The passing of anyone in the world of motorcycles is always sad, especially when they attained the pinnacle of their chosen discipline as the world champion. In early February I was called with the news that the 1980 FIM World Trials Champion Ulf Karlson
The sport of motorcycle trials is quite small in Sweden but what it has produced is some very competitive riders. With the loss of his father at eighteen years old Ulf Karlson was very much on his own as he made his way into the trials world. In the early seventies, as his career was still in its infancy, he had to contest with three other fellow Swedish riders who were all very competitive in their own right; these three were Benny Sellman, Tore Evertsson and Bo Nilsson. It would be quite a battle to win the national championship, as both Sellman and Evertsson shared the honours until Karlson made the breakthrough in 1976. He would remain the national champion of Sweden with consecutive titles until he retired from the sport in 1984.
Here we have a brief look at a career of a rider who would achieve the ultimate goal of the FIM World Trials Champion in 1980. He also became the first rider to give the ultimate accolade to the Spanish manufacturer Montesa. EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP It would be in the latter stages of the European Championship where the Swedish rider would start to make his mark as a world-class rider. In 1971, riding a Montesa Cota 247 on home soil, he took his first points, finishing fourth as Benny Sellman took the win. As we have already mentioned, Swedish riders would feature well in the European championship making for strong home competition, and Ulf would have to wait until 1974 to make the breakthrough. With four wins from the series he finished just three marks short of the championship; he had arrived – or so we thought. This was the last year of the European Championship before it was given full world championship approval by the FIM. His efforts were recognised by Montesa, who produced a limited edition Ulf Karlson Replica Cota 247.
In Sweden a Post Office stamp carried his name, and he would feature on the television and in the national newspapers. Everyone would have to take him seriously now as a championship contender. The manufacturers were very interested in him and after the final series trial in Switzerland the Bultaco team manager Oriol Bulto mentioned to Finland’s Yrjo Vesterinen that it would be so nice if Ulf would ride for Bultaco in 1975. As it happened Ulf would stay loyal to Montesa for his entire riding career. Vesty was extremely relieved, as he had enough problems to try to cope with the existing Bultaco team members never mind one more championship contender!