Bent Words

Bent Words

November 30, 2019

Random but wonderful.

I thought all was lost with the fire of 2011 but, here I am, with an article I wrote. It's not the best but it's proof of who I used to be, what I used to do and all of which I adored; motorcycles. Somehow my old email address downloaded all these extra emails I've not seen for a million years and here are some phenomenal photos of racing I took, some quite a bit indifferent, and some notes from college. I'm in tears.

I can smell the race gas, feel the frozen mud of Mitch Hansen's race track and see the bruises left behind from one of the best days I've ever known on two wheels...


Off The Track with the Red Bull/KTM/HMC Team
By Laura Elaine Johnson

Take four fast riders, a few amazing mechanics, one outstanding Team Owner and mix them together with about a dozen orange and black KTM motorcycles and see what you get. The answer is success – Supermoto style.


When he’s watching his team race, Mitch Hansen stands by himself to take in all the action. His face is temporarily bereft of that signature smile – the smile of one who knows something you do not – as he concentrates intently upon the milieu of motorcycles before him. He barely notices the crowd surrounding him. His eyes carefully follow the line of his men and he sees every spark created from pegs dragging on pavement. He is completely immersed.

And, if you can actually pull your own eyes away from the race, you might even catch him biting his nails.

But with such an impressive group of guys, both on and off the track, there isn’t much that Red Bull/KTM/HMC Team Owner, Mitch Hansen, has to be nervous about. From the local young guns of Benny Carlson and John Lewis, to the race wise and worldly Jurgen Kunzel and Kurt Nicoll, Hansen could not have asked for a better bunch of racers.

“When you’re not racing yourself,” says Hansen, “the next best thing is to own a winning team.”

That’s exactly what the #45 of Benny Carlson has been up to lately – winning. Sailing away with one third place and two first place finishes, the Hole-Shot King Carlson leads the competition in the Supermoto Unlimited class points race. The local man of the hour has been riding for Hansen since the team’s debut in 2003, but it wasn’t very long ago when Carlson was racing against Hansen.

Tearing it up together at the SuperBikers2 series at Elkhart Lake’s Briggs and Stratton track in 2001, Hansen was given a somewhat rude introduction to the young Carlson.

“I remember the day I met Benny,” recalls Hansen with a grin. “I was the one with the hole-shot that day but somehow that little creep got around me and I ended up third. That was Ben.”

The animosity has long-since been dispelled and the entire team gets along great.

Ben Carlson has taken the newest Red Bull/KTM/HMC Team member, John Lewis, under his wing. The 16-year-old Pennsylvanian has been fast on the gas, says Hansen, and he has given his teammate a reason to look over his shoulder.

Although Lewis is currently tending to a broken left hand, which he acquired before the Road America round, he has barely skipped a beat. Even after doing more damage to his hand in the dirt at RA, Lewis still managed to stay in the top ten. He’s currently tied for second in the Unlimited Supermoto points standing with Team GP Husqvarna’s Gary Trachy.

“This is his first time out on the big bikes,” says Hansen, “and I could not be more proud of him.”

The entire team wishes Lewis a fast and full recovery. And it’s not because Hansen is just looking for another win. He cares about the outcome, of course, but even more so, Mitch Hansen cares about his racers.

“I try to steer them in the right direction and keep their attitudes positive. I don’t offer them too much advice because they get that from their techs. Besides,” laughs Hansen, “what am I going to tell Kurt and Jurgen about racing?”

He may not have much advice to give, but Hansen does know how to treat ‘em right. He has recently finished a new race shop in Manitowoc, Wisconsin which provides the hard working team with all the amenities they could possibly ask for. The garage is spacious enough accommodate each orange bike and the KTM Semi, while a mezzanine contains four fully furnished rooms for visiting team members.

There dyno room is nearly complete and a kitchen, which appeared to be well stocked, brings the boys back for Hansen’s infamous beer battered brats. But his pride and joy, says Hansen, is the funky entertainment room. A wide, flat-screen TV, couch and bright orange bar stools (fittingly) adorn the room and the Red Bull flows freely.

“It’s great! I call it the Austen Power’s 70’s Room,” jokes Hansen.

But the real prize is on the outside. About a hundred yards from the race shop, Hansen and his team members enjoy a full-sized, private dirt track. It’s the perfect place for the team to practice and hone in on their dirt racing skills. So if the boys aren’t at the USA International Raceway in Shawano, WI, their official practice track, they’re probably switching it up in the dirt.

A barely visible orange flag, strategically placed in the middle of the winding track, satisfies another of Hansen’s interests – golf. Hansen hits one out with his club but the ball softly veers to the left just after Carlson, Kunzel and Lewis sail by.

“This demonstrates the importance of riding with the appropriate gear,” says Hansen with a grin.

The three riders pull up to the shed and dismount their mud spattered KTMs. It’s John Lewis’ turn to take a crack at the ball. He doffs his helmet and chest protector and briskly declares, two days before injuring his hand, that he is going to “show Mitch how it’s done.”

Kinda like Benny did back in 2001.

During their downtime, the guys really like to have fun. They each possess a charming sense of humor to match their winning smiles. But when the pressure’s on and they’re on the track, the Red Bull/KTM/HMC Team is serious about racing. They take nothing for granted and only look back in order to assess what they could have been better. It’s all about the 2006 AMA Supermoto Championship.

“We have to defend the championship and that’s our goal – take home a bunch of championships,” says Hansen.

Written at 10:02 a.m.