IT IS WITH DEEP REGRET that Harley-Davidson Motor Company reports the death of Richard H. "Dick" O'Brien on Monday, March 17, 2003. He was 81 years old.
O'Brien served as Harley-Davidson Director of Racing from 1957 until 1983. In his 26 years at the helm of the Harley-Davidson factory racing program, O'Brien helped develop the dominating XR 750 and worked with legendary riders Bart Markel, Cal Rayborn, Gary Scott, Jay Springsteen, Randy Goss and Scott Parker.
Factory Harley-Davidson dirt track team tuner Bill Werner remembers O'Brien as a focused individual.
"He was very driven, very purposeful, a real no-nonsense type of guy," Werner said. "Racing was his passion, and he dedicated his life to it. He was the one who was responsible for the XR. He had two goals with that engine. The short-term goal was to bring the XR out, and we did that with the cast iron XR, and his long-term goal included the switch to the aluminum XR. History shows that his vision was correct."
Indeed, with factory rider Mark Brelsford aboard, the aluminum XR750 won the AMA Grand National Championship in 1972, its first season. Since then, the Harley-Davidson XR750 engine has won an additional 23 AMA dirt track titles.
O'Brien is survived by his wife, Pat, daughters Peggy Berose (Frank) and Patricia Frank (Peter), a stepson, Gregory O'Neil, and a brother, Jesse. A memorial service will be held at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, 4600 Belle Terra Causeway, in Palm Coast, Florida, on March 31 at 10 a.m.