This week’s selection from Greg Primm’s Classic Steel is a product of one of the early 2000’s less successful marriages, Steve Lamson’s 2002 Fast By Ferracci Husky 250 CR.
By Tony Blazier
When Steve Lamson made the move to Husqvarna in 2001 it shocked a lot of people. There was talk of one million dollar championship bonuses and a $250,000 salary. In the end, the lure of such a lucrative deal was too much for the 2 time champ and he left a less profitable Honda deal on the table to sign with the new team. It is a decision that Lamson still regrets to this day.
Husqvarna has a long storied history in motocross. Going all the way back to the late fifties Husky’s have been at the forefront of the sport. In the early sixties it was the new lightweight two-stroke Husqvarna’s that helped push out the big BSA four bangers. When the sport started to move back to four-strokes in the early nineties, it was again Husky at the front of the movement with the first World Motocross Title by a thumper in thirty years. Over the years, Husqvarna has won sixteen World Motocross Titles and countless off road crowns. Unfortunately, all that overseas success has rarely translated over to this side of the pond.
Kent Howerton won Husqvarna’s last US title in 1976. With riders like Lamson and Chiodi on the Ferracci squad, there was real hope that some of that lost glory could be recaptured, but it was not to be.
In the seventies Husky would employ an impressive list of riders including Brad Lackey, Gary Semics, Kent Howerton, Mark Blackwell, Marty Tripes and Dick Burleson (who would go on to become the dominant Enduro rider of the era). The highlight for Husky would come in 1976 when Kent Howerton would capture the 1975 500 National Title. Unfortunately Howerton’s departure to team Suzuki in ’78 would spell the end of Husky’s title hopes in the US for over two decades.
Lamson struggled mightily with Supercross in his two years on the Fast By Ferracci squad. In ‘01 he would finish the season in 19th overall (one place in front of Husky teammate Jason Thomas). In ’02 he would fair even worse, breaking his leg at the second round in San Diego and missing the remainder of the series.
In the eighties Husky would be in a major state of transition. They had fallen far behind the Japanese in performance and had a hard time attracting quality riders. One of the last high profile riders to ride for the brand in the eighties would be future two time 125 National Motocross Champion Mickey Dymond. Dymond would ride for Husky in the Supercross and National series in ’84 and ‘85, finishing a best of 7th overall in the ’84 500 Nationals. After Dymond’s move to the powerful Honda squad for ’86, it would be over a decade before Husky would have another serious competitor in the AMA Nationals.
The stock Husky 250 CR motor was already long in the tooth by the time Fast By Ferracci decided to field a team in 2000. Dating back to the early 90’s, it was painfully slow and not the best platform to build a race motor from. Lamson’s works motor was fast, but hard to ride and not as good as the class leading RM’s and YZ’s in ’02.
After the acquisition of Husqvarna by Cagiva in 1987, there would be very little effort to promote their motocross machines in the US. Husky would continue to stay involved in the off-road market, but motocross would be on the back burner throughout most of the nineties. It would not be until ‘00 that Husky would take another stab at American motocross success.
Husqvarna’s reemergence into the American motocross circuit would be brought about by the convergence of two events. The first would be the clinching of a third straight 125 World Motocross Title by Alessio Chiodi. The second would be the departure of Fast By Ferracci owner Eraldo Ferracci from road racing at the end of the’99 season.
Lamson’s works bike featured the latest 50mm Marrzocchi works forks and Brembo oversize brakes. When Lamson first came to the team one of his major complaints was with the suspension. Ferracci had extensive road race experience, but no motocross knowledge to fall back on. 2001 Team rider Jason Thomas noted that the entire 2001 season was more or less a learning year for the team as they tried to adapt to the new discipline. Unfortunately, about the time they would get things sorted out Fast By Ferracci would shut down the motocross team.
After several successful seasons in road racing, Ferracci was looking to make a change for the 2000 season. His new direction turned out to be motocross. Ferracci was the US distributor for Husqvarna, so it would be logical to form his new team around Italian bikes. Coinciding with the formation of Ferracci’s new motocross team was the desire of Chiodi to come to America. The diminutive Italian felt he had accomplished all of his goals in Europe and was looking for new challenges in the US. With Chiodi already racing Husqvarna’s in Europe, the new Ferracci team looked to be a perfect fit.
I remember first seeing Lamson on the Husky at the US Open and wondering what the heck he was thinking. To me, Husky was just a joke in 2000 and it seemed like a strange move for the multi time champ. Even today, Husky is an oddball bike for a different kind of rider.
Unfortunately Chiodi’s 2000 season would be marked by injury. The Italian’s injury-riddled season would effectively put the Fast By Ferracci team’s title dreams on hold for another year. After the difficult 2000 season, Chiodi would go back to Europe and Ferracci would hire a new stable of riders for the team. The 2001 team would be led by long time AMA veteran Steve Lamson. The two time 125 National Champ would be joined by journeyman pro Travis Preston and young up-and-comers like Jason Thomas and Chris Gosselaar.
Fast By Ferracci did the best they could with the stock 250 CR but the bike was badly behind the Japanese at the time. The 125 was actually a much better bike with the experience the team had gained from Chiodi in Europe. The 250 program by contrast was basically nonexistent, and the bike showed it. Even with Ti bolts and weight saving tricks, the bike was significantly heavier than the competition. Handling was also handicapped by the stock machine’s “Euro” frame geometry. Put frankly, Husqvarna was just not ready to compete at the highest levels of American racing in 2002.
The’01 season would have one highlight for the Fast By Ferracci squad. Travis Preston would take a surprising win at the Houston SX (after a last lap crash by Grant Langston) and give Husky its first US win since Howerton in ’76. The rest of the season would be a bitter disappointment for the team. Lamson would struggle to come to terms with the less than stellar bikes, and finish the year well out of the title chase.
Lamson had always been more of an outdoor specialist, but even outdoors he struggled on the Italian bikes. In ’01 his best finish would be a 7th overall at Red Bud in the 125 class. In ’02 he would try his hand at the 250 class, but fair no better with a season best of 11th overall at Red Bud once again.
Lamson’s ’02 season would be even worse than the ’01 campaign. He would break his leg at the second Supercross round and then struggle in the outdoors finishing the season in 24th place. With Preston’s departure to Factory Connection Honda (where he promptly won the ’02 125 SX Title) and the team’s lack of production, there was little to celebrate in the ’02 season.
When I asked Lamson’s Fast By Ferracci teammate Jason Thomas for his take on their race bikes, he was complementary of all the hard work the team put in to try and improve the bikes. He stated that the Ferracci did the best they could, but the stock Husky’s were so far behind to begin with it was hard to make them competitive. The heavy old school chassis and outdated motor were not up to the rigors of AMA pro racing.
Financial troubles and a plant flooding back in Italy would spell an end to the Fast By Ferracci motocross effort. After three years, two big stars and a plethora of journeymen riders, the team had but one 125 SX win to show for their efforts. The team had faced a steep learning curve switching from the world of road racing, and did the best they could with the less than cutting edge Husky’s. Since Ferracci shut down its motocross team in ’02, no one else has made another attempt at fielding a Husky team here in the States. Only time will tell if we have seen the last of the once proud brand.