I'm going to keep splurging these top of the head reports if I watch the AFT races on Fanschoice. I had to get up early for a flight on Sunday morning, so I set my alarm for 3.30am to watch a bit before I left, then streamed it on my phone, making a massive dent in my data allowance. I listened on headphones to the seemingly endless adverts until something was about to happen, then pulled into petrol stations to watch the action. Such is the life of a UK-based AFT fan.
AFT Twins Texas Half-Mile
I hadn't seen enough of the previous week's Texas half-mile to draw many conclusions (because I'd had a few drinks and couldn't stay awake), except these...
Briar Bauman is perhaps the only true challenger for Mees this season, but Mees picked up his first win of 2019.
Indian scored back-to-back podium sweeps, Atlanta and Texas.
There was a shockingly low Twins entry of just 22 riders. Does this matter?
After the first three rounds, Estenson Yamaha rider Jake Johnson was the only non-Indian rider to make it onto the podium, with his third place at the Daytona TT. Nine possible podium places filled by eight FTR750s.
Brandon Robinson proved (as if any proof were needed) that he's still got it, with a third on his Kennedy Racing FTR750. His first podium since the Charlotte Half-Mile, which was the ninth race of 2016. This after finishing 14th (fourteenth!) in the standings in 2018 on the Vance & Hines factory Harley. Robinson was third overall in 2016, the season before he signed for H-D.
Vance and Hines have found something with the XG now though. After three race of 2018, Vanderkooi had come 4th, 4th, 6th. Sammy came fourth at the Texas Half-Mile. That means Halbert beat ten of the 13 FTR750's that entered, every Yamaha and every Kawasaki. Progress, for sure.
As I stated, Vanderkooi was 6th with veteran class act Pegram on an FTR750 between the the two factory Harley riders.
JD Beach and Jake Johnson were 9th and 10th, pointing to the fact the Yamaha needs a bit more work before it's competitive on ovals.
Texas saw the first round of the production twins. It is strangely confusing, because riders like Kayl Kolkman and Kolby Carlile are swapping between Twins and Production Twins on the same bikes. There's nothing to say they can't, but it is confusing.
20 bikes entered Production Twins. All but one were either Yamaha or Kawasaki. The odd one out was Danny Eslick's Harley XG750. I'm pretty sure it's an ex-Vance and Hones bike, but it must be the earlier generations with the SOHC heads. Indian FTR750s are not eligible for the class, by the way.
After a surprisingly underwhelming 2018 season in AFT Singles, Cory Texter was back on a twin and won the Prod Twins main. His sister, Shayna, won her AFT Singles Main the same night.
Cory Texter's best lap of 20.849 was 0.62 off the fastest lap of the Twins class, set by Briar B, but the track might have got faster later in the programme, helping the Twins class to set better times. 13 riders in the Twins class had quicker faster laps in the Main than Texter's best lap of the Production Twins.
Cory is on the bike JD Beach guested on in 2018 - the G&G Yamaha.
AFT Twins Arizona TT
So, to the inaugural Arizona Super TT. First time on a new track. Not sure what makes it super, but here are some observations.
Henry Wiles was filmed on the track walk saying the elevation changes and banking could offer multi-lane racing, but the track grooved up and it was pretty one line by the time of the main.
We're four races into the season and we've had two TTs already. Why are there so many TTs on the GNC calendar now? I understand that TTs have long been a part of GNC, but there's four on the schedule this year. That's 22% of this year's AFT races. I spoke to a fellow UK race fan and amateur racer who described TTs as 'shit motocross', a phrase I might have used myself in previous blog posts. It doesn't seem to me that the sport playing to its strengths from a new fan's POV. I'd like them to keep Peoria, ditch the rest. This isn't going to happen. Daytona is too important (because the owners of AFT also own Daytona) and there's doesn't seem to be the will to make a raceable oval within the Daytona Speedway. The Buffalo Chip TT is too important reaching the grassroots US biker crowd. Sure, there's a bit of bar-banging now and then in the TT rounds, but when US Supercross is on the same weekend, vying for the same TV eyes, don't AFT twins doing a little bunny hop jump look a bit lame?
Having said all that, JD Beach's best race lap was quicker than AFT Singles racewinner Jesse Janisch's best lap in the main, so the twins are really hustling. But does it make for a great spectacle? Let me know.
Only 20 AFT twins lined up to practice. That means, if someone used a provisional start card, only three riders wouldn't make the main. Good for the riders, but what does the dwindling number of entries point to in AFT?
Briar and Bronson Bauman are a formidable pairing.
Briar and Mees won their semis.
Sammy Halbert crashed on the first corner of his semi. By the time he remounted he couldn't make the top 8 to transfer to the main (he was in a 10-rider semi). He used his provisional start card to progress to the Main and began from the fourth row.
Brad Baker continues to improve as a commentary pundit and he was good to start with. He sees things most fans and even commentators would not.
There were 11 x FTR750s; 4 x Yamaha; 2 x H-D. No Kawasakis.
Bryan Smith's facebook stated 'I will be skipping the Super TT race in Arizona tonight. We struggled badly at the last race, and need to take a minute to regroup before we get back to the ovals.'
Mees got a stinking start in the main, but there was a crash involving Carlile, Monaco and Pearson. Pearson didn't come off, but couldn't avoid Monaco, ran over his leg and deflated a tyre. He couldn't mend it before the restart.
There was yet more drama when Henry Wiles noticed he had a flat tyre just before the restart and he was out.
Sammy's provisional already looked a good gamble. There were four riders out at the restart. He eventually came in ninth, while his teammate had his worst result of the year, with 11th. It seems the XG train has been derailed for a little while. Ovals coming up soon.
Mees made a much better start second time around, but Briar Bauman, who looked untouchable all night, was away.
Carver was in the mix at the start, but faded very slightly and ended up fourth. His best result of the season.
The night belonged to JD Beach. He's had a poor season so far, by his very high standards: bad luck, bad breaks, perhaps some bad judgement, but he closed down Bauman, when the Indian rider's tyre began to fade, and took the win with a last lap overtake.
It was Beach's first ever GNC win.
It was Yamaha's first twins class win in the GNC, according to AFT, since Scott Pearson won the Peoria TT in 1981. Read that again. Yamaha hasn't won a Pro Twins flat track race in the Grand National Championship for 38 years before JD Beach on Saturday night.
Briar was second, Mees third. Briar leads the championship.
Add this result to Jake Johnson's 3rd at the Daytona TT, but their poor showing on the ovals points to something lacking on the fast ovals that the riders can make up for on more technical TTs.
Next race AFT race is the So Cal Half-Mile Perris, Ca on May 11, but between now and then, there are two BIG money races in California, one at Willow Springs and the Framer National at Perris short track the night before the national.
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