Hans Leunger is the owner and founder of HMF Racing based in Brookpark, Ohio. His company builds some of the best ATV exhausts in the aftermarket and are returning to their street exhaust roots.
Hans was born and raised near Cleveland, Ohio where his parents had moved after leaving Germany. His parents took up residence in this town of industry and Hans has never lived anywhere else. When Hans was young his father designed and built airplanes, with Hans looking on and learning engineering from a very young age. Learning engineering from such an experienced source allowed Hans to pursue other creative outlets as he grew older, taking the knowledge he learned from his father and branching out into painting premier vehicles and color design. Combining his engineering upbringing and this creative outlet lead to some pretty radical ideas. Hans took both of these skill sets into the founding of the “Hans Motorrad Factory” and then later into racing to help further his designs. This combination has led to a great deal of success in both arenas and seventeen years later “HMF Racing” looks to the future once again.
HMF originally began in 1997 as a custom fabrication shop, making one off parts, along with award winning and race winning vehicles. One of their most notable creations is the Uber Bike. Their motto of “No job was too big and no job was too small” helped expand the shops creative and engineering capability.
That same year HMF began it’s most successful partnership with Fast by Ferraci where Hans began fabricating private label performance Ducati motorcycle exhaust systems. The pipes became a success and as the workload increased HMF was able to hire three more employees to the factory. HMF used this success to start production of their own branded line of high performance aftermarket exhausts, beginning with the Honda RC 51.
Not satisfied with “just” engineering an exhaust that produced large amounts of power, HMF wanted to move to a higher level. In order to do this, they decided to start racing to better understand their customers and their needs. In 1999, Hans began working on racing motorcycles and expanded the line to include sport and street systems to better serve his customers. Racing drove the engineering.
Unfortunately, profitability in this area of the market was tough. There are a lot of competitors for street exhaust and the market was saturated. Between 1999 and 2002 Hans refinanced his house three times and sold personal vehicles to fund the business. It became clear that HMF had to change. The company reinvented itself once again, this time developing a line of ATV exhausts. At first customers were skeptical, HMF was unknown and their price point was on the low end of the market. Eventually, this led Hans to take his engineering and design into an area of personal passion, off road racing. This final transition would define HMF’s identity for the next decade and beyond.
In 2003, HMF teamed up with GNCC ATV pro Johnny Gallagher. HMF’s debut in GNCC competition saw Hans take 3rd place in his class and Johnny taking 18th. An attention grabbing debut earned the respect from pro riders everywhere. But the real victory was in the thousands of racers seeing that the owner of an exhaust manufacturer was out there with them.
“The owner of the company… is on the track… with us?”
HMF was no longer just another accessory in a catalog, but truly part of the racing family. With Hans now part of a larger community of racers, HMF worked even harder to be #1 in racing. What followed over the next 12 years were partnerships with 5 time GNCC champion Bill Ballance, 4 time GNCC champion Chris Borish, and 11 time utility champion Mike Penland, proving HMF’s pedigree in off road racing and exhaust performance. These partnerships led to signature series exhaust lines and eventual national distribution for HMF.
HMF also designs and produces a line of accessories for ATV’s, UTV’s, Dirt Bikes, and Street.
Recently I had a Q&A session with Lance Drew, HMF’s head of marketing:
WC: With a history of success in ATV exhaust how hard is it to convince people to buy your street exhausts?
LD: Because we’ve had such an impact on the off-road industry, we often face difficulties in convincing our customers how well our exhausts work on motorcycles. HMF actually originated on motorcycles and although off-road has been our “bread and butter”, we specialize in developing high end after market systems for motorcycles. Allowing customers to hear our exhaust on some of the popular motorcycles is often what convinces them to ride HMF.
WC: What is HMF’s goal for the next five years in the street exhaust market?
LD: With emissions becoming more of a concern, we look to develop an exhaust system that will meet with these regulations and increase power with our signature HMF sound.
WC: Your product lists the United States Forest Service certification. What does that entail, and why do you go that extra step?
LD: As avid riders, we strongly believe in taking care of the areas we ride. All of our exhaust systems come with a USFS approved spark arrester that prevents hot ambers from exiting the exhaust, possibly causing forest fires. It’s a small measure for us to take in order to prevent big things from happening.
WC: What’s something people may not know about HMF that you want to get out there?
LD: We recently started developing off road bumpers, nerf bars, heel guards, clutch kits, and other defense equipment. We’ve been known for exhaust systems over the past 15 years, so it’s often difficult to let customer’s know of our new products, simply because the HMF name has been branded to exhausts.
WC: Besides exhausts are there plans to offer other adventure motorcycle products? (Engine guards, skid plates etc.)
LD: We don’t have anything specifically that we’re looking at developing, but we do make products on an “as needed” basis. For example, we develop a license plate bracket for the new Honda Grom that works excellent with our exhaust system. It’s small features like this that help make us a very specific company.
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