were among the six top places! Somebody said it was like a national championship race. In each moto there were 15 laps to conquer. Tibblin took the holeshot in the first leg and won comfortably. In the second leg, he crossed the finish line behind the winner, but gained overall victory, picking up eight valuable points in the championship.
Six weeks later, the contenders rode in Pèrnes-les-Fontaines in France. It was a repeat of the opener with Tibblin winning and with five Swedes in the six top places. Two weeks later Tibblin came second behind Gunnar “Smiling” Johansson in Bremgarten, Switzerland. And a week later in Imola, Italy, Tibblin was again in front of his antagonist Johansson, picking up yet another eight points. The hardest Grand Prix during the 1962 season was no doubt the Czech GP in Prérov outside Prague, where everybody was exhausted after the two heats. “It just proved that my hard training paid off well,” Tibblin told us. However, he didn’t score since the frame broke when Rolf was leading the field. After half the season he was leading the championship with 30 points.
July 1st and it was time for Hawkstone Park in England. On these classic grounds the sixth round was arranged by the ACU, the British motorcycle union. Rolf Tibblin was back in top shape and outmanoeuvred the entire home elite, winning with a huge margin. Four weeks later – in Lichtenvoorde, Holland – he shared victory with Gunnar Johansson. They had exactly the same time, to the second, and both received seven points each. It hadn’t happened before and it would not happen again! The scores after seven rounds: Tibblin 45 points, Johansson 36.
Race fans that have experienced the Belgian Namur track at the Citadelle know that it is a very special and demanding event. On top of it all, this time it rained heavily, making the track slippery and difficult to master. Despite the weather, 25,000 enthusiasts came to watch Tibblin take two second places in the heats. He had a crash in the second leg and had to regain positions after being last in the field. Coming second under these circumstances was a true achievement, probably the major ride of the entire 1962 season.
“In Ettelbruck I had to sit in the paddock and watch everybody else racing,” Tibblin remembered with a smile on his face. “I had broken down and only needed to see if Johansson won or not. As he didn’t, my first world championship title was in the bag. I could hardly believe it. It was a sensational feeling winning the 500cc circus for the first time. I remember I couldn’t sleep for days. As in 1959 when I became European 250 champion, I walked around the city for hours, just enjoying the feeling. It’s hard to explain, but it was the greatest moment in my life. I was also victorious in the national championship winning four out of five rounds at home. It was truly a fantastic season for me and my Husqvarna.”
Rolf Tibblin won half of the Grand Prix events during 1962. In seven out of 10 races, Tibblin finished in the top two podium positions, which surely was a new record in MX. To make it even better, Rolf participated in the successful team at the Moto Cross des Nations in Wohlen, Switzerland. The Swedes were so dominating that the four of them crossed the finish line together, holding hands. Husqvarna contributed to this enormous success and Rolf would go on to win yet another 500cc world title in the coming season of 1963.