These are all screengrabs from the updated AFT/AMA Pro Racing 2016 tech regs.
Let's start with new ruling 3.1. This is slightly contentious because it is simply a rule about aesthetics, not necessarily technical advantage.
As fans, Sideburn is behind AFT's rules when it comes to differentiating the sport from other forms of dirt biking. We like that the racers wear their team leathers at all events, not swap from leathers to generic MX clothing for short tracks and TT. 3.1 is a little different. It's arisen, we assume, because Henry Wiles raced a Kawasaki twin built to look and behave like a DTX bike, and he won the Peoria TT on it. I spotted the 'Moto Twin' at the first round of the year, the Daytona TT, and passed it a couple of times before I clocked that it wasn't a 450.
There is currently enough variety in the twins class that closing one stream of development won't hurt anyone (except perhaps Wiles, in the short term), but it seems a bit churlish and at odds with the privateer spirit so important to pro flat track to enforce this at a time when every other privateer in the sport would give their little fingers for an FTR750. Plus, the line 'AMA Pro Racing will make sole determination if any machine does not meet this criteria' seems a bit arbitrary, especially as it'll come after a bike has been built.
It wouldn't take much for a good fabricator/custom builder to turn Wiles' twin into a bike that looks like Bryan Smith's radical 2015 Howerton Kawasaki (featured in SB23). Would that be enough to pass the 2018 rules?
Chad Cose had thought along similar lines for his beautifully made Kawasaki twin, but he won't be worrying about the rule changes because he's just confirmed that he will be racing an Indian FTR750, as a privateer, in 2018. Cose, the California Kid, raced the FTR at an outlaw race at Savannah, GA on Saturday night. He crashed on the first lap of the main and had to start from the back row for the restart. Despite being up against a bunch of AFT Twins Pros, he still came second, behind Kenny Coolbeth, who was back on an XR750 after a season on the factory XG750.
Chad Cose also features in SB31, coming soon, racing the Wood Honda Africa Twin.
Other than Wiles' Moto Twin and Cose's retired Kawasaki, I can't think of a twin that runs front fenders, but all the singles do, and this new rule seems to change that. But I don't get the point of letting bikes run fenders at TTs. Why not ban them from all races if it's that important? What job is a front fender doing at a TT that it isn't doing at a half-mile or any other race? And if it's a good idea at a TT, then surely it's a good idea at the others. Or vice versa: if it's not needed at any flat track, exclude it from all of them.
Can someone explain?
This is a biggie. I heard early in the season that one of the advantages the FTR750 had over all the other production-derived engines was that the proddie engines had to use stock, butterfly-style throttle bodies, appropriate for their bike, where Indian had utilised slide or guillotine-style throttle bodies. The Indian slide pulls out of the throat of the throttle body giving an unobstructed intake. Completely legal. However, instead of limiting the Indian, the rules have opened up to allow the other teams to use the other style of throttle bodies. This will add to the expense of all the teams, as they'll have to buy and test new hardware to take advantage of the new rule.
I couldn't find the 'approved substitutes' list on the AMA Pro Racing site if anyone can point me to it.
The note is the most interesting part of this. This is what a good friend of SB, an 'industry insider' wrote to me recently: 'Indian got a tremendous gift from AFT by engineering special rules for them. No production bike required, no homologation required. I understand that [Michael] Lock wanted to get them into the victory circle quickly, but the moves seemed to be a bit too blatant. Now, what the f*** does he do? Will [AFT] be able to get out of that corner he's boxed himself into?'
Reducing production engines, and let's be straight, these are production twins as you can't have more than two cylinders, is likely to make it even harder for other manufacturers to compete with the FTR's race engine. Reducing engine size would exclude Honda's Africa Twin, for instance. Perhaps anything suitable from Ducati too. On the Ducati front, Stevie Bonsey was racing the updated Lloyd Brothers Ducati at the same Savannah race that Cose debuted his FTR at. He got the holeshot, but said his tyre choice let him down. Also, reducing engine size seems at odds with the desire to bring more manufacturers into the sport. Yes, Yamaha and Kawasaki make engines that are successfully taking the fight to Indian, but no one else currently is (private XR750s excepted).
We'd love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment.