One day after riding his usual Harley-Davidson XR750 to victory in the 750cc Expert class at the Houston Hot Shoe National in Baytown, Texas, Memphis Shades/Parts Unlimited’s J.R. Schnabel got his first chance to test the team’s Yamaha V-twin dirt tracker at Houston Raceway Park, on April 3.
Schnabel put 80 laps on the machine, which is powered by a bored out Yamaha Vision V-twin engine. He reported excellent results.
“I was actually surprised at how good it is right now,” Schnabel said. “When I rode the Suzukis we always had handling issues, but this thing feels just like my XR. You can drive it into the corner just like a Harley. It handles great. There are still some things that we need to do it.”
Schnabel said that his fastest lap time on his Harley during the Houston race was a 20.19 and that the Yamaha is about a second slower than that time right now.
“I could have made the main event with it, but winning might have been another story,” Schnabel said. “Right now it feels like the Yamaha is just a little short on power at the end of the straightaways, but the motor is still basically stock inside. I can’t wait to try it with some work done to the heads and a few other things. It could work pretty good.”
The bike was built by Schnabel’s tuner, Babe DeMay, and it has actually been around for about 20 years. The ill-fated Yamaha Virago-powered Roberts/Lawwill dirt trackers failed to make a dent in Harley’s dominance in the early ‘80s, but when the 500cc Vision engine, with its narrower vee angle and more compact cases, was introduced, DeMay felt that it could make a suitable dirt track powerplant. Homolgation issues killed the project back then, but with the increasing viability of the production-based Suzuki DL1000 engine at the Grand National level, the Vision has been resurrected.
“Our goal is to race it in a Grand National this season,” Schnabel said. “If we can get just a little more power we can do it, but then again, my Harley program is the best it has ever been. The XR that I won on at Houston is the best Harley I’ve ever had. If we find ourselves battling in the points, we’ll just have to wait and see.”