Mar 17, 2001
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The Harley-Davidson VR1000 project is better positioned for success than ever, executives inside the company say.<BR><BR>For years, the VR1000 project was simply contracted out to Gemini and existed as a line item on the marketing department's budget with no real Motor Company support other than funding.<BR><BR>Now, the project has been integrated into Harley-Davidson with about a dozen engineers working on the VR1000 in one way or another, with enough senior executives involved that the project has representation on several executive committees within the company.<BR><BR>All of which means that more people inside the firm have a vested interest in keeping the project alive and seeing it succeed.<BR><BR>At least one of those senior executives was heartened by what he saw in the Daytona 200, where Mike Smith finished seventh and Pascal Piccotte ran well until his bike suffered a component failure. The executive described the results as being very good for a conservative effort with what amounts, in his view, to an all-new team.<BR><BR>And until encountering a problem with a slipping clutch, Jordan Szoke had the Austin/Bleu Bayou/Bell County Harley-Davidson VR1000 running with the works bike, a new development after what used to be just known as the Bell County team struggled for years with VR1000s that usually wouldn't finish a practice session, let alone run well in a race.<BR><BR>The departure of Steve Scheibe, who resigned after heading the VR1000 project since its inception, shouldn't be seen as good or bad, an executive with Harley-Davidson said. Instead, it should be seen as a change. Scheibe wasn't fired or forced out, the executive added, but resigned after being effectively moved from being personally in charge to reporting to a new boss, John Baker.<BR><BR>All is not well within the team, however, with many crew members fearful for their jobs and afraid to talk to anybody about what is going on within the VR1000 program. Still, more information is leaking out of the VR team than did during Scheibe's tenure in charge, during which, one Harley-Davidson executive said, the program was like "a black hole."<BR><BR>During that time, Scheibe personally doled out information to journalists and magazines that he thought would put a positive spin on the floundering-in-terms-of-results program, and did not return phone calls or answer requests for information from journalists likely to ask hard questions.