The drag racing news site eatmyink.com has reported that Vance & Hines will not be running the factory Harley-Davidson flat track or NHRA drag racing teams in 2021.
We have contacted Harley-Davidson for confirmation but have not received official confirmation yet, so we must stress this is nothing more than a rumour at this stage.
While unconfirmed, if it is true it wouldn't come as a surprise. Vance & Hines has run the factory team since, 2017, the year the factory committed to the liquid-cooled XG750R and officially moved on from the XR750. That coincided with the introduction of the Indian FTR750 and during that time there has only been one Harley-Davidson win in the premier class, Jeffrey Carver's privateer AFT Twins win on the XR750 at the Lone Star HM, Texas, in 2017. In that time, the official team has employed this impressive roster of riders: Kenny Coolbeth, Jake Johnson, Brandon Robinson, Sammy Halbert, Jarod Vanderkooi, Bryan Smith and Dalton Gauthier, and while they've come close, they have not scored one race win in three full seasons.
The 2020 season didn't show much, if anything, in the way of breakthrough. AFT's new SuperTwins rules guaranteed the H-D team a total of 45 appearances in the Mains (it would have been 48, but there was one rain-off) for their three riders: Jarod Vanderkooi, Bryan Smith and Dalton Gauthier. Despite the talent on show, and a large race budget, the team scored just two podium finishes, one each for Smith and Vanderkooi. These are not figures that get your contract renewed.
Are we going to see the Grand National Championship's premier class run without Milwaukee involvement for the first time in history of the title? Do Harley have a brand new SuperTwin up their sleeves? Unlikely. The new liquid-cooled, 60-degree V-twin Revolution Max streetbikes engines, developed for the Pan America adventure bike and the recently shelved Bronx streetfighter, do not look SuperTwin eligible, and, from the outside at least, look even less likely to battle with the FTR750 than the XG750R. Remember the 'leaked' Harley Revolution Max street tracker?
Harley's new CEO, Jochen Zeitz, is taking a very hardline on spending to try and get the company back into profit and an also-ran flat track race team doesn't seem to fit with his modus operandi.
On the positive side, the Vance & Hines-developed Latus Motors XG750R Production Twin won its division with a James Rispoli (above) on board. Perhaps we'll see more Harley dealers supporting Production Twins teams in 2021 and beyond, with the off-the-shelf $36,000 Harley XG750R race bikes.
More news as we get it. GI
Photos: Harley-Davidson, American Flat Track