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Engine of the Week

Four-Valve Suzuki Racing Engine

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If you pay any attention to motorcycle racing – whether its road racing, drag racing or flat track – you’re likely pretty familiar with the name Vance & Hines. The Vance & Hines brand has always been about enhancing the exhilaration of the motorcycle ride.

It started over 40 years ago, when Terry Vance and Byron Hines were two young enthusiasts in the Southern California motorcycle drag race scene. Terry always wanted to go faster and Byron knew how to make it happen. In short order, their on-track success and innovation drew the attention of other racers, riders and motorcycle manufacturers, which ultimately translated to commercial demand for their products and services.

Today, Vance & Hines makes bikes go faster on the racetrack and takes those learnings to make impactful products for riders around the world. Since the company’s inception in 1979, it has run factory race programs in partnership with Suzuki, Yamaha, Ducati, and Harley-Davidson in drag racing, road racing and flat track.

However, most recently, Vance & Hines, which is based in Santa Fe Springs, CA and has its Racing Development Center in Brownsville, IN, had its two-decade-long relationship with Harley-Davidson terminated. Harley made the decision to no longer field factory teams in flat track and drag racing.

Over the course of their partnership, the two companies revolutionized the once four-cylinder-dominated Pro Stock Motorcycle class, winning 10 championship titles. Now, Vance & Hines finds itself back with Suzuki, having launched a new four-valve Suzuki racing engine for Suzuki GS-based drag racers in Pro Stock, Pro Mod and Pro Street classes.

The new powerplant will debut at the NHRA Gator Nationals in Gainesville, FL in mid- March. Several teams will be competing with the new Suzuki-based motor and a new Vance & Hines-designed chassis at that event.  

“The scale of this launch is unprecedented in the drag racing world and it highlights our company’s technical capabilities,” says Vance & Hines President Mike Kennedy. “This engine and the cylinder head design are applicable to several racing classes and easily adaptable to every team that is currently running a two-valve Suzuki GS. This launch is a proud moment for Vance & Hines and hopefully will net many victories for our Suzuki riders in 2021 and beyond.” 

The new four-valve head modernizes the technology in Suzuki drag racing motors. It replaces the two-valve design, which was introduced in 1998 and retains the 1,850cc engine displacement.  

For the first time, Vance & Hines has integrated finger follower technology rather than a shim-under-bucket design in a drag racing cylinder head, which allows for less mass in the valvetrain and increased rpm.  

The intake and exhaust port spigots are modular, so they can be adapted to different air boxes and exhaust pipes without redesigning or remanufacturing the head itself. This allows the new head to be used not only in NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle class, but also in the Pro Mod and Pro Street classes.  

Design credit for the motor, code named VHIL18504V, goes to six-time NHRA champion Andrew Hines. The head was completely developed in Solid Works CAD design and was a fully functional running model prior to production.  

“The 1,850cc motor is approaching nearly 400 hp and we believe that this is just the start of a new era of Suzuki drag racing championships,” says Andrew Hines. “Right now, this four-valve design is more powerful than the best of our two-valve motors, and there’s room to get better and faster with this architecture.” 

Along with the new four-valve Suzuki engine, Vance & Hines also announced it will launch an NHRA motorcycle race team with three-time champion Angelle Sampey and partner Mission Foods in the 2021 NHRA Camping World series.

Currently, Vance & Hines is taking orders for complete motors or individual cylinder head packages. The new chassis, which leverages the learnings from thousands of runs in NHRA competition, is available as well.   

Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade Motor OilElring – Das Original and Scat Crankshafts. If you have an engine you’d like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder Editor, Greg Jones at [email protected]

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