Öhlins Racing started its business 40 years ago and indeed some of our staff have been with us since the start in 1976 to devoting their careers to make the company what it is today. However many of them have now reached an age where it’s time to retire! One of them is Lars ‘Larsa’ Isaksson, one of Öhlins’ best-known service engineers in both motocross and Road Racing. Larsa retired in August this year but before he left he told us about his years in the racing industry and at Öhlins.
Larsa has worked with motorcycles throughout his life, with an early interest:
I was probably not more than two or three years old when I first found bikes. Our neighbours raced motocross. When my mum got tired of me, she sat me down on the workbench in their garage. I could sit there for hours and watch them. When I was 11-12 years old, I started to ride motocross myself.
Larsa started his career at Hallman Racing, the former motocross champion Torsten “Totte” Hallman’s company, but left in 1979. Hallman had a hand when Yamaha contacted Larsa and offered him a job though:
I was on vacation in the United States when I had a call in the middle of the night by a Japanese guy, wondering if I was interested in becoming a mechanic for motocross rider André Vromans. Of course I was! It later came to light that it was Totte who had suggested Yamaha to contact me. I worked with Vromans 1980-81 and from 1982 with Danny LaPorte, who became world champion in 250cc that year.
Larsa also did some time at Suzuki (in cooperation with the rider Harry Everts) and at Husqvarna before he, in 1987, received an offer to start working at Öhlins with service to Road Racing teams.
I had known Kenth Öhlin since the 60s through motocross and in the 70s, we rode street bikes together, just for fun. I had already collaborated with Öhlins because my racers used the company’s products. Besides, I also knew Toshimitsu Iio, Yamaha’s man in place when the company became the majority owner of Öhlins in 1987.
On the other hand, Road Racing was something new to me, and in addition, suspension had not been used in Road Racing in the past. It was great fun, a real challenge! One could say that whatever we did with the suspension, it became better! Öhlins entered Road Racing at just the right time and we always had a head start because we could use our knowledge from motocross.
Öhlins Road Racing business grew but it was a hard job. Larsa tells how he and the other three service technicians worked around the clock 24 hours a day and travelled constantly during the test and racing season, through February to November.
The market exploded in 2001 and then more service technicians were employed as each team would have its own technician from Öhlins. I really admire Mats Larsson, my colleague at Öhlins, who has developed and maintained service operations during these years.
In the end, constant travelling became too much and in the year 2000 Larsa started working at the Sales, Marketing and Racing department at the company’s headquarters, just outside Stockholm. Then he also moved home to Sweden after living in Belgium since 1979.
Belgium was convenient to live in because I could drive all over Europe in just one day.
What does he say about Öhlins development from 1987 until today?
When I started everyone was ready to do anything. It is that spirit that has built the company up to what it is today. Öhlins is a fantastic company and I still learn new things every day.
In August, Larsa retired but how does he fill his days?
I have a summer house, four classic motorcycles, an electric bike, a motorcycle in a “thousands parts” as well as family and grandchildren, so I will be fine!
Öhlins sends our warmest thanks for these years to you, Larsa!