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.
Kenny Coolbeth - 2006 and 2007 AMA Flat Track championship series winner
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.