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Victory racer for the road

Published: 16 March 2016

Updated: 15 March 2016

Updated Victory Project 156 to race again as production version of performance V-twin moves closer

Victory will return to the famous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado this year with a modified version of the Project 156 racing bike – adding further weight to speculation that a true Project 156 road bike will make it into production.

The US firm are still refusing to officially confirm this, but insiders say something much more radical is under development, and could revealed later this year. The company will also be returning to the Isle of Man TT with their Victory Empulse RR electric bike, and racing a new version of the battery-powered machine at Pikes Peak. It’s all part of the plan in to turn Victory into a much sportier brand, entirely focussed on ‘American performance’, while sister brand Indian targets the heritage segment of the market.

Project 156 was raced last year as a prototype, and was the first hint of a new direction for Victory. At the time the speculation suggested a production bike would follow closely thereafter, and the official entry into Pikes Peak on the centenary of the event’s first run adds fuel to that fire once again.

One insider said: “Project 156 is still important to Victory and not only does the company want to win its class at Pikes Peak, but the intention is still to create a production bike with similar levels of performance and looks for the road in the near future.”

The official Pikes Peak website was recently updated to confirm Victory’s entries for 2016, stating: “Victory Racing will return to competition in the motorcycle program for a second consecutive year with their Roland Sands Designs custom built Project 156 Prototype bike that will be ridden by 2014 Pikes Peak Heavyweight Champion Jeremy Toye. Victory will also field an electric prototype motorcycle to be piloted by Cycle World’s Road Test Editor Don Canet in the Electric Motorcycle Class.”

Victory are enjoying a large-scale investment from parent firm Polaris Industries as it re-works its range. With Indian allowed to fight squarely against Harley-Davidson, Victory can forge a different path under the ‘Modern American Muscle’ mantra to chase younger, more performance orientated riders.

But the first production bike to emerge under this new era of Victory was the rather muted 105bhp 1200cc Octane cruiser which, while sportier than almost everything else in the sector, wasn’t anywhere near as cutting edge as European markets had hoped.

What’s clear is that there’s a lot more power and torque locked away inside the Octane’s V-twin; it just needs Victory to unleash it all with a higher state of tune, while packaging it in a chassis to suit.

Project 156, meanwhile, uses a derivative of the same engine, but boasting an estimated 150bhp in race trim. The engine was designed and built by Victory at the company HQ in Minnesota before Roland Sands Design created a bike to house it in. Sands and his team used parts such as the swingarm and suspension from a Ducati 899 Panigale to speed up the development of the bike under such a tight time schedule, but it’s thought the racer will be significantly modified for this year’s event now that Victory have had more time to prepare it.

Speaking to MCN, Victory head of new product development Gary Gray said: “We have talked before about the freedom the return of the Indian brand has given to Victory to be something different and Project 156 is an example of that modern performance. You will still see more from Victory but we are not talking about specifics of timescale on when any production bikes might be seen but there is a lot more to come from Victory Motorcycles.”

Alex Hultgren, Director of Marketing, added: “Victory lives and breathes Modern American Muscle by continuously pushing ourselves through our performance and racing initiatives, and since Pikes Peak is arguably the most challenging race in America, it’s exactly where we need to be.”

What is Pikes Peak?

Think of it as America’s TT. The event is an annual motorcycle and car hill climb to the summit of Pikes Peak, Colorado. It takes place in June and will be celebrating its centenary this year. That makes it the second-oldest motorsport event in America after the Indianapolis 500. The track measures 12.42 miles over 156 turns, climbing 4720 feet from the start to the finish at 14,110ft, on gradients averaging seven per cent.

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