Harley-Davidson forced the NHRA into a no-win situation when they signed to become the official motorcycle of the NHRA, which in turn, has produced the same result for the other teams outside of the Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle pit area.
Harley-Davidson made it clear to the NHRA they don’t want any team other than Vance & Hines to represent their brand. The point has been made clear, in not so uncertain terms, if the NHRA pushes the issue, they will spend their money elsewhere.
When George Bryce and S&S Cycle designed and submitted their V-Twin bike, they gained NHRA approval with the stipulation the bike was available to any team in or looking to enter the Pro Motorcycle class; which Bryce agreed upon. The NHRA's agreement with Bryce was directly opposite of their agreement with Harley-Davidson.
One can only surmise the NHRA was desperate enough for money, they accepted the terms from Harley-Davidson which clearly is against the rules governing other manufacturers.
Clearly, the tail wagged the dog and this season appears to have complete and total control.
So, it should be asked, is the money the NHRA received from Harley-Davidson been worth the integrity and spirit of fair competition they’ve sacrificed?
Apparently so – by their actions the NHRA has put its own integrity for sale.
The NHRA has declared for years their mantra is about safe drag racing and fair competition. Their track record on the former is very good. The latter, in this situation, has failed miserably.
Now that their own violation of the rules is exposed, the NHRA will likely contend the numbers show the other brands of motorcycles have run as quick and had opportunities to win.
Is this true? When these brands are burning up parts quicker than the Harley bikes, just to race competitively against a team which appears able to dial-up or down the horsepower at will, there is no parity.
Whether the power in the Harley can be dialed it up or down isn’t the real issue. The real issue is they are running technology unavailable to the competition with the approval of the NHRA.
If I were Harley-Davidson, I would be concerned. They may be winning a battle while losing the war of public opinion.
Certainly Vance & Hines is benefiting from the deal, but are not the ones to blame. They are doing what they should do, race within the rules presented to them and winning. However, how can you be proud of your wins when the rules, and not your efforts, are the reason for winning?
This isn’t a case of a mediocre team given an advantage to race with the best. Vance & Hines are champions, they’ve proven this before Harley-Davidson forced the NHRA to break the rules.
I’m sure in the coming weeks this editorial calling for fair and balanced competition isn’t the only one the NHRA will read. Equally confident, the NHRA will likely step forward with a rules adjustment soon.
If the NHRA wants to address the morality of the problem in the pits and amongst the fans in this class, any adjustment in the rule books better be a significant one; unlike the 20 pounds they added to the Harley back in March. This move had as much effect on stopping the domination as adding saddles to the bulls of Pamplona would have cut down on the goring of street runners.
While the answer to the problem seems simple; the NHRA should require manufacturers to make their parts available to all the teams in the division, it simply will not happen.
There is no clear path to ensure clean competition in the division without a negative ramification.
Could there be a different path to ensure there is clean competition in the division without control from the manufacturers?
Buell founder Eric Buell has created a new limited run bike through his EBR brand which does have a four-valve engine. If the NHRA would forgo their required manufacturer investment into the series, this could likely hit the track next season. It is evident, based on what has transpired to this point; Harley could wield its political power to nix this idea.
The NHRA could choose to follow the same route as their Pro Stock car class and make the motorcycle class adhere to a universal displacement and use essentially a spec motor tailored to each manufacturer where everyone essentially has the same parts. The biggest detractor, those inside the NHRA contend, is the loss of the distinctive Suzuki sound.
Regardless of which path they take, it’s clear the NHRA is going to have to make another tough decision. They need to look around at the groundswell of controversy has been created by their taking the money and allowing a manufacturer to circumvent rules created in the interest of fair competition.
The bottom line is this class shouldn’t be in the position it is now, but because the NHRA chose money over integrity in this fiasco -- they are. Sooner or later the NHRA will be forced to pay the piper for what Bryce has described as under the table dealings with Harley-Davidson.
The payment might not come due today or tomorrow, but one day it will. When the racers stop showing up or the sponsors stop investing in the class, who will have benefitted from Harley’s money and brand legend?
Only the future knows the answer.