VertematiwebIt’s easy to point to Doug Henry and the YZ400F as the beginning of the four-stroke revolution. But, the change was more of an evolutionary process that began much earlier. A crucial step was the story of the Vertemati brothers, involving Walter Bartolini, Joel Smets and even Dirt Bike test rider Mike Young. Alvaro and Guido Vertemati were the Italian Husaberg importers in the early ’90s. Those early Husabergs were basically enduro bikes, but the brothers modified them heavily and went GP racing in 1991 with Bartolini. That year they pulled some holeshots and attracted attention, but it set the stage for a four-stroke showdown in 1993 between the Vertemati Husaberg and a factory Husqvarna. There was already intense rivalry between Husqvarna (by then an Italian company) and Husaberg, which was formed by former Husqvarna employees in Sweden. The riders that year were Joel Smets and Jacky Martens, and the battle lasted all season. Martens won that year, but Smets would win in ’95, ’97 and ’98 on a Husaberg.
In that period the brothers started manufacturing their own motorcycle. At the height of their success, they hired American Mike Young to race in Europe. Mike had won the U.S. four-stroke championship on a modified Husaberg and absolutely fell in love with his new race bike. He claimed it was far better than the two-strokes of the day. The motor had a three-speed gearbox, but Mike reported that he often raced whole motos without shifting out of second. A few versions of the bike made their way to the U.S., but the motorcycle didn’t translate well to the compromises of the production line. They were much heavier and slower than the factory version that Mike raced. The brothers fought with their partners and with each other, eventually leading them to sell their original company and start another one. Thus, the original Vertemati motorcycle was renamed VOR, and the brothers worked on a new project. A third-generation Vertemati motorcycle arrived in the late ’90s and had some success in the world of Supermotard. By then, however, the moment had passed. The four-stroke had gone mainstream. But, there’s a very good chance that the change would have occurred much later had it not been for the inspiration of the Vertemati brothers and the odd rivalry/collaboration between Swedes and Italians.

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