2007 Harley Davidson – The XR 1200T Prototype
Flat Track racing: revealing another side of the Harley-Davidson legend
Harley-Davidson is world-famous for producing factory custom and touring motorcycles. Taking a life-changing, coast-to-coast road trip across America on an Electra Glide�, or turning heads cruising down city streets on a stunning, customised Fat Boy� are powerful and evocative experiences synonymous with Harley-Davidson.
But there is another side to the Harley-Davidson experience which is equally compelling and exciting. It’s not so familiar or as instantly recognisable but it’s a vital part of the Milwaukee story. A legend embodied by the XR 750 dirt track racer – the most successful machine in the history of motorcycle racing.
Harley-Davidson’s unique, long standing and record-breaking association with the high-adrenaline world of professional Dirt Track (also know as Flat Track) racing is a result of the introduction of the XR 750 in 1970. Since then the machine has been honed and developed but still retains the same essential, raw look of the very first machine to roll out of the Harley-Davidson factory race shop.
Dutchman Peter Zylstra, Racing Project Designer, played a lead role in the development of the XR 750. He explains:
I started at Harley in 1969 in the Engineering Department after emigrating from Holland. I had an International starting licence and had road raced in Holland and Belgium on a Manx Norton. Foster Uskalio, who managed the engineering design and drafting room, had heard about my racing activities and asked: ‘How would you like to work on the new XR 750 project?’ That’s how it all came about.
Dirt Track racing is one of the most thrilling and rider focused spectacles in motor sport. The level of rider commitment and skill in Dirt Track racing has helped develop the technique, skill and racing expertise of many of the world’s most famous and successful road racers. Outstanding American riders like Randy Mamola, Eddie Lawson, Kenny Roberts, Kevin Schwantz and more recently MotoGP front runner Nicky Hayden all developed their exceptional machine control skills on Dirt Track circuits.
Motorcycle racing rarely gets any more gritty than the elbow-to-elbow business of flying around oval dirt tracks at speeds of up to 130mph – riding machines without front brakes and sliding through 180 degree corners just a matter of millimetres away from the inner Armco and other riders.
There are no electronic control aids in Dirt Track racing – it’s just the rider, a bare-essentials bike and a substantial measure of courage. No quarter is given and none is expected. Spectacular crashes are part and parcel of life on the dirt, but this form of racing still endures.
This raw, competitive racing world might be far removed from the custom scene but it has long been an essential part of the Harley-Davidson story.
Harley-Davidson and Dirt Track Racing
Harley-Davidson� motorcycles, especially the all-conquering XR 750, have been the dominant force in Flat Track for many decades.
Since 1970 Harley-Davidson have captured a record 26 championship titles with the legendary XR 750. Just the briefest glimpse at the exploits of champions like Scott Parker reveals the extent of this legendary motorcycle’s significance. During his amazing career Parker secured nine title wins, 94 individual race victories and five back-to-back AMA Grand National Championships between 1994-8.
And Parker is just one of the great champions involved in this remarkable side of Harley-Davidson’s racing lineage. Other outstanding race winners like Jay Springsteen and Cal Rayborn have helped Harley-Davidson to dominate the podium and today, talented factory-backed riders like Rich King and Kenny Coolbeth are busily adding new honours to the Motor Company’s trophy cabinet.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Harley-Davidson believes it is time to reveal a prototype street motorcycle that is born from the unique spirit of Flat Track racing and the XR 750. The XR 1200T Prototype comes with a very healthy dose of DNA from the XR line.
The XR 1200T Prototype – inspired by the racing line
The XR 1200 Prototype offers the vision of a completely new breed of great handling, powerful and fast Harley-Davidson� streetbike and its DNA can be traced directly back to the XR 750.
This prototype motorcycle is designed to offer a vision of how the Flat Track legend could be transferred to a road-going Harley-Davidson. The stripped-down appearance provides a firm clue as to where this bike has come from and underlines that this Harley is definitely not for cruising.
The unique XR 750-inspired styling and livery, wide flat track handlebars and a host of other performance features all offer a firm indication that the prototype has been inspired by the pit lane rather the custom shop.
Performance is right at the top of the XR 1200 Prototype’s agenda. The sport-tuned suspension is by Showa and includes inverted front forks. Nissin has produced the high-performance brakes.
The XR 1200 Prototype also has unique lightweight cast wheels, specially designed Dunlop� Qualifier tyres and a generous lean angle, offering fun in the twisties.
Right at the heart of the XR 1200 Prototype is potentially Harley-Davidson’s most powerful European spec, regular production, air-cooled V-Twin powertrain to date. The performance target for this high torque 1200cc engine is 85-90hp. It features downdraft fuel injection and an electronically controlled active air intake system. John Russell, Vice President of Harley-Davidson Europe comments:
Just as the V-Rod� range challenged many people’s perceptions about Harley-Davidson’s performance capabilities and effectively launched the power cruiser sector, we’re seeking to bring a powerful air-cooled V-twin to market that would encourage more performance oriented riders to experience Harley-Davidson for the very first time.
We know that many European motorcyclists want the prestige of owning a Harley-Davidson at some point in their riding career and like the uniqueness and desirability of the brand. The XR 1200 Prototype is a clear signal that we are serious about bringing even more European riders into the Harley-Davidson family right down to the fact that the ergonomics are designed around the average height of riders on this side of the Atlantic, Russell added.
World Debut Of Unique Harley-Davidson Prototype At Iintermot
(K�ln, Germany) In an unprecedented signal of its commitment and possible direction in Europe, Harley-Davidson has chosen the Intermot motorcycle show in K�ln, Germany for the world premiere of its new, high performance XR 1200T Prototype motorcycle.
The Harley-Davidson� XR 1200 Prototype has been developed beyond the concept and design stages, and debuts at Europe’s biggest motorcycle show in order to gauge media and public reaction to a new kind of Harley-Davidson, with an emphasis on performance, handling and sporting style. Development goals include Harley-Davidson’s most powerful regular production, European specification, air-cooled V-Twin engine; excellent handling, suspension and braking, all fine-tuned for European roads; and styling inspired by the Motor Company’s legendary XR 750 dirt track race bike.
The XR 1200 Prototype is the result of a close collaboration between the Motor Company’s Milwaukee-based product development team and Harley-Davidson’s Product Planning Europe (PPE) team. An example of their earlier work is the recently introduced and currently sold-out VRSCDX Night Rod� Special.
Reflecting the growing importance of the European market, the PPE team played a significant role in defining the specifications and ergonomics of the XR 1200 Prototype, and worked with the US Ride and Handling engineers on suspension and handling development.
The result points to the most powerful air-cooled European specification Harley-Davidson yet seen, with around 85-90hp expected from the 1200cc, downdraft fuel injected engine. With a generous lean angle; specially tuned Showa� sports suspension, including 43mm inverted front forks; high performance Nissin� brakes; and specially developed Dunlop� Qualifier tyres, the XR 1200 Prototype could become the best handling Harley-Davidson regular production machine ever seen.
Developed with new European customers in mind
It’s no coincidence that Intermot was chosen to expose the XR 1200T Prototype to public and media scrutiny. John Russell, Vice President, Harley-Davidson Europe explains:
We are experiencing strong growth in Europe and we anticipate that the XR 1200 Prototype will appeal to new customers, including younger riders currently using competitive brand standard and sports motorcycles. They probably like and admire the Harley-Davidson brand, but are not currently in the market for a more traditional custom or touring Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
If the reaction to the prototype is favourable, and the prototype is brought to market, it is expected to have a similar effect to the highly successful V-Rod� models. These have been particularly successful at bringing in new customers and broadening the appeal of Harley-Davidson.
Pure Flat Track racing DNA
A quick glance tells you that the XR 1200 Prototype could only be a Harley-Davidson. Yet it is also unlike any current Harley-Davidson production motorcycle. The inspiration for the original concept came from the most successful racing machine in the history of motorcycle sport: the Harley-Davidson XR 750. Introduced in 1970, the XR 750 has notched up thousands of race wins in the hands of famous Flat Track riders such as nine-times Grand National Champion Scott Parker.
Many of America’s top road racers including MotoGP championship front-runner Nicky Hayden have honed their skills drifting around oval dirt tracks in the US.
XR 1200 Prototype styling project manager, Frank Savage, explains how the design of the bike came about:
The inspiration came from the XR 750 – a raw, simple motorcycle built like a tool for a specific job: Dirt Track racing. This results in unique proportions and features. For example, the fuel tank is a beautifully slender form. It was important the XR 1200 Prototype was laden with the DNA of the XR 750.
And the engineering guys have also been working hard to ensure that the bike has the right performance, handling characteristics and feel to ensure the bike deserves to wear the XR badge.
Matt Weber, ride and handling specialist for the XR 1200 Prototype project, added:
My team and I have done extensive on-track ride and handling performance development, including working closely with our European product planning colleagues and Adrien Morillas, the French former GP and endurance racer.
As a result, the bike really works – and it’s extremely easy and fun to ride fast. I have ridden, raced and benchmarked sports bikes most of my motorcycling life. This XR 1200 Prototype compares extremely favourably.
It’s pretty cool that it looks like a flat tracker, but for me the great handling is the most important thing.
XR 1200 Prototype features include*:
XR 750-inspired styling and livery
1200cc high performance powertrain finished in as-cast silver powdercoat
Downdraft fuel injection and electronically controlled active air intake system
Specially developed Dunlop� Qualifier tyres (front 120/70ZR18; rear 180/55ZR17)
Unique lightweight cast wheels with dirt track-inspired design
Specially developed sports tuned Showa� suspension including 43mm inverted front forks
High performance Nissin� brakes
Ergonomics designed around the average height European customer
The overall package is a purposeful looking prototype motorcycle with great performance, handling and a unique character and feel. Above all else, it offers a tremendously rewarding riding experience.
As Harley-Davidson seeks to further grow its presence and sales in Europe, Intermot and subsequent major European events will be used to carefully evaluate the media and public reaction to the XR 1200 Prototype. If this first prototype strikes a chord with show-goers, Harley-Davidson hopes to be in a position to bring the XR 1200 to the production line in 2007.
* Specifications may well be subject to change if and when development continues on the XR 1200 Prototype.
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