We love nerding out on the bits of AFT data we can get our hands on or reading between the lines of rule changes and wondering what cause or effect they'll have.
The 121-page 2019 AFT rulebook was published recently and there are a couple of interesting changes that caught our eye.
18 into 16
Perhaps the rule change fans will notice the most is reducing the number of riders in the Main from 18 to 16. There's always a chance a rider can use a 'provisional start', the get out of jail free card offered to Twins class riders to either get into a semi or main that they failed to progress to. That would put 17 on the grid. Previously, if a 'provisional' was used there would've been 19, of course.
The start layout for 16 is five on the front two rows, six on the third row.
There is still no last chance qualifier in either program, which remains a bug bear with a number of riders and teams. Why? Imagine you're fastest qualifier in the heats and as you go out for your semi, you get a puncture or other mechanical and fail to make your front row start in the semi. In that scenario, the rider either uses their provisional, or if they've already used it in the season, they are out. They could have had a 6000-mile round trip and they don't get a second chance. Seems harsh.
We asked David Lloyd, one of the founders of Lloyd Brothers Ducati, what he thought about the current format and he said this:
I do not agree with the format of the racing program. The single elimination format will ultimately discourage participation by anyone that is not a fully paid team, which there are very few of currently. To drive across the USA for a one day program that offers a racer 3x four-lap practice/qualifying sessions minutes apart and then a heat directly to the main is not attractive considering the amount of time, effort and money that it takes to get there.
I would NOT have a "Production Twins" class limited to max 800cc and a "Premier Twins" class limited to max 900cc production motors or max 750cc race only motors. I would put them all together in the format below.
3 Heat races (1-4) directly to main event
2 Semi race (1-2) to main event
Super Pole race - 12 riders qualified for main event race for starting position.
B main - winner to main event row 4 start
17 rider main event
I would like to see a two-day format at any track that we have not been to in the past, this way we can figure out track prep the first day with practice and timed qualifying... leaving a quick warm up the next day before starting pre-main event races.
The production twins he is talking about is the somewhat half-arsed stepping stone class for AFT Singles riders to get on twins. They had just two rounds in 2018, both at Springfield. A total of 18 riders competed in the combined events, with 12 competing in the most recent Springfield. Why only have two rounds of it? And why have specifications different to those the pros are racing? If the class is simply for riders to gain experience, then let them race FTRs or whatever race bikes they can get their hands on. How many AFT Singles riders can afford to build a bike for a two-race series?
In the AFT era MX style helmets have been allowed for TT races, but now 'full-face, road race style helmets' are mandatory at all races in all classes.
The maximum engine size for production road bike based engines is down from 999.9cc to 900. Not sure how this is going to play out against the FTR's dominance, but it shouldn't affect too many teams. The Kawasaki, Yamahas and Harleys are all under 900cc. The Lloyd Bros Ducati was bigger, but shrunk below 850cc when they were told the upper limit was going to be 850.
Rule 4.2.d.v. states:
'Production engines that have cylinder heads unsuitable for racing may petition AMA Pro Racing for acceptable alternative cylinder heads. Approved alternative cylinder heads will be published to the Approved Substitutes List on AMA Pro Racing’s website.'
This seems to be a rule to help people using the Harley XG750 Street as a basis for a racer, but the Vance & Hines team introduced DOHC heads to the SOHC motor at the beginning of 2018 (or perhaps even the last round on 2017), so perhaps it's simply making official an agreement that was widely accepted in the paddock anyway.
A more bizarre rule is this new one regarding the Cold Box - which it describes as a 'Designated area for riders not involved in the on-track incident and motorcycles that are not in need of repairs.'
So, there's a red flag and the riders stay on track for the restart. If they weren't involved in the crash they are in the cold box. Here is the new rule:
'If a rider needs to make a clutch cable or similar manual adjustment, one that could be made without the use of any type of tool, a request must be made to an AMA Pro Racing official who, upon approval, will witness the adjustment being made.'
What? A rider can't use his finger and thumb to adjust the clutch cable tension, on a modern cable clutch lever like the Venhill one above, without asking permission for fear of being excluded? What is this rule trying to avoid?
Let us know your thoughts on this post.
Action photo: AFT