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Badass Blackbird
Thursday, February 19, 2004 By Tim Hailey,

Barry Henson made big noise when he clocked 505 horsepower at the American Motorcycle Institute’s Brute Horsepower Shootout in Daytona last March, the first time the AMI dyno recorded a horsepower figure of 500 or better. Because Henson registered late, it’s not an official record. But the number is real, run at a sanctioned event.

The scary thing, though, for Streetbike Shootout competitors, was that Barry rang those numbers up with the old red Honda CBR1100XX, the former R&D bike ridden by T.J. Hoffmiester, redesigned with a Velocity turbo and fuel system, and ridden in ’03 by Kent Stotz. The more advanced, true Blackbird was debuted by Henson later in the spring. “You know, no one’s written a story on this bike,” Henson said to me at the Montgomery Prostar race. It seemed kinda hard to believe, since Barry’s phenomenal Velocity Racing machines gather press like a hot, sticky Mickey gathers grass clippings and pebbles. “This bike is the most advanced Shootout bike ever built,” Henson continued. “And I’m gonna sell it this year and it’s basically gonna go unrecognized.”

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The Story

While the bike may have been in danger of being undetailed in the press, it was never in danger of being unrecognized, especially with the performance the Blackbird displayed from Montgomery on.

“It rolled out of my shop, straight into the trailer,” Barry said about the bike’s first trip out of the Velocity garage. It was pouring rain at Velocity’s Davie, Florida home. The Blackbird had just been assembled and would have to go straight to the Prostar race at Gateway. Barry hadn’t even broken the motor in, so just past Atlanta, he rolled the radical Blackbird out of the trailer and onto the tarmac. “I road it for two and a half hours on the highway at 65-70 mph to beak it in,” Henson said. “People in station wagons were looking at me like ‘What the…?’ I was a little sore after I got off of it.”

Henson’s soreness was relieved by the bike’s performance on the quarter mile. “The first time ever down the track the bike ran an 8.30something,” Barry said. “It ran a 7.96 on the second pass and a 7.75 third on the third.” Stotz runner-upped to Rickey Gadson at Gateway on the older red bike, as winning consistency would come later in the season for the new Blackbird.

Henson lost on a holeshot to Gadson at Norwalk, then qualified #1 and ran a monster 7.673 at Indy before losing to Super Dave Stewart. “We’d just come off that 7.67 pass,” said Henson. “I had my eyes on the 7.64 that Kent ran (in Atlanta in ’02) and I was lookin’ to break that. It was my fault. We had to make one run on the green track. I was the first bike down the track and spun the whole way.”

Then Gadson ripped off a 7.560 at 190.86 mph on a quarterfinal bye. “We were quicker than everybody ‘til that round when Rickey ran that crazy number,” said Barry. “I think we would have run .50’s that day too.”

Henson finally beat Gadson straight up with the new bike at Montgomery, though Rickey secured the title there. “I’ve ran 7.67 three times and backed it up this season,” Barry said then. “Had Kent’s record not been there it would have broken it. It takes everybody a season, season and a half to get something going with a new bike. But we’re going for records at Gainesville. We’ll definitely see .60s and maybe some high .50’s.”

Henson was being conservative with those numbers, as he took a 7.47 to the World Finals. Make that a 7.47 at 196.6 run during Wednesday’s test ‘n tune. The Velocity Racing/Stotz Street Xtreme team had nothing to lose and no good reason not to test the reliability of their Honda motors. Make no mistake—if finely machined bits of aluminum had to be bent, broken and burned to give Honda the Streetbike Shootout records, then so be it.

One way to get there was by spraying into the turbo. There is nothing in the ‘03 rulebook about a second power adder, and Barry added nitrous just before Indy. But it just came up as a topic of conversation at G-ville as Henson sprayed and blew his way to the MRE Sunshine Nationals win over Gadson in the final. Rickey had to let out to shift into high gear on Saturday, and still ran .60’s all day. But Henson was running .50’s every pass.

Unable to match his Wednesday .40 but running .50’s/190’s every lap, Barry powered his way to his third straight win, this time over braid-shorn nitrous boy Stewart in the World Finals final. Henson’s records, the quickest and fastest streetbike passes in the world, ended up being a 7.526 at 192.63 mph he ran while qualifying #1 for the World Finals. Barry and the Blackbird also won the MIROCK series World’s Fastest Streetbikes title.

The Goods

The Honda huffs through a Velocity Racing Stage 2 Race Turbo System centered around a Garrett GT-35R turbo made specially for Velocity. Barry maxxed out the system at 32 pounds of boost on the 7.47 pass, but normally runs 26 to 27 pounds. “If I get a track that can hold it I start running it up in the 30 pound range,” said Henson.

Then there’s that nitrous system, which also pressurizes the air shifter and boost controller. Unlike Funnybikes, which sometimes use nitrous to add power until the turbo is fully spooled, Barry doesn’t spray until 2 seconds into the run. “I’ve never really got a lot out of spraying it,” said Henson, who has experimented with laughing juice mainly as a way to cool down his intake charge. “It wasn’t fully developed yet, and when I put it on the dyno it only showed 16 horsepower. I know that’s not what people want to hear ‘cause they want to blame the bike’s performance on that.”

The charge is delivered to the chamber through a Star Racing ported head. “They knew what I wanted to accomplish and Derek Churchwell and Ron Reese at Star pretty much did their own thing with that.”

“Kent contacted me and said that the idea was for Barry to go real fast on the Honda,” said Star’s George Bryce. “We’d worked with Kent and T.J. Hoffmeister on T.J.’s Funnybike. We found out then we needed an exceptional exhaust port to get it to run right with the turbo. So we went with a sort of Funnybike style exhaust port and a street and strip style intake port on the Honda.”

Custom-grind Web Cams control the valves at the end of those Star ports. “I spoke to Web and told them what we wanted to do and they developed them for us,” Barry said about the cams. “They did a great job. They’re doing some new stuff for us this year and we expect them to improve even more.”

Withstanding and molding the pressurized charge is a set of J.E. Turbo Pistons, custom built for the Honda’s race application. “They were exceptional this season,” Barry said about the pistons. “The only time I hurt a motor all year long was not due to the piston but due to an improper tune. They were hurt during the 7.47 pass. We went to a boost level we’d never run before and we didn’t know what to do. So it went lean and hurt the pistons. Now we put a lot of fuel in there and take some timing out. It won’t do that again.”

J.E. got a new set of pistons made for Henson right away and shipped them to the track for the World Finals, where Barry backed down the boost a little. “I didn’t have a spare so we couldn’t take any risk. But I believe we can repeat that (the 7.47) with no problem.”

Custom made Falicon connecting rods deliver the blow to the stock Falicon crank rotating in the bottom end. “The strength is the same as stock Falicon rods, but we have different dimensions and wrist pin sizes. There is not a better rod on the market. Obviously they’re strong ‘cause they’ve been in my bike for two years and no one makes more power than I have. Glenn Salpaka at Falicon is very racer-oriented and got right on changes we asked for to put our program where it needed to be. They have outstanding racer support.”

The brains of the bike are centered around the Autronic fuel management system, imported from Australia by Steve Nichols. “It’s easy to use and Steve comes to the track and helps out,” Barry said about the Autronic, which was run by no one else but Stotz in ’03 but will be used by Chuck Cunningham and Trevor Altman in ‘04.


An MTC multistage lockup sits in a Falicon clutch basket behind the Velocity Racing quick access clutch cover. Barry uses a Kickstand Racing cable clutch conversion. “I like the feel of a cable clutch ‘cause you don’t get the inconsistency that you get from a hydraulic clutch. It’s especially important when you have things timed based on the position of the clutch lever, such as boost. It also reacts quicker than a hydraulic clutch.”

And R&D standard Nitrous Cut tanny delivers the power to a Mickey Thompson-shod RC Components rear wheel, while the RC upfront wears a Michelin. A Hyperpro rear shock squats the bike just right. “They developed a really good drag racing application shock that worked out just great,” said Barry. “It took a little while of R&D but once we got there it worked out great.”

A Trac Dynamics swingarm holds the rear end all together. “Trac built this custom arm for me and it’s just awesome. They put a clubfoot on it so it has more support on the left side where the chain is.”

A CBR 954 front end lightens the front end and replaces the standard Blackbird forks, which are not inverted. Air Tech built the bodywork and gas tank, though Velocity cut and fabricated it to make it sit a little lower to the ground and stretched it a little bit.

A Pingel fuel valve and air shifter system and Aeromotive fuel filter round out this badass Blackbird. As has been reported, Henson will switch back at midseason to the bike that so many of his customers ride, a Hayabusa. So instead of buying a boat this summer, maybe you could Ride Red instead….or more appropriately, be Back in Black.

The polished one pound nitrous bottle that nestles in the custom Trac swingarm pressurizes the boost controler and the Pingel airshifter as well as juicing the mixture.

"That looks like a whole big bucket of spaghetti," Henson says about the wiring in the above photo. The silver and blue Bosch fuel pump tucks in behind the red Aeromotive fuel filter. The polished box is the Velocity Racing plenum with an HKS blow-off valve.

Sitting below the seatback brace is the Autronic ECU, with an Innovative boost controller on top of it. The silver-blue ribbed piece next to the Autronic is the water injection pump, with the MPS Ignition Kill box just behind that. The water injection bottle is built into the subframe and topped off by the blue fitting and red line seen in the photo. The Racepak V300 has since been removed and all of the datalogging is done with the Autronic.

Above the Extreme Flow air filter, the water injection line leads into the plenum tube. The oil blow-by catch can sits behind a Michelin front tire.
The clean disc to the left is the Velocity Racing quick access clutch cover.

The End

In addition to all of the manufacturers mentioned in this article, Henson would also like to thank ’03 sponsors:
Honda Riders Club of America, Stotz Street Extreme, Honda Pro Oils, Schaumburg Honda, Joe Rocket

Tim Hailey can be reached at

 Cheesecake Courtesy of Don Smith, Technical Editor.....Enjoy!

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