|Bob Hansen (standing) was the guy who convinced Honda to enter a factory team in the 1970 Daytona 200. Dick Mann won, although three of the four factory Hondas failed to finish -- so Hansen and Honda were both right.|
"What if we race, and don't win?" someone asked. The question didn't bear answering, for Honda.
Hansen told the Board, I've sold [however many] thousand of these in my region alone. I guarantee you that someone's going to race it, and that person won't win.
Honda realized Hansen was right. They had to race the 750. In the end, they hand-built four 'CB750 Racing Type' bikes for Daytona '70, and three of them did fail -- at least one as a result of cam-chain tensioner failures, so Honda was right, too. But what history remembers is that the one bike that didn't fail won the race.
I was reminded of that conversation with Hansen a few weeks ago, when I chatted with Matt Hines about developing the XG750R flat track race motor, out of Harley-Davidson's Street 750 twin.
Harley-Davidson has reasons to develop a new flat track motor. Because while the XR750 is still evidently capable of winning races...
- It's less and less capable of winning on the big Mile tracks
- It's too expensive to buy, prepare, and maintain
- Let's face it, it's obvious H-D doesn't really want to be in the XR750 business any more
H-D basically has to build a racing version of the motor, because if they don't, someone else will. And when that privateer effort fails, it'll still be seen as a Harley-Davidson failure.
Luckily, Vance & Hines actually has a better motor to work with than I thought.
It turns out that while the Street 750 is pretty mild in stock trim, the motor's basic architecture was conceived with a future race version in mind. It's not a motor that Soichiro Honda would ever have dreamed of racing, but it's not bad as a starting point.
It will be interesting to watch the battle next year between the new Harley motor and the new Indian motor. I hear that Indian has until 2020 to switch over to a production-based motor -- although three competition seasons is enough time for AMA Pro Racing to change its mind (to say nothing of the rules) several times...