Bob Hansen was a key figure in motorcycle racing during the 1960s and ‘70s. He is best known for running the American racing teams for Honda and, later, Kawasaki. Under Hansen’s direction, Honda won its first Daytona 200 in 1970 with Dick Mann at the controls of the CB750. A few years later Hansen headed up Kawasaki’s successful racing team during its early efforts on the U.S. racing scene with riders such as Yvon DuHamel, Paul Smart and Gary Nixon. Hansen had been a well known Midwestern racer during the 1940s and ‘50s and went on to become a much-sought-after tuner before going to Honda in the early 1960s.

Born in Racine, Wisconsin, on Oct. 15, 1919, Hansen first became interested in motorcycles when he was in high school. A school buddy was a motorcyclist and Hansen decided he wanted to try the sport as well. At 16, and with little money, his solution was to buy a 1931 74-cubic-inch Harley-Davidson totally disassembled in a bushel basket. Hansen and his buddy never quite completed the restoration of the old Harley, but they got close enough that Hansen was able to work out a deal with the Racine Harley-Davidson dealer to trade in the partially completed bike on a newer 45-cubic-inch model. At times, his motorcycle was his only form of transportation and Hansen rode year-round, even in the brutal Wisconsin winters, by mounting a sidecar on his Harley.

Hansen joined the local motorcycle club and became quite involved in the club’s activities. One of the primary activities was racing. By the time he was 18 years old, Hansen was competing in just about every form of motorcycle racing, from hillclimbing to TT and flat track races.

"Those were the true early days of Class C racing," Hansen explained. "We would ride our motorcycles to the races, strip them down for the race, then put them back together afterwards and ride them home."

After serving in World War II, Hansen resumed racing and earned a national number. He raced mainly in the Midwest, but occasionally ventured farther, such as the annual trek to Daytona every spring.

By the late 1950s, Hansen was tuning for and sponsoring several racers primarily on BSAs. By 1960, Hansen had opened a motorcycle dealership in Racine and was one of the first dealers in the Midwest to sell Honda motorcycles, which were being imported into the United States for the first time. Hansen became a Honda dealer and was soon asked to set up a regional parts warehouse, which he did in Racine. For a time, Hansen was in charge of setting up many of the earliest Honda dealerships in the Midwest. Still in love with racing, Hansen, without Honda’s knowledge, built a few Honda race bikes that were successfully raced in Canada as early as 1962. Honda politely asked him to quit building the race bikes when customers began calling Honda to get these Japanese-only models for themselves. He continued to move up the ladder at Honda and he eventually moved to the company’s headquarters in Southern California to head up the service department.

While with Honda, Hansen headed up several racing efforts with the company’s lightweight and middleweight motorcycles. Most notable was a semi-factory Honda effort at Daytona in 1967 with a trio of HRC-prepared CB450s.

When Honda introduced its revolutionary CB750, it wanted to prove the speed and reliability of the new machine by racing in the 1970 Daytona 200. Hansen was given the responsibility of heading up the effort on the American side. Hansen recalls that the CB750s (of which there were four factory entries) had plenty of speed, but there was a problem with the cam-chain tensioner on the high-speed Daytona circuit. After the problem was discovered, Hansen made the decision to keep Mann off the bike during the final day of practice so that the machine could be totally rebuilt. Mann’s bike was the only factory Honda to go the distance and he won the race over the Triumphs of Gene Romero and Don Castro despite the Honda having less than a half-quart of oil left in the engine at the finish.

Just a few months after Honda’s victory at Daytona, Hansen accepted an attractive offer to work for Kawasaki. That company wanted to establish a name in racing as well and felt that Hansen would be the right person to coordinate its racing efforts. It proved to be a good decision. Under Hansen’s guidance, Kawasaki won its first AMA national with Yvon DuHamel, and became a powerhouse in U.S. racing.

While at Kawasaki, Hansen also served as vice president of the AMA's competition committee, the rules-making body for racing. Hansen was also the U.S. delegate on the F.I.M. road racing committee.

By the mid-1970s, Hansen had moved out of the motorcycle industry. After a short stint with the Italian manufacturer, Laverda, Hansen made his living in real estate.

When inducted in 1999, Hansen kept up with his interest in motorcycles by restoring collector bikes and acting as a consultant for Heritage Racing, Honda’s vintage racing division. He also is in demand at various racing gatherings to give talks on his days in racing.


Reprinted with permission of the American Motocyclist Association


AMA Hall Of Fame Induction Medal
Click on Medal for close up.


For information on what Bob Hansen is up to today, check out the Revival page.

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YearRiderBike
1953Kenny KraftIndian
1954Al BergquistIndian
1954Dick CourtneyIndian
1960Tony MurphyBSA
1962Jody NicholasG50
1962Joe ScalzoG50
1963Ray HempsteadG50
1964Dan HaabyG50
1964Ralph WhiteG50
1965Tommy RockwoodG50
1965Gene RomeroG50
1965Bobby WintersG50
1966Dick KlamfothG50
1966Ivor LloydG50/Honda
1966Dick GariepyG50
1967Swede SavageHonda
1967Jim OdumHonda
YearRiderBike
1967Larry SchaeferHonda
1970Dick MannG50/Honda
1971Yvon Duhamel650 Kawasaki
1971Mike LaneKawasaki
1971Gary NixonKawasaki
1971Lance WeilKawasaki
1972Paul SmartKawasaki
1972Art BaumannKawasaki
1972Chris CarrKawasaki
1972Hurley WilvertKawasaki
2001Butch SprainHonda
2002Scott StricklerHonda
2002Steve BrownHonda
2002Dan SchmidtHonda
2002Dave RosnoHonda
2002Mark LovelandHonda

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Flat-track race with Bob Hansen in the lead. 1950.
Bob Hansen on a 1940 Triumph 500 twin prepared as a flat-track racer. 1948.
Bob on a Manx Norton on the beach at Daytona. 1949.
Bob at 1/2 mile track riding an Ariel Red Hunter 500cc single. 1950.
Daytona 1953. Bob assisting Grand Prix ridder Paddy Driver.
While in the Army Air Corps 1942, Bob built himself an orange bicycle to ride while stationed at Chanute Field, IL.
Not many people know that Bob Hansen instructed pilots to fly P-38 Lightnings and B-24 Mitchell bombers during World War II.
Bob Hansen along with mechanic Bob Jameson standing outside the garage with 3 CR450s just prior to the Daytona 200. 1967.
Bob Preparing to fire up Swede Savage's CR450 with Bob Jameson attending.
Larry Schafer on a CR450 going through AMA tech. First time AMA tech officials have ever seen a CR450 road racer.
18 year old, 1st time Daytona racer, Jim Odem going through AMA tech. Daytona 1967.
A rare photograph from an undeveloped roll of film found 20 years after the 1967 Daytona race of Larry Schafer rolling his CR450 to the starting line for the 200 mile race.
Bob gets to leave Jim Odom on the starting line for the 67 Daytona 200 while Jim concentrates.
This is Bob's rig towing 3 G-50s to Daytona in the 60s. The van is orange and white of course. Is there another color!?!
Bob at the 1997 Honda reunion at Mid-Ohio with Dick Mann, Bob Jameson, and others in attendance.
Bob behind Yvon DuHamal after scoring a major win for Kawasaki after Bob left Honda.

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For those interested in detail.
This is a photo of a CR450 as orginally assembled in Bob Hanen's shop just prior to the 67 race.

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© 2003,2004 Team Hansen Honda