The 2.6 litre, 340bhp, 171mph Harley Davidson

Published: 06 May 2002

This glistening chunk of finely-tuned metal has just thundered its way into the record books. The stunning Harley-Davidson V-Rod drag racer blasted down a quarter-mile strip in just 7.57 seconds on its first ever competitive run – that’s the quickest ever for a V-twin in the American National Hot Rod Association Pro Stock series.

The 340bhp monster, which hit a top speed of 171.51mph at the Florida event, is an advert for all that’s best in tweaked Hogs.

The performance is just a little better than a stock 1130cc V-Rod road bike, which managed a 12.17s quarter in a recent MCN test with a terminal speed of 106.40mph.

The drag racing version of the V-Rod has been put together by top U.S. tuning firm Vance & Hines, with official backing from H-D to promote Harley’s Screamin’ Eagle range of performance parts. Just about the only thing on this bike which remains standard is the orange and black decals.

Both companies are putting their reputations on the line, because no twin has ever qualified for the finals in one of the highly-prized National Hot Road Association Pro Stock Bike meetings. This one missed the cut in Florida by two tenths of a second – something of a chasm in the world of drag racing. It is the first time a Vance & Hines machine has failed to qualify, even though it made Pro Stock history.

But that doesn’t bother them. Harley Director Mike Kennedy said: " Harley-Davidson is accustomed to setting the standard and that is our goal in this effort. We’re excited about this opportunity to make more history in NHRA Pro Stock. "

Terry Vance, a multiple NHRA champion and partner in V&H, added: " We were the first to bring bikes into the NHRA arena. We won the first NHRA bike event and we had the first bike to break the seven-second barrier. This is a big challenge, but we plan to make some big noises. "

Pro Stock racing is based loosely on production motorcycles – very loosely.

The four-cylinder bikes, with rider on board, have a minimum weight limit of 272kg (600lb). The V-twins can go 23kg (50lb) lighter, but both must have a maximum wheelbase of 1750mm. A stock V-Rod weighs 270kg (594lb).

They must be based on models made from 1993 onwards and retain a " stock appearance " , which includes front fairing (where applicable), simulated headlight and tail light. But under the bodywork almost anything goes. This V-Rod’s motor features the essential elements of the new cruiser – 60°, V-Twin, air-cooled, with electronic fuel injection, push-rods, and two valves – but with serious tweaks.

Seven mods to make a seven-second Harley:

1 The engine, designed from scratch by legendary drag race engine tuner Byron Hines, packs a whopping 2622cc.

2 It cranks out 340bhp and lays it on the ground with a mind-blowing 250ftlb of torque at the wheel.

3 The 38lb crankcases started as a 275lb aluminium billet and the ball-bearing crankshaft started life as a 175lb block of hardened steel which even Superman would struggle to twist. The crank-pin is steel with a special bush which ensures the bottom end gets a good supply of oil.

4 Transmission is a V&H semi-automatic, five-speeder. Unlike production bike gearboxes, the steel dogs, which engage each gear, are not case-hardened because wear is not important. Strength is.

5 Inlet valves are titanium, 62.5mm in diameter. Exhaust valves are 53.12mm across. Ports are straight to increase flow.

6 Big drag Harleys always face the same problem – the overhead valve operating gear flexes so much the pushrods can pop out of their sockets with dire consequences. Hines’ solution with the V-Rod was to install the cams inside triangular boxes attached to the underside of the cylinder heads. The cam followers have levers with rollers to bear on to the cam lobes. Each cam box has its own sealed oil supply which pumps itself up inside the hollow, seven–inch long pushrods.

7 Pistons are 118mm across and stroke through 112mm, compared with the standard 100mm x 72mm bore and stroke. Compression ratio is 16.2:1 compared to 11.3:1 in the stock V-Rod. The aim is for massive torque to launch the bike with max acceleration, and minimum tyre spin.

Bet you never knew:

Harley drags are so popular Stateside that there’s a 12-round, 13 class national series, promoted by the All Harley Drag Racing Association (AHDRA). The Top Fuel class features the best nitro-fuelled V-twins, which clock six-second runs and top speeds over 200mph.

*Drag racing is a woman thing. Apart from title-winning Angelle Savoie, there’s Kristine Becker, who rides a Top Fuel S&S Cycle Harley in AHDRA under the banner of " Girls Kick Butt Racing " .

Jim McClure, aka " Da Judge " , is rated the most successful Harley drag racer. In a career spanning three decades he has set more than 200 national records, and has won 19 national titles.

Fastest girl on two wheels:

IF you think U.S. drag racing is dominated by buck-toothed moonshine-swigging hillbillies, take a look at the sport’s leading competitor.

This is Angelle Savoie, NHRA Pro Stock Bike champion for the past two years.

She is the hottest thing in the sport. Riding a Star Racing Suzuki, she has scored 22 victories in her career, more than any other female in Pro Stock history. She said: " Winning the NHRA is my top priority. My life is about setting and reaching my goals. Racing is in my blood, and so is winning. "

She made her NHRA debut in 1996 and missed out on the title in 1999 by eight points. But the following year she won seven events to take the title. Last year she claimed six more to become the fourth person in Pro Stock history to win multiple titles. Her career-best quarter-mile time is 7.099s (the record is 7.092s) and her fastest speed through the timing lights is 190.59mph.

The 32-year-old is married and qualified as a nurse, but funds her passion through her own motorcycle dealership near New Orleans.