Taylor Knapp, who rides a Latus Motors Racing Buell 1125R in the Daytona Sportbike class,
The new Buell 1125RR is a pulse-pumping addition to the company's lineup. Any red-blooded sportbike enthusiast would be thrilled to own this race-spec Superbike, complete with a factory hot-rodded, liquid-cooled Rotax V-twin, fully-adjustable suspension, magnesium wheels and lightweight bodywork.
Not just any sportbike enthusiast can own one, however. Only card-carrying professional roadracers are allowed to purchase the $39,995 machine. And, unlike Honda's RC45, Kawasaki's ZX-7RR, Yamaha's YZF-R7 and all the other great homologation specials of the past, the race-only 1125RR isn't street-legal-not even in Poland, where Harley-Davidson's equally controversial VR1000 was homologated in 1994. Like the original Buell RW750, the 1125RR is a pure racebike.
Would-be buyers aren't the only ones troubled by the 1125RR's lack of street cred, however. It also has the other manufacturers competing in the AMA American Superbike Championship up in arms, as it appears to violate homologation rules. This is just the latest racing controversy surrounding Buell, a brand heavily invested in AMA Pro Racing (Buell is the Official Pace and Safety Bike) and already seen by many to benefit from preferential treatment in the Daytona Sportbike class. At press time, 1125R-mounted Danny Eslick comfortably led that title chase over a field of mostly Japanese 600s.
Though the Superbike situation isn't quite as contentious-the 1000cc Japanese fours are at least close to the Buell in displacement-the 1125RR still seems at odds with the rules. The AMA rulebook clearly states that American Superbikes must be based on motorcycles that are "street-certified for use in the United States"-a condition that the 1125RR clearly doesn't meet. Not only that, it uses a larger airbox and intake manifolds than the standard 1125R-changes that are prohibited for other machines. It also uses a different fork and shock, plus a special chain-drive swingarm.
A titanium exhaust and six-spoke magnesium wheels are the most visible additions to the 11
AMA Pro Racing officials have excused these discrepancies by insisting the 1125RR is "based on a production motorcycle" and, as such, is street-certified by proxy. Buell has made essential Superbike modifications pre-sale, saving buyers considerable time and expense. This begs the question: Would a Japanese manufacturer or aftermarket supplier-Yoshimura, for example-be allowed to homologate a similarly trick, race-only machine?
Buell's 1125RR is not the only controversial machine in the American Superbike class. Larry Pegram's Ducati 1098R twin has been criticized-notably by Mat Mladin-for having a significant top-speed advantage over the Japanese fours that are built to a more restrictive specification. To be fair, though, anyone-not just professional racers-can buy a 1098R, which is street-legal and sold complete with lights, turn signals and a horn.
Controversy is hardly new for Buell; remember 2006's Formula Xtreme-legal, 1340cc XBRR? Or parent company Harley-Davidson, for that matter: Vance & Hines' machined-from-billet V-Rod Pro Stock drag racer similarly seems to exist outside the NHRA rulebook, complying with the letter of the law, if not the spirit. Milwaukee is clearly hungry for success beyond dirt-track racing, but one wonders if this current strategy does the brand more harm than good. How valuable are race wins when they arrive under such controversial circumstances? More importantly, it's embarrassing to American motorcycle fans, most of whom want nothing more than to see an American motorcycle company compete on a level playing field. Of all people, Erik Buell should realize that everyone loves an underdog-and no one admires an overdog.