All week I have been kicking myself for not going to the Daytona TT, but there were reasons. Chiefly, it's on a Thursday. If you fly to the USA and don't stay a Saturday night the flights are hugely more expensive and I didn't have the inclination or time to either go on the previous Friday or stay until the Sunday, days after the race.
Secondly, even though I felt I got a good story last year, the event was underwhelming. I'll wait for another race a little later in the year to use Sideburn's limited budgets to soak up some live AFT. Still, I got back from our SB32 launch in Leeds just in time to watch the mains, but nothing else. These are the answers, and further thoughts, to the questions I posed yesterday.
1. Is the FTR750 a magic bullet that transforms every privateer into a podium prospect?
No, not on a TT track anyway. Six FTR750s made the main, the factory trio, plus Coolbeth, Carver and Pearson. FTR riders Kevin Anderson, Chad Cose and Jay Maloney did not qualify for the 18-rider main from 36 entries.
Mees won on an Indian, between him and Baker in 5th, on the next FTR, was Beach on a Yam and Wiles and Briar Bauman, both on Kawasakis. After Baker was Johnson (Yam) and Fisher (Kaw) before the FTR trio of Coolbeth, Smith and Pearson. So, the best riders on the best bikes make the difference. Who would have thought that...
2. Have Vance and Hines improved the Harley-Davidson XG750R enough to compete for the podium?
Not on this showing, no, but it might be too early to say. Jarod Vanderkooi looked the most comfortable of the factory riders, but DNF'd with a mechanical. Even then his best lap in his semi was more than a second a lap slower Baker, Wiles and Bauman, who were all in the same semi. All three XG750Rs qualified for the main (something they didn't do at the 2017 Daytona TT) with Halbert (69, above) finishing in 11th, Robinson 12th and Vanderkooi being given 16th with his DNF.
3. Is the Daytona TT track going to deliver more of a spectacle than last year's?
Yes, but still I think it's a mistake to start the season with a TT. I know it's part of flat track's history and some TTs can be great, but a few days before the Daytona TT, held in exactly the same spot in this enormous facility, is the Daytona Supercross. As far as spectacles go, an AFT TT round cannot compete. So why launch the season with TT, not the discipline that EVERYONE envisages when they think of flat track?
The 2018 Chris Carr-designed track was better, the racing was better, but as UK amateur racers, we're expected to send heavy vintage bikes and twin shock framers over a bigger jump at the Greenfield TT in Lincolnshire. The sport is not playing to its strengths with this opener. Others may well disagree.
4. Will TT specialist Henry Wiles' re-styled moto-twin be on the pace?
Yes, but Mees was in control once he passed Beach. JD Beach (95) was impressive again. He was on the podium at the final round of 2017 and 2nd last night, with his Superprestigio win inbetween. Isn't there more money in flat track than US road racing in 2018, to convince this guy to go for a title on dirt? It appears to me like he's perennially overlooked by world road racing teams (or perhaps chooses not to race outside the US, I don't know) and is in a rut in US road racing, a sport that is so deep in the doldrums it can't even see daylight. Can't AFT convince Yamaha to put this young star on a factory-supported Faster Sons-styled race bike?
5. Is Dalton Gauthier back in AFT Singles after his drug ban?
Nope, he didn't appear. Dan Bromley comfortably won the race.
6. Can Shayna Texter break her poor run of TT results and get some points on the board?
Nope. She didn't even make the semis. Reigning champion, Kolby Carlie was flying all night, but was injured in the main, which had two restarts.
7. Can UK rider Oliver Brindley's improve on last year's fifth place?
Oliver Brindley was momentarily up to third, then came in 6th. I'm told he had brake problems during the heats and semis and had to revert to stock MX brakes, which are not as big or powerful as TT/Supermoto brakes and more prone to overheating.
8. Is Corey Texter going to smoke everyone in the AFT Singles?
Not on the TT courses, but it'll be a different matter on the ovals, I'm convinced. He came 10th, just one place ahead Spanish rider Cardus, who crashed twice in the same main!
9. Can Jeffrey Carver put our logo on the podium?
Again, no. Carver looked uncomfortable on the TT track and was lapped well before the end of the race. Like both Texters, I think he will be a different proposition on the ovals.
Leave comments below on what you spotted or picked up. I love hearing what you think.
Next race is Atlanta Short Track on 7 April.
Photos courtesy of American Flat Track