The NHRA made its first formal move in addressing what was a glaring rules disparity between Harley-Davidson V-twins and the rest of the Pro Stock bike field, officially banning four-valve motorcycle engines effective in 2013. This move was made to address a performance advantage and exclusivity issue that has been a dark cloud on the class for the last couple of years.
For the past few years, Vance & Hines was the only company producing the Harley-Davidson V-Rod motors that powered their race team’s Pro Stock Bikes, ridden by Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec. The V&H team has won a shocking 13 races in a row dating back to last October, which already accounted for one rule change this year, and a second (a minimum weight increase of 10 lbs) was just announced.
What really has the rest of the class fuming, however, is that the Vance & Hines engine is not for sale to other teams, which is in direct violation of the NHRA Rulebook that states all motorcycles must run an engine that is commercially available. The most popular theory to explain this is because of Harley-Davidson’s sponsorship deal with the NHRA. If Harleys are winning, Harley is happy, they’ll continue to spend the money, and that, of course, makes the NHRA happy.
For 2013, Harley V-twins will be required to follow the same rules as their Buell counterparts in the class (we won’t even get into the fact that the defunct Buell name is in this ‘production’ class), mandating a 160 cubic inch limit on 60-degree, two-valve, pushrod engines. Minimum weight will also be the same as the Buells at 625 lbs with rider.
Will this address the disparity in the class? We have to say yes, though it is unclear how much power the V&H engines were holding back. “It’s an insult,” said Star Racing’s George Bryce after the H-Ds again dominated the last NHRA race in Charlotte, but before the rule change was announced. “They only run as quick as they need to…We all need the same size engines with the same number of valves, then we’ll see who’s the best.”
Bryce will get that opportunity in 2012. Unfortunately, both Vance & Hines and the NHRA continue to avoid the bigger issue of the Vance & Hines engines being unavailable to the public. With the changes coming in 2013, it remains to be seen just how competitive the dominant V&H team will be.