Harley-Davidson's dead ends: They were into VR before ‘VR’ meant VR

The Harley-Davidson VR 1000 had a frustrating history in AMA Superbike racing. The idea of building a competitive superbike first occurred to a small, renegade group in Milwaukee, in 1988.

 Pascal Picotte rode the wheels off the VR1000 for a couple of years. And occasionally rode the valves, piston crowns, and other engine internals a little too hard. Early in the bike’s race history, H-D mechanics actually ran a 1% premix to improve top-end lubrication.

Pascal Picotte rode the wheels off the VR1000 for a couple of years. And occasionally rode the valves, piston crowns, and other engine internals a little too hard. Early in the bike’s race history, H-D mechanics actually ran a 1% premix to improve top-end lubrication.

It may have been a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. Harley farmed out most of the v-twin motor’s design to Roush Racing. Steve Scheibe, an engineer at Roush ended up moving to Harley to manage the project. Scheibe brought in a friend, Pete Mohar, who ran an engineering consultancy called Gemini Technology Systems to work on other aspects of the bike, while the chassis was the responsibility of Mike Eatough.

They were all smart guys but the VR 1000 took a long time to get off the drawing board. It was conceived in 1988, but wasn’t raced until ’96. In that interval, competitors’ bikes improved by leaps and bounds. Harley hired Miguel Duhamel, who’d spent the previous season racing in the 500GP World Championship, but even he wasn’t really competitive on it.

Harley stuck with the VR 1000 for five racing seasons. The bike showed flashes of brilliance, such as the time Chris Carr put it on the pole for a Superbike race in Pomona, or the time Tom Wilson crossed the finish line first at Mid-Ohio, only to have the results put back a lap due to a red flag. Harley finally killed the project in 2001.

 
 This text is excerpted from my  Second Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia . (The first  Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia  was an Amazon best-seller, but let's face it: we all know that when it comes to reading on the john, 'number two' is even more satisfying.)

This text is excerpted from my Second Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia. (The first Bathroom Book of Motorcycle Trivia was an Amazon best-seller, but let's face it: we all know that when it comes to reading on the john, 'number two' is even more satisfying.)