There is no doubt that V-Twins have cemented their place in NHRA Pro Stock motorcycle racing. The fan response to the Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines V-Rods has been unsurpassed and Harley Davidson (AKA The Motor Company) and it’s aftermarket performance arm, Screamin’ Eagle, have made it known that the NHRA is in their long-term marketing plans.
George Bryce and George Smith have formed a partnership to compete heads-up with the Vance & Hines team with a new, American-made V-Twin Buell. Known as G2 Motorsports, the company, in association with S&S, will develop, race and market Pro Stock V-Twin engines and motorcycles.
George Bryce needs no introduction to the motorcycle drag racing scene. He is widely regarded as one of the sharpest and most intelligent builders, tuners and team owners in the sport. Partnered with wife Jackie, their Star Racing teams have won 6 NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Championships with riders Angelle Savoie and the late John Myers. Star Racing also garnered 6 AMA/Prostar Pro Stock Championships with Myers and Fred Collis.
George Smith is one of the original owners of S&S, maker of V-Twin engines and performance parts. Started by his father in 1958, S&S is a leader in the industry. Smith removed himself from day-to-day operations of the company in the early 1990’s and began focusing on special projects including Bonneville racing and Harley drag racing. Perhaps his most notable drag racing accomplishment is putting together the bike and team which ran the first 200 mph Harley pass. The barrier was eclipsed by rider Andy Gotsis on the supercharged nitro S&S Harley at the AMA/Prostar Spring Nationals at
With rider Fred Collis at the controls of their new flagship Pro Stock bike, the S&S Buell made its debut at the NHRA Pontiac Excitement Nationals at
We sat down with George and George to discuss their team, their plans, and the state of Pro Stock motorcycle drag racing.
Dragbike.com: George Bryce, what drove you to want to develop a V-Twin Pro Stock Motorcycle?
George Bryce III: I didn’t have anything else to prove with the Suzuki’s. We had won every kind of way with every type of person and every kind of championship. If we were going to stay the same, we would stay the same. I always said if I ever had the chance I would love to do it with an American made motorcycle and do it the Star Racing way.
DBC: How this partnership came about?
GBIII: I knew I couldn’t do this project by myself. I was going to have to partner with someone. It was going to have to be Harley Davidson or it was going to have to be S&S. Those were the only two options we had.
I went to S&S in September of 1999 to talk to Dan Kinsey about building a Pro Stock V-Twin. We worked on a plan until January of 2000 and had signed a contract. Star Racing built a Pro Stock Harley with an S&S powerplant which we tested. While we were in the midst of that, the rules were changing pretty rapidly with Byron Hines working on his V-Rod program. We went back to S&S and said we need to completely re-do this whole idea or we are just going to park it until the rules stabilize and we see where we are. George Smith was not involved with it at this point.
George showed up at the races when Dave Feazell and Tom Bradford were coming more often. I was pals with those guys. I would talk to them about how to tune the clutch and things like that and George snuck up on me one day when I was in Feazell’s trailer. I was looking at his computer and telling him how I would do it. George and I had a two hour conversation on the how’s and whys of racing.
DBC: George Smith, what drove S&S to want to come into this partnership?
George Smith: In the 80s and 90’s I was the racer in the S&S management team after my dad died. I wanted to do the racing. When I left in 1994 management still did racing but they concentrated on EPA certification and trying to build complete big engines, which was the right focus at the time. In 1997 and 1998 I worked with Dave Feazell and the Harley Pro Stock class which was rapidly changing. While that was happening we could see that the NHRA was making an effort to attract V-Twins. This naturally fascinated me but S&S did not have the funding set aside to pursue it. We had a rather slim-budget effort trying to get Feazell, Bradford and some other Harley guys to go fast using S&S parts. That continued into 2001 as George was working with S&S independently with Dan Kinsey and the other R&D guys.
When Harley hired Vance & Hines to build an NHRA bike that was the additional impetus that we needed as S&S to get the board to support a more serious effort at Pro Stock Racing. We got the funding approved in 2002. That happened to coincide about the time that the contract S&S had with George ran out. We decided to get serious about it.
Up to that point any Pro Stock engine that we had was pretty much our normal Harley go-fast parts. It was not anything as sophisticated as you needed to compete at this level. Also, echoing what George said, the rules were constantly changing. George built a carbureted Pro Stock bike because that’s what rules were at that time. As Vance & Hines were struggling to develop their bike they knew that in order to be competitive they would have to do certain things. So the next thing that was allowed was fuel injection.
It was also apparent that we needed a transmission. The guys did well with what they had but we knew we needed better parts.
With the improved funding the S&S team called me back to lead and coordinate the project because of my R&D experience and my racing experience. They asked me to put a team together and be prepared to coordinate the project and run the team.
While this was happening I was going to the track with Feazell and Bradford and I got to know George and it became apparent that if I was going to put a team together why would I not have George Bryce as my partner? There is nobody else that can run bikes and tune bikes like he can. There might be one other guy and that would be the Vance & Hines guy. So it was a natural alliance. Vance & Hines has teamed with The Motor Company and who knows what their budget is. We are going with George Bryce. It’s like David and Goliath. Little ‘ole S&S and little ‘ole George Bryce against Harley.
I chose George because it was a natural alignment but I also chose George because we get along OK. I saw how he operates. He keeps very good records. He is kind of anal like I am. We are both about paying attention to details and I believe the people that are going to win at this level have a plan and stick to a certain regimen. That said, you also need to be receptive to new ideas and changing situations. This has worked out very well. We have a bike that has maybe 20 hard passes on it and we are running competitive numbers with it.
DBC: So you feel the main impetus behind this project was to compete with Harley Davidson and Screamin’ Eagle?
GS: The impetus was not so much to compete with Screamin’ Eagle. S&S has been the leader in American V-Twin go-fast parts for 45 years. We have been in business since 1958. If there is a fast gasoline Harley today it has S&S parts on it. I don’t know of any that are running that don’t.
I think that The Motor Company has realized with some of the success that they have enjoyed since the executives bought it back from AMF in the 1980’s and the resurgence of Harley Davidson, has giving them the resources and ability to look at the whole vision and see that the high-performance aftermarket is the place that they have to spend some focus. That’s what they have been doing. They are becoming more and more active in the AHDRA and other racing sanctions and they are spending millions in their NHRA effort.
Harley is really making an effort to compete with us. Let’s make sure we are clear on this. We were the king of the roost in the V-Twin high-performance market and Harley is competing with us. This started in the 1990’s and has been accelerated in the past few years. When S&S is faced with this kind of competition we answer the challenge. It is our heritage, to develop the very best type of performance parts and the highest levels of the racing arena are a good place to do it. That will enable us to make the very best street designs. Almost everything that you find in racing in both hard parts and electronics transfers to making better street parts.
Photo by Matt Polito www.dragbikephotos.com
DBC: There has been a lot of talk that the V-Twins have been given too liberal rules with the EFI, the lighter weight, the larger engine and the air scoops. What is your answer to this?
[Editor’s note: This interview was conducted before the NHRA mandated that V-Twins weigh a minimum of 615 pounds, 15 pounds heavier than their Suzuki counterparts]
GBIII: The reason the rules are like they are is because nobody went fast with a V-Twin. You got a few people that ran OK and some got in now and then. If you told the V-Twin guys they could only be 92 cubic inches and had to run carburetors they would run in the eights. In order for the NHRA to bring the V-Twins into the market they had let them have more cubic inches and EFI. I don’t think it’s possible to make carburetors work on them. If Andrew Hines was not going 7.0’s all the time while all the Suzuki’s were running in the teens I don’t think anyone would think the rules were unfair. That’s my opinion. There is one V-Twin that is running head and shoulders above the rest. The other V-Twins are running comparably to the four cylinder bikes. At this stage of the game you have one person that is really sticking out and if you change the rules to hurt him, it takes the ones that are right in the middle of the pack and slows them down. I knew nobody would complain about it until someone went fast.
DBC: We know of a number of teams that were complaining about the rules when they were first announced two years ago.
GBIII: You can go around to each race trailer and it’s hard to find a person that is a “big picture” guy. Most everybody has their own agenda and that is the only thing that counts. I have raced against people that would want nobody to show up so they could go straight to the winners circle and get the trophy. That is so short-sighted. For this class to grow and for this sport to grow and for all these businesses to grow in this market we have to have the diversity and have the comparisons between the V-Twins and the four cylinder bikes considered all the time. The perfect picture would be on Sunday to have eight metric bikes and eight V-Twins racing against each other with a level playing field where they run completely with each other. That would be our best show.
DBC: How do you do that? What is the next step to bring parity?
GBIII: Byron has done a great job at keeping Geno Scali and Craig Treble going really fast. Up until this point they have been very comparable so nobody can scream about it. Just recently Andrew stepped really above and beyond even their own customers.
I think there are three options; one, add weight to the V-Twin, another would be to add cubic inches to the 4 cylinders bikes and another would be to take cubic inches away from the V-Twin. I think those are the only three options that are really in there.
I do want to say that if Byron Hines’ job, budget and effort was spent 100% on the Suzuki program they would be going faster than they are right now.
DBC: We are on the verge of a six second Pro Stock Bike run. There are teams that have been running Suzuki Pro Stock bikes chasing that goal for years and now it appears that it will be accomplished by a new generation bike that has more liberal rules applied to it. How do you feel about that?
GBIII: We went 7.04 two years ago at Englishtown and have held the national record since that time. If we and Byron had the same effort that we are putting in on the V-Twins for the last two years we would already be in the sixes now, I believe. It’s about effort equaling results. What has changed in the 4-clyinder world? We haven’t done a whole bunch to improve those and I don’t think Byron has done a whole bunch to improve those. The focus has been on the V-Twins, and that is why they are running so well.
photo by Matt Polito www.dragbikephotos.com
DBC: V-Twin Pro Stock motors up to this point have been of a 45 degree design. This new motor is a 60 degree motor. What is the benefit of a 60 degree motor?
GS: At 60 degrees you increase the spread between the cylinders which presents more room for the intake track. The other thing it does is it decreases the piston-to-piston contact at the bottom of the stroke because both cylinders operate off a common throw. At the bottom of the throw the tighter the V is the sooner the pistons will hit each other. By increasing the V you can run a larger bore and shorter stroke which allows you to run shorter push rods. You can shorten up the whole motor. Having shorter push rods gives less reciprocating weight but the main reason is the push rod is more rigid and the possibility for flex is decreased so the valve will more likely follow the cam.
You will notice on the Screamin’ Eagle entry they moved the cams up to shorten the push rods and they operate the cams with a belt. We have a traditional gear drive within the cam case on ours and longer push rods.
These engines are all air pumps. The team that can get the most air through their motor is most likely the ones who are going to win. We need the best valve train that we can get to get the most air into the motor so we have a chance so that we can make enough power so we can compete.
GBIII: To add to that, we needed the 60 degree motor so we could go with a big bore. The only reason you need big bore is so you can put big valves in it.
DBC: How long has this new motor been in development?
GS: We have been working on a 60 degree design for about 3 years because we knew of the advantage of it. We were more energetic in our efforts as soon as we thought the NHRA were going to approve it.
DBC: What were some of the technological hurdles you had to conquer?
GS: The engine was not the problem. This is a 60 degree big-bore, short-stroke S&S motor. It happens to be all billet because it is cheaper to make one-up parts out of billet than it is to make a pattern and have castings. The biggest single hurdle we had is the transmissions. The other was the gear drive primary with a good clutch. And then the electronics which encompasses the fuel injection which is an S&S production unit and the ignition and we happen to be using an MSD. I am still not quite sure what the rules are as far as whether the ignition and the EFI computer can be the same unit.
GBIII: I know for a fact some teams have to have it one way and some teams are allowed to have it another way.
GS: We are not saying that complaining. I am very thankful that the NHRA are making the effort to allow V-Twins to compete in this class. Maybe there are some metric guys that are going to be a little upset but this class is going to be better. The way it was going, if they wouldn’t have let the V-Twins in, it was going to get tougher and tougher for these guys to get funding. You have to have excitement. You have to put a show on. The Vance & Hines guys are helping put a show on. You can hear it in the enthusiasm from the crowd.
Now with our bike you have another dimension to that competition. You have a non-Harley V-Twin, American designed and American made entering the fray.
DBC: What is your overall plan for this project?
GS: S&S is making these motors to sell. We have orders for five right now. Those guys are confident that performance potential is there. As we prove what the potential is, we will get more orders.
The interesting thing is that while the Vance & Hines bikes are running real well I am surprised that there aren’t any others out there yet. I wonder why they have been so hesitant to sell whatever package they have.
Make no mistake about it. G2 Motorsports is racing this bike but we are in the business of selling these motors and this technology. When we went through the approval process the NHRA said “you have to be able to sell these to people”. We told them that is why we were doing it.
GBIII: If you are going to sell something you are going to have to let people look at them and they aren’t showing them to anybody so I am sure they are not interested in selling them. We invite everybody to look at every part of the motor because they are available to the public. S&S races what they sell and sell what they race.
DBC: What will the costs be to field a bike like this?
GS: When we got into this and we gave S&S target prices to meet but it’s tough. I can’t quote prices right now. I will say that G2 has the exclusive distributorship of these motors so if anyone is interested they should talk to George or myself.
GBIII: Our target for the chassis and all the attending accessories is to be within $10,000 of what it would cost to race a Suzuki and we are trying to keep the engine within $10,000 of a Suzuki. On a turn-key bike it should be similar in price of what it would cost to run a top notch Suzuki. It would be higher because of the electronics and the transmissions cost more.
DBC: What are the differences in tuning and running a Pro Stock V-Twin as opposed to an inline 4 cylinder Pro Stock bike?
GBIII: It is really similar and not by accident. We all worked together to put a primary ratio in that would allow the clutch to see the same amount of torque as is does with the Suzuki engines. A lot of people have a misconception that because the V-Twins have over 200 ft lbs of torque whereas the Suzuki Pro Stock engine has 140 ft lbs of torque, it is really going to change how it works on the race track. The Suzuki’s run a 2.15 ratio which takes that 140 ft lbs of torque and puts about 300 ft lbs to the clutch. The V-Twin has a 1.38 ratio with takes the 200 plus ft lbs and brings it up to roughly the same 300 ft lbs to the clutch.
The clutch works the same because it sees the same power. Right now we have Fred Collis running the V-Twin and Matt Smith running our Suzuki. We have the same clutch and tire in both bikes and they both run 1.07 60 foot times.
The thing that is different is the EFI. We have been on a short learning curve in our shop in
Photo by Matt Polito www.dragbikephotos.com
DBC: George Bryce, some people feel that the Pro Stock bike class was saved because of Angelle and the media attention she brought to the class and that you had vision in that respect. Is it your vision that V-twins are the future of this class?
GBIII: I agree that if Angelle had not come along there would not have been a team Winston Pro Stock motorcycle. Winston helped saved save the class when the NHRA was trying to figure out what they were going to do with the pro categories. When Angelle became popular to the fans it woke NHRA up when they were considering dumping the class.
The Army has been a big step in legitimizing our category; the Screamin’ Eagle team has been a big part of enhancing the category. I believe these were all the stepping stones required get to where we need to be to be a very powerful and important category for the NHRA. That is why I think it is going to be good for us to eventually have eight V-Twins and eight four cylinder motorcycles on Sunday with the most diverse group of riders.
GS: A the risk of being immodest, S&S, Star Racing and the newly formed G2 Motorsports, in our small way, is going to help this class. Vance & Hines has done a tremendous job of making Suzuki’s go fast and making V-Twins go fast. There has to be another engine builder and tuner that presents an alternative and I think the competition we will be present as well as the additional customer base that we are going to bring into this marketplace is going to help a lot.
GBIII: The people we are talking to about buying these bikes would have never considered racing in NHRA.
DBC: Coming into this season you had pegged a new rider for this bike in Angie McBride. After just a couple of races you parted ways. What was the situation there?
GBIII: George and I really thought that Angie was a spoke that would be needed to add to the wheel to make it complete. We tried really hard to make it work. We put in every effort and it just didn’t work. It may have been a timing thing. We didn’t burn any bridges, we didn’t lock any doors. It may be something we can do later.
The most important thing to us was to get the S&S motorcycle to the race track and get it competitive and move on. That is where we are going.
DBC: Right now you have Fred Collis racing the V-Twin Matt Smith racing your Suzuki. What are your short and long-term plans?
GBIII: We have another motorcycle on order at Kosman. S&S is building 10 engines right now.
DBC: When is the first win for the S&S V-Twin Pro Stock bike?
GBIII: The next race. I always feel like we are going to win.