Being Scheibe: The Man Behind Harley’s Superbike Program Is The Frontman For Scheibe Racing

Steve Scheibe (left) owns and operates the Scheibe Racing team that features Danny Eslick and the team’s BMW in this year’s Motul Superbike Championship. Photo by Brian J. Nelson

Steve Scheibe is a quiet and unassuming man. This, despite his vast engineering knowledge and mechanical aptitude honed razor-sharp from decades of experience in professional motorcycle road racing, and also despite the fact that his eponymous Superbike team is called “Scheibe Racing.” “That’s the official name of our team as it appears on the MotoAmerica entry sheets,” Scheibe explains, “But I’d prefer not to bring so much attention to myself.”

The team is quite the dichotomy. Steve sort of puts the “Shy” in “Scheibe,” while his rider Danny Eslick is one of the most energetic, fun-loving, and mischievous racers in MotoAmerica, not to mention the entire history of American road racing.

It’s almost hard to believe that Scheibe, an even-tempered Midwesterner with a decidedly “Fargo-esque” accent, was once the man in charge of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company’s entire Superbike racing program. And Scheibe began that role even before he was an H-D employee.

Steve Scheibe (in leathers) testing the Harley-Davidson VR1000 prototype at Blackhawk Farms in Illinois back in 1991.

In 1988, the Motor Company contracted Roush Industries in Livonia, Michigan, to help develop the top-end of the cylinders for the V-twin engine on their then-unknown-to-the-public VR1000 Superbike. Scheibe, who had joined Roush four years’ prior in 1985, as an engineer, was working in engine design, development, and calibration. He took on the considerable task of designing the cylinder heads and electronic fuel injection system for the VR1000. Prior to the VR1000 project, Scheibe had already done some work for Harley, in addition to various projects for Chrysler, Ford, and Mercury Marine. Add to this, the fact that Scheibe was an accomplished motorcycle road racer and it all added up to the fact that he was uniquely qualified to handle the job.

As the VR1000 project progressed, it absorbed Scheibe in more ways than one, not only in the amount of hours that he devoted to the project, but by 1991, he had advanced from an engineer at Roush Industries to become the Racing Manager for the Harley-Davidson Motor Company.

Over the course of the next decade, Scheibe was responsible for race department leadership at Harley-Davidson; he was the head of engineering for the race team; he managed all race team operations for AMA Superbike and AMA Flat Track; and he even headed up corporate racing relations with Harley-Davidson’s dealers, as well as the press and the public, and with the sanctioning bodies and race tracks.

From 1991 to 2001, Scheibe worked with a veritable who’s-who of American road racers, including Scott Zampach, Fritz Kling, Miguel DuHamel, Thomas Wilson, Chris Carr, Pascal Picotte, Scott Russell, and even MotoAmerica’s own race director himself, Doug Chandler.

Scheibe consults with Miguel DuHamel on the starting grid.

Despite what race fans may recall, the VR1000 had success on the racetrack… which always seemed to get overshadowed by bad luck. Duhamel led a Superbike race at Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota, and he looked poised to take the win, but he ran wide on the final lap and was passed with only three corners left before the checkered flag. He led again at Mid-Ohio, but suffered a mechanical when the shifter came loose. Carr put the VR1000 on the pole at Pomona, California, in 1996. And then, in 1996 at Mid-Ohio, Wilson earned the VR1000 its only victory. Unfortunately, a red flag on the final lap reverted the results to the previous lap, and the victory was unceremoniously snatched from Wilson and the VR1000. In 1997, once again at Mid-Ohio, Wilson finished second. In the 1998 Daytona 200, Pascal Picotte rode the VR1000 deftly through the pack, and took the lead for several laps. But, a bad pitstop cost him, the team, and their star-crossed VR1000 the win.

The VR1000 actually achieved its most-notable success after the project had officially ended in 2001. Harley-Davidson handed the project over to Porsche, whose job it was to commercialize the VR1000, which they did in spades. The engine in the VRSC – better-known as the V-Rod – was a direct descendant of the VR1000, and the V-Rod was not only H-D’s flagship motorcycle from 2001 to 2017, but it was also one of the Motor Company’s best-selling bikes of all time.

When H-D pulled the plug on its VR1000 Superbike program in 2001, Scheibe went on hiatus from road racing and pursued his other passion: flying. He not only got his commercial pilot’s license, but he also acquired and fully restored a Viet Nam-era military helicopter, which he still owns and flies.

Scheibe also worked for KTM’s Supermoto program beginning in 2005, which helped sustain his love of motorcycle racing. In 2012, through his company called Atom Developments, Scheibe started working as a consultant with Hayes Performance Systems.

Hayes manufactures components for the mountain bike industry, and their brands include Hayes Disc Brakes, Manitou Suspension, SUNringlé Wheels, Wheelsmith Spokes, and ProTaper Products. In addition, Hayes manufactures braking and control systems for powersports, agriculture, the military, and motorcycles. Scheibe helped Hayes create and develop motorcycle road racing brake calipers and other parts. In fact, Scheibe holds several U.S. patents, not only for the components he’s helped create for Hayes, but also for components he invented and engineered while working on the Harley-Davidson VR1000 program.

Scheibe poses with Harley factory rider and multi-time Grand National Champion Chris Carr in the wind tunnel.

When the MotoAmerica era dawned, Scheibe’s love of motorcycle racing, his relationship with Hayes Performance Systems, and his faith in Wayne Rainey brought him back to the road racing paddock, this time campaigning a BMW S1000 RR, first in the Superstock 1000 Championship with Steve Rapp racing the final three rounds of the 2015 MotoAmerica season, then again with Rapp as his rider during selected rounds in 2016, and then for the full 2017 Superstock 1000 season with French rider Sylvain Barrier and New Yorker Jason DiSalvo. This year, Scheibe has stepped up to Superbike with Danny Eslick in the saddle of the #69 Scheibe Racing/BMW S1000 RR.

The Hayes brake calipers and other components on Eslick’s Superbike are not only part of the proof of concept – and a final performance validation – for both Hayes and Scheibe, but last year, Yamalube/Westby Racing ran Hayes front brake calipers on Mathew Scholtz’ #11 Yamaha YZF-R1 Superbike. In fact, last year when Scholtz took the win in the season-ending second Superbike race at Barber, Hayes front brakes handled the stopping duties during that rain-soaked event when Scholtz took the checkered flag and went into the history book as the first MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 rider to win a Superbike race.

With MotoAmerica’s next race weekend taking place at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin – which is practically in Scheibe’s and Hayes Performance Systems’ backyard – is there any added incentive to perform well in front of the home crowd?\

“I always look forward to going back there,” Scheibe said. “Not only because it’s my home track, and our team sponsors will be there to watch us race, but also because of my memories of the VR1000 program, which originated in Wisconsin. A lot of fans still remember the VR1000 – especially the fans who come to Road America – and it makes me feel proud to be racing in front of them again.”