Harley-Davidson’s latest racing success shows inspiration behind new model launch
In 1970 Harley-Davidson introduced a new 750cc, 4 speed, 90 bhp V-twin engine motorcycle specifically for flat track racing, the XR750. Little did the engineers realise that the bike they had produced would go on to become the world’s most successful flat track bike, destined to dominate championships from the early 1970’s through to the present day.
The XR750’s success was underlined again (in 2007) with Kenny Coolbeth’s second successive victory in the US flat track racing series. Coolbeth, from Connecticut led a one-two-three for the Harley Davidson ’Wrecking Crew’ team this year along with team mates Jared Mees and Bryan Smith.
With the launch of the XR1200 scheduled for 2008, there’s never been a better time to celebrate the racing heritage that the new XR1200 model is built upon. With the XR750’s unrivalled race winning DNA in its genes the XR1200 is sure to take the motorcycle world by storm. Since its prototype launch in Germany in 2006 dealers and customers have been waiting to see the finished product with an anticipation fuelled by excitement.
The XR750’s on-track success is unquestionable. Piloted by a multitude of riders down the years, the bike has won 28 of the past 36 AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) championships.
"Kenny Coolbeth’s success this season further enhances the Harley-Davidson XR750’s reputation as the most successful race motorcycle of all time", commented Matthew Knott of Harley-Davidson Europe. "The incredibly positive reaction we’ve had to the XR1200 prototype certainly suggests that there is growing interest in a Harley-Davidson motorcycle which has been inspired by the racing line, and we’re looking forward to launching the bike in 2008" Knott added.
Flat Track racing is an all-American series where bikes compete on a 1 mile hard packed dirt oval circuit. As in European speedway, bikes slide round the corners spinning their back wheels for balance - although unlike its European equivalent, cornering speeds are often much higher, with some bikes travelling around the oval at speeds in excess of 120mph. The bikes used are powered by a 750cc V-Twin engine mounted in a special flat track chassis, and to keep the riders on the edge of their seats the bikes possess no front brakes.
The series runs throughout the US Summer months, with the first race usually scheduled in March and the season finale in late September or early October. The spiritual home of Flat Track racing is in Springfield, Illinois, at the Fairgrounds Mile where the first AMA championship was held in 1937.
The series is also seen as a launch pad for careers in MotoGP, with international stars like Nicky Hayden and Kenny Roberts both starting their racing careers on the Flat Track circuit.
Harley-Davidson’s works team, nicknamed the ’Wrecking Crew’ has been a key part of the Flat Track scene since 1914. The most successful member of the Wrecking Crew is Scott Parker who has claimed a record breaking 9 championships in the series. Kenny Coolbeth’s second successive victory in the AMA series this year puts him hot on the heels of Scott Parker as the most successful series rider of all time.
20 year old Kenny commented on his 2007 championship title; "It takes an amazing group of people to do what we did this season. Winning the second championship feels just as good as the first one. Our team wants to keep doing this and we’ve already put our focus on next season."
When William S. Harley first entered Harley-Davidson motorcycles in a racing championship in 1914 the team was quick to establish their authority by winning races and championships in a few short years. "Harley-Davidson motorcycles were raced almost from the very beginning of the company, first by independent owners, and then by an official racing department in 1914," said Bill Jackson, Manager of Harley-Davidson Archives.
The Wrecking Crew, was so dominant on race weekends that the name has stuck all the way through to the team led by Coolbeth, Jared Mees and Bryan Smith today.
Harley-Davidson’s XR1200 delivers Flat Track heritage with a European twist
Harley-Davidson today introduces the new XR1200 to the roads of Europe, combining great street performance with purposeful motorcycling style and presence inspired by Harley-Davidson’s successful XR750 Flat Track racing bike.
XR1200 is the first Harley-Davidson which has been designed specifically for European customers. Harley-Davidson’s European Product Planning Team was involved from the beginning of the XR1200 project, resulting in a motorcycle which is built for the twists and turns of European roads, and one that represents the company’s commitment to the needs and desires of customers in the European market.
The bike’s original inspiration draws from the success of the XR750 racing bike, which has been dominant in the American Flat Track racing scene since its launch in 1970. However, the XR1200’s handling and performance characteristics are definitely street based. European expert riders and European roads played a crucial role in the ride and handling development of the bike. French former Endurance champion and GP racer Adrien Morillas participated in the development, as well as Flat Track aces Scott Parker and Rich King.
Since the launch of the XR1200 Prototype in Germany in October 2006 dealers and customers have been waiting to see the finished product with excited anticipation. To date, just under 600 future retail orders have been placed across Europe by enthusiastic customers who can’t wait to take delivery of their own Harley-Davidson XR1200.
"XR1200 is a new breed of Harley-Davidson motorcycle", commented John Lewis, Marketing & Product Planning Director of Harley-Davidson Europe. "As well as being a great looking and handling bike, XR1200 is also a clear demonstration of our ability and desire to create motorcycles aimed specifically at European riders. The response from the European bike media and future customers has already been very encouraging, so XR1200 looks set to pave the way for a new generation of European-oriented Harley-Davidson motorcycles", Lewis continued.
"The new Harley-Davidson XR1200 clearly demonstrates the Harley-Davidson Motor Company’s commitment to the European market and intent to attract new customers. Performance-oriented customers who aspire to owning a Harley-Davidson but who are seeking a fine handling Roadster with great street performance and tremendous character. XR1200 is very clearly a Harley-Davidson but one that draws on the company’s proud Flat Track racing heritage", Lewis continued.
Harley-Davidson intends to begin shipping XR1200 to its European dealerships during late Spring 2008; A further announcement will be made as soon as the production start date has been confirmed.
Key features & technical highlights
Styling and Ergonomics
- Styling and livery inspired by the legendary Harley-Davidson XR750 flat track racer
- Wide, black handlebars for dirt track looks and superb control
- Semi-Rearset footrests for excellent cornering clearance
- Seat height 774.7mm unladen (741.7mm laden with 81.7 Kg rider weight)
- Ergonomics designed around average height European male rider
- Standard pillion seat and passenger footrests
Powertrain, Intake and Exhaust
- Isolation-mounted high torque 1200cc Evolution® V-Twin engine finished in silver powder-coat
- Downdraft Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI) and electronically controlled active intake system
- Upswept, high-volume 2-1-2 ’Straight shot’ exhaust system finished in satin chrome
- Precision oil-cooled cylinder heads
Wheels, Brakes and Tyres
- Unique, lightweight cast wheels with a Flat Track inspired 3-spoke design, finished in black
- Powerful Nissin® dual front brakes with 4 piston callipers and 292mm patented uniform expansion rotors
- Dunlop® Qualifier D209 tyres developed specifically for the XR1200 (front 120/70ZR18; rear 180/55ZR17)
- Sport-tuned Showa® suspension featuring 43mm inverted front forks and pre-load adjustable twin rear shock absorbers
- Unique compact instruments with prominent white faced tachometer, digital speedometer, dual trip meter and clock
- Aircraft style aluminium alloy fuel filler
- Harley-Davidson® hands free Smart Security System
- Hazard warning lights operated by turn signal controls