with Tom to talk about one of the sport’s most iconic
pieces of moto machinery.
TOM, HOW DID THE KTM 540SX WORKS BIKE
COME TO BE? Back in late 1996, the AMA, at the
request of Yamaha, passed the four-stroke exemption rule.
It stated that every manufacturer could race a full works
four-stroke, of up to 550cc, for one season. The rule was
written to encourage development of four-strokes.
YAMAHA GETS ALL OF THE CREDIT, BUT KTM
WAS THE FIRST TO USE THE RULE. We knew
that Yamaha was coming out with something in 1997.
It was obvious to me, because every time we pushed
Lance Smail’s works four-stroke through tech inspection,
Japanese engineers would come out of the woodwork to
shoot photos of it. When the season started, we expected
Doug Henry to show up on whatever Yamaha had up its
sleeve, but instead he raced a Yamaha YZ250 two-stroke
for most of the season. Yamaha didn’t break out the
YZ400 prototype until the final Supercross of the year in
HOW DID LANCE SMAIL’S FOUR-STROKE GET
GREEN-LIGHTED? When the four-stroke exemption rule
was passed, Stefan Peirer had just bought Husaberg. The
business plan at the time was for KTM to use its four-strokes as offroad bikes and Husaberg to take the lead in
motocross development. Rod Bush, who was the president
of KTM USA, didn’t like the idea of his beloved KTM
taking a back seat to Husaberg. Rod wanted to prove that
KTM could build a race-ready four-stroke, and the best
way to do that was to race at the highest level in the
AMA Supercross series.
SO, ROD WENT AGAINST KTM MANAGEMENT
TO GET THE BIKE MADE? Yes, and Rod deserves a
Unless you were there it would be hard to
imagine how intimidating the KTM works
bike was in its time. It weighed 242 pounds,
belched out 105 decibels and produced
epic horsepower. It drove the crowd, and
the riders it was chasing, crazy.
When Lance wasn’t racing the 540SX in the AMA
Supercross series he was contracted to race the
World Four-Stroke Championship, AMA East/West
Four-Stroke Championship and the Stadium Thunder