When the NHRA announced earlier in the week the 2013 rule changes for the Pro Stock Motorcycle division Andrew Hines was left scratching his head.
Two days later, while racing at the AAA Texas NHRA Nationals, he’s still trying to understand the logic of the new rules, while also dealing with the addition of ten pounds to the Harley Davidson motorcycles for the remainder of the 2012 season.
“With the way the performance was between us and the Hectors, the Buells, we were within thousandths in qualifying last race and maybe had a couple hundredths on race day,” Hines said in attempt to understand the need for change. “They weren’t making the greatest runs and we were making awesome runs and the two we put up were in the semis and they [Buells] didn’t get down the track. There’s no comparison there. If the NHRA is trying to help the four-cylinder [Suzuki] bikes, I am scratching my head why only our bikes got the ten pounds.”
Hines said he read the CompetitionPlus.com article where NHRA VO of Technical Operations Glen Gray said there was parity in the class. Six hours after reading the story, rule changes were handed down.
“I saw where he said there was parity in the class and they may do something in Countdown in the past and all of a sudden, six hours later, here comes the rule change,” explained Hines. “It’s only in favor of the other bikes. Nothing to help one particular brand. It’s favoring the Buells and the Suzukis. It’s different. We are still scratching our heads.”
Hines said his team bolted on the extra ten pounds, bringing the total of weight added to his bike this season to 30. The Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson bikes now weigh 670 pounds, which Hines adds, could present a safety issue at some tracks for himself and teammate Eddie Krawiec.
“For shutdown reasons,” Hines answered when asked how the added weight could cause issues. “When we get to Pomona we face one of the shortest shutdowns on the circuit. It’s bumpy and nasty … one of the most horrible shutdown areas on the circuit.”
Hines believes a better solution for the NHRA would have been to allow the rest of the class to develop four-valve combinations. He believes the NHRA squelched what could have been an excellent opportunity to advance the two-wheel division.
“The Suzukis had the option of building a 101-inch four-valve versus a 107-inch two valve,” explained Hines. “I talked to many of the teams wondering why the Suzuki racers never took advantage of the four-valve. That would have been the way to go for the Suzukis. I don’t understand why they threw it out altogether. I understand the Pro Stock [car] guys have push rods and two valves and the nitro classes do too. Why couldn’t the NHRA let our class excel and give everybody four-valves?”
Hines paused, adding, “There was already two options there, all you had to do was open for one more.”
Getting a four-valve engine approved has been attempted by other teams.
George Bryce confirmed he, in conjunction with Erick Buell Racing, submitted a letter of intent to the NHRA’s technical department for a four-valve EBR program but never received a response. When Don Schumacher Racing fielded a Suzuki team they submitted a four-valve configuration in 2008 but were denied because the transmission was separate from the engine. DSR eventually abandoned the program and sold the team.
Hines said the NHRA has discussed different four-valve options with their team and surprisingly the two-valve mandate was thrust on them.
“Now we have to go back to the drawing board and we don’t have those parts anymore from our old two-valve,” admitted Hines. “They have been put into display motors and bikes traveling the country for Harley-Davidson. It’s all outdated and if we bolted it back on, who knows how fast it would go.”
Hines believes as much as everyone wants to have the same Harley-Davidson program exclusive to the Vance & Hines team, with ingenuity other programs could be extremely competitive.
“There will be a ‘level’ playing field now,” said Hines. “If you look at it before … yes, we had a four-valve motor at the same size as the two-valve Buell motor but we were 45 frigging pounds heavier. People didn’t really understand that. Now we have 55 pounds more and 75 more than the Suzuki.
“Obviously the platform to have out here, people don’t think, is a Suzuki. People are missing on the tune-up and not trying stuff. Everybody is buying horsepower. Go ask a Pro Stock [car] guy and ask them if they are happy buying horsepower. Talk to a lot of Pro Stock and they say, ‘Look at Rodger Brogdon, if you want to do it right, you have to go buy your own program.’ That’s what he did.”
Hines dismisses the notion his team is unbeatable.
“If we put effort into our Vance & Hines Suzukis like we do this [Harley-Davidson], as we have the budget to go out there and do this, we would have been running well faster than we are on these Harleys,” admitted Hines.
In other words, Hines believes the performance is out there.
“The performance has been shown,” Hines said. “Just three races ago a Suzuki was .02 off of Buell and three-a-half hundredths off of Harley. Last race they were .11 off. Where did that go?”
Hines isn’t sure exactly how far the rule change will set his team back in 2013.
“If you look at what we ran in 2008 in Valdosta while testing, the altitude was 80 feet and I went 1.06 sixty-foot,” Hines explained. “We went 6.84 at 194. That doesn’t sound like it’s too far off. The bike was 615 pounds. Next year we will be 625. If you add ten pounds, we would have likely went 6.86. at 193.50 That’s 80 feet.
“In Charlotte, using the same weather gauge we did six years ago it was 1300 feet in the final when we went an .85 and .86. That’s 1200 feet difference and you have think that’s at least a tenth of a second. I’d be willing to wager if we put our two-valve in the bike at 625, it would have turned our .86 into a 6.97.”
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