Sprinting for glory

Sprinting for glory

A race series where you can pick up extra points for partying? Welcome to Sultans of Sprint

Combine competitive sprint racing with European custom style, add a huge party and what do you get? The Sultans of Sprint race series. We spoke to the Harley-Davidson® factory team to get the lowdown on what it’s all about…

The Sultans of Sprint race series emerged from humble beginnings back in 2016. Bike builder and drag race fanatic Séb Lorentz, from Italian custom house Lucky Cat Garage, had had so much fun racing his custom-inspired drag race bike that he realised he wanted to share the opportunity with other custom builders. Along with his girlfriend Laurence, Séb created the Sultans of Sprint race series: an opportunity for other speed freaks to share their passion for racing, to showcase the sport - and just as importantly, to have a whole lot of fun.

The concept
The series now occupies a unique place at the intersection between custom bike building and competitive racing, and has taken on momentum of its own. The basic concept is simple: competitors build a bike and race it down a 1/8 mile drag strip run. But it is not all about speed; the series also rewards competitors for ‘style, creativity and craziness’.

There are two classes – the ‘Freak Class’, open to air cooled four stroke bikes up to 1600cc, and the ‘Factory Class’, for OEM manufacturers. The Factory class has no capacity limit, but allows turbos or superchargers, nitrous oxide and slick tyres, so long as a strict power-to-weight ratio is observed. Most of the points awarded to the racers are for pure sprint performance, which keeps things competitive, but there are extra points up for grabs under categories such as ‘style and engineering’, ‘scary factor’ and ‘party monster bonus’. The result is a wholly unique race series, with beautiful custom motorcycles and one hell of a party. What’s not to like?

Test run
We caught up with the Harley-Davidson team at a practice session at the Santa Pod drag strip in the UK, where rider Taylor Mackenzie, race specialists IDP Moto and supercharger company TTS Performance were putting the Harley-Davidson entry to the test.

At first sight, sitting at the famous ‘Christmas tree’ start lights of the drag strip, the Harley-Davidson Street Glide® appears to be a stock bike. Still in its entirely street-legal form, it looks like it has been ridden to the track and could just as easily be ridden back home again, after blasting down the strip. The aim of this race series is to run a bike that looks stock and is still road legal, inspired by the ethos of old-school drag racing. All the signature features are retained - bodywork and batwing fairing, panniers and stereo, stock suspension and brakes, the stock Continental tyres of the original bike, and even the feet-forward riding position.

Street Glide, supercharged
However, appearances can of course be deceiving. The ‘Sprint Glide’ has been fitted with a big bore kit and, in the most visible difference from a stock bike, a TTS supercharger takes up much of the left side of the motor. These changes take the power from about 93 horsepower on the stock bike, to a mighty 230 horsepower.

Piloting the bike on its initial run is young rider Taylor Mackenzie, son of racer Niall Mackenzie. Having raced from an early age, Taylor has since climbed through the rankings as a pro racer, and in 2016 won the hugely competitive British National Superstock championship.

Onwards and upwards
Back to the track, and two runs up the strip later, Taylor has accumulated some 25 seconds of drag strip time. It’s quite sufficient for a professional racer to gauge the techniques required for a lightning fast start – and to power the bike up to its maximum potential to the finish line.

So what did Taylor think of the bike? “I absolutely love it – it looks cool, it sounds amazing and it is fast! It is really good fun, and it’s over before you know it”.

With a second run well into 11 seconds, the team decides that enough has been gained from the Santa Pod experience to take the bike to the next level – first at Monza, Italy, for round one of the Sultans of Sprint series (which was sadly rained off), and then at the famous French circuit of Montlhéry for round two. Onwards, next, to Germany…

The third race and finals of Sultans of Sprint 2019 take place in Leonberg, Germany, from August 31 to September 2. sultansofsprint.com