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Copyright 2001, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.
Buell American Motorcycles introduced the XB9R Firebolt to the press and Buell dealers on Friday, July 13 in Los Angeles, California. Labeled a "Sportfighter," the new bike features a mix of old and new technology in an interesting package for those looking for a real American sportbike. Think of it as a Harley engine in a 250cc Grand Prix race chassis.
Based loosely on the Buell Blast's engine architecture, the Firebolt engine is an air-cooled, 45-degree, two-valves-per-cylinder, four-stroke V-Twin. The engine is ram-air-fed through a downdraft intake tract, with an electronic fuel-injection system. The motor acts as a fully-stressed frame member but fights vibration with Buell's Uniplanar rubber mounting system. Differing from a Blast with the addition of high flow heads and an all-new valve train, the Firebolt makes more than double the 32-horsepower of the single-cylinder Blast. The Firebolt delivers 92 horsepower at 7200 rpm and 68 lbs.-ft. of torque at 5500 rpm (at the crankshaft) and revs to 7500 rpm. The new powerplant is connected to a five-speed transmission that shares gears with the Blast. Different primary and final drive ratios allow the Firebolt to exploit its extra power through a zero-maintenance 11mm drive belt.
The big news with the Buell's new middleweight is its chassis. The Firebolt boasts a 52-inch wheelbase, 21 degrees of rake and 3.3 inches (83mm) of trail, triple-adjustable inverted Showa forks, a fully adjustable remote-reservoir rear shock that acts directly on the braced swingarm, and a 385-pound dry weight. The bike's 3.8-gallon fuel load is carried inside of its twin-spar aluminum frame rails and its 3.5-quart oil supply resides within the cast aluminum swingarm.
One of the more interesting items on the XB9R is its front brake system. Buell mounted a 14.76-inch (375mm) brake rotor directly to the front wheel's outer rim, effectively turning the 3.50 x 17-inch cast aluminum wheel into one giant brake rotor. A specially-made Nissin six-piston caliper grabs the rotor from the inside. This system allows for a much lighter wheel to be used. A more conventional 9.0-inch (230mm) rotor and single-piston caliper work on the 5.50x17-inch rear wheel. Dunlop D207 Sportmax radials,120/70-ZR17 front and 180/55-ZR17 rear, will be standard on all Buell Firebolts.
With or without the AMA and their Pro Thunder class, Buell and the Firebolt will go racing in 2002. With a race version already being tested and a customer race kit planned, Buell Chairman and Chief Technical Officer Erik Buell said, "We'll make sure that our customers have a place to race it."
Comments made by Erik Buell in the past suggest that the company wants the new machine to race in AMA 600cc Supersport, and hopes for appropriate rule changes to make that possible.
No final price or delivery date have been set for the Buell XB9R Firebolt, but Erik Buell says that it should arrive early in 2002 and under $10,000.