Custom bike building is returning once again in a strong fashion and its gripping Europe like never before. In recent times several custom houses have emerged all across Europe and have amassed significant attention for their project builds. And with the rise in numbers of custom builds, it has propelled for some interesting events on the calendar celebrating the lifestyle of old-school cafe-racers, scramblers, racers, etc. One such event that has garnered a lot of attention in recent times is the Sultans of Sprint drag racing challenge, developed specifically for custom drag bikes powered by air-cooled or oil-cooled 4-stroke engines that are up to 1400cc.
The Sultans of Sprint racing circus travels all around Europe, spread out over a total of six round championship taking place in Italy, France, Germany and Spain. It is fast gathering momentum as a must-do event on the continent’s motorcycling calendar as more and more custom workshops are coming forward with their builds to race and take home the top honours in these races.
One such house that has grabbed a lot of eyeballs recently is Kraftstoffschmiede from South Germany, run by this bloke called Philipp Ludwig. His latest creation, the ‘Hercules’ – based on 1998 BMW R850R, is a manifestation of engineering prowess, racing pedigree yet unusual automotive design elements that are seldom seen in the motorcycling world. Working as an engineer in the vehicle development department at BMW, Ludwig started out restoring BMW motorcycles but soon focused on building customs and working on projects that interested him. ‘Hercules’ was developed around a span of over four to six months and apart from borrowing the engine most of the other components and the chassis was fully developed in-house by Philipp.
He wanted to experiment with slim motorcycle design and keep it low-slung as a true-blue drag racing machine to take part and win the Sultans of Sprint Drag Racing Challenge. So he, along with his friend Franz, who is an expert metal craftsman, together built a hardtail frame to house the BMW R850R motor. With the rather skinny frame design in mind, the fuel tank was borrowed from Hercules Prima 5S – another iconic German brand known for its mopeds. Philipp had clear focus on turning it into a drag race winning machine and therefore the suspensions units were junked out to reduce power losses in a straight line turning the Kraftstoffschmiede into a hardtail. The R850 motor was re-built with lightweight pistons, specialised camshaft and a heavy crankshaft to tackle the horsepower gain.
Retaining the 850’s gearbox, the final drive ratio was lengthened for focus on acceleration – critical for a drag racing machine. Fed by a large Dellorto PHB 41 carburettor injected with nitrous gas for the drag run. Philipp’s choice to opt for the R850R 4-valve engine to base his build on was largely due to the reliability that the engine is known for as well as the low-cost procuring of the motor compared to BMW’s 2-valve engines which are rather popular amongst the builder and hence entail a premium.
While the performance numbers aren’t out yet, the machine is capable of clocking over 200km/h in about 200 metres and a dyno-tested top-speed figure of 300km/h. Philipp has been participating in the Sultans of Sprint Drag Races and raking up acclaim for his build and its performance in the races. In one of the races the driveshaft gave up and was busted due to too much power. But our man was back with a stronger unit for the next competition, quick to clock some seriously competitive numbers on the drag strip.
It took Philipp about three to four months to complete the build from ground up including building an all-new frame to developing the engine suited for drag racing. His efforts have been lauded and we are sure that there is more to it where the Kraftstoffschmiede came from. All the best Philipp!