The idea of roadracing a Sportster isn't entirely ridiculous, or even without precedent. For most of the 1990s, the AMA Harley-Davidson Twin Sport/Super Twins series showcased America's best up-and-coming racers aboard identical 883s. Some of the modern eras' biggest stars, including Ben and Eric Bostrom, Jake Zemke and Aaron Yates, made their professional roadracing debut on Sportsters.
The AMA and Harley-Davidson-with help from Vance & Hines, which returns to roadracing this year after a 10-year absence-hope to bring that winning spirit back with the new AMA Vance & Hines XR1200 Series. Fittingly, the first installment of the five-round title chase will take place at Road America (not far from the Harley factory in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) in June, followed by races at Mid-Ohio, Virginia, New Jersey and a final event at Barber in Alabama in late September.
Vance & Hines will be the presenting sponsor and exclusive race-kit supplier. The mandatory $3500 kit consists of a Vance & Hines exhaust and Fuelpak fuel-management system, race bodywork, a 17-inch front wheel, steering damper, oil-cooler relocator and sponsor decals. Racers are required to use spec Dunlop tires and Sunoco 260 GTX fuel. The only ungoverned modifications are suspension upgrades, hand and foot controls and instrumentation.
Harley-Davidson's signature "potato-potato" exhaust note will fill the air as a pack of XR
Sources inside Harley-Davidson say many dealerships are building bikes for the series, excited by an opportunity to race XRs now that Buell (and its generous contingency program) has been discontinued. The fact that an XR1200 can be fielded for peanuts (compared to $50K for a competitive AMA Superbike or Daytona Sportbike) is attractive to teams too, athough the purse (just $5000 per round) reflects those savings. The AMA is anxious to see if adding the Bar-and-Shield brand to its race roster will entice even a fraction of the HOG-faithful through the gates on raceday. And many currently unemployed racers are pleased at the prospect of a few more empty saddles to be filled.
The BBQ Series, a similar XR1200 spec-racing program, already thrives in Spain and Italy with full grids and cutthroat competition. If events over there are any indication, the XR1200 series could shape up as the best thing to happen to American roadracing in years.