Harley in sports
Harley-Davidson’s history has been inextricably linked to motorsport from the very beginning. Since the 1940s, however, mainly in the home country.
The Americans didn‘t make it to Harley’s ninetieth birthday in 1993, but one year later they pulled the sheet off their superbike called the VR 1000.
Water cooled 60 degree V2, dohc, four valves per cylinder, injection, 996 cc. Performance: not specified. For
the homologation model that is eligible for approval promises Harley 135 hp
at 10,000 rpm. With such speeds
Until then, only the grinding machines were running in Milwaukee. On the MOTORRAD test bench, one of the orange and black rarities produces 116 hp. All those involved still have their ears booming and their throats are scratching because of the half-hearted noise reduction and the exhaust aroma. But 116 hp at 205 kilograms were and are a word.
But the racing successes did not materialize at first. At the 200 mile race in Day-
tona, the work force is still fighting with broken connecting rods and collarbones as well as with a broken timing chain. Okay, the former professional dirt tracker Chris Carr fought for twelfth place in the US Superbike Championship with the VR 1000 in 1995? and at the age of 28 the title of “Rookie of the year”. In 1996, the hot racing sister managed to finish tenth in the 200 miles.
Around ten years earlier, Harley achieved a veritable victory in the BoT-
Race of Daytona when Gene Church shows the competition with “Lucifer’s Hammer” where it hangs. This hammer, correct name XRTT, with 1000 cm3 two-valve, fairing and 16-inch front wheel is more brutal
Presence because of filigree elegance.
In the seventies the sun shone even brighter on the orange-reds. For example on the dirt track heroes Jay Springsteen and Scott Parker, the kings of the drift arenas. With 93 wins and nine “AMA Grand National Championship” titles, Scott Parker became Harley’s most successful rider in the eighties. Powered by XR 750. With its finely ribbed two-valve V2, the ultimate all-American race bike. Of which some copies make the leap across the pond, like our photo model. The engine breathes in from behind through the two carburettors and exhales again towards the front through practically undamped pipes. At least 90 hp act on the
Rear tires in size 4.00-19. The right-hand shift and the asymmetrical footrest arrangement show that the drift ovals go left
and the left, steel-shod foot in front-
mainly used for support. Except for a variable strut mount, there are no frills on the XR. More or less undisturbed by high-tech attacks by the competition, these seemingly archaic, doped bumper engines are still racing over US tracks today. Although the competitors once attacked powerfully: for example Kawasaki with one of tuner Erv Kanemoto
arranged three-cylinder two-stroke or Yamaha with engines based on XS 650 and even with those in street sports
vastly superior four-cylinder two-stroke TZ 750. The young Kenny Roberts throws and whelps around the oval in the mid-seventies with the 120 hp monster dirt tracker, but explains his aversion to the concept. At the end of the seventies, the American motorsport authority AMA decided to limit the Dirttrack to two cylinders.
Similar to around forty years before, when the AMA gave Harley a clear competitive advantage by means of regulations: The flathead side valves can draw from 750 cm3 displacement, while modern ohv constructions, mainly from England, have to be content with 500 cm3. From 1941 Harley’s WR series roared around the ears of the competition, from 1952 the KRs took over this task. A prescribed small series of 200 pieces, together with the manageable technology, ensures widespread use.
In Europe, Harley celebrated its first major sporting successes in the 1960s, with 250 and 350 single-cylinder four-stroke engines from the Italian manufacturer Aermacchi, which is now part of the group. At the beginning of the seventies, two-cylinder two-stroke engines followed. Walter Villa catches up with the orange-black ones
Bikes four world championship titles in the 250 and 350 classes between 1974 and 1976.
Harley was able to record regional successes on the continent in the thirties and forties. For example, the Aachen delicatessen retailer Paul Weyres signed a works contract in Milwaukee in 1930 and achieved over 100 victories in around 400 races before the war.
At the same time, Joe Petrali rises to superstar in the USA and wins with the V-Twins in practically all disciplines: hill climbing, speedway, dirt track, US TT races. The so-called “Wrecking Crew”, the first Harley works team around racing engineer William Ottaway, did just as gloriously from 1914. Its pilots have the choice between
strong 1000 cm3 four-valve V2 ?? 180 km / h fast, but vulnerable? or conventional alternating motors. No matter how, the crew leaves Indian, Thor and
Excelsior behind. They only get up again when Harley discontinues its factory involvement at the beginning of the twenties. It is now a matter of
Private drivers, from the middle of the decade
with light, stable single cylinders, the »peashooters«, to win. A single cylinder ?? the Silent Gray Fellow ??
It is also with whom Walter Davidson won the 1908 endurance race in New York. True to the then
Harley motto: “Sport is the best promotion there is for a motorcycle.” Well, times have changed? at least with the brand from Milwaukee.
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