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AFT Super Twins Discussion

The story we posted about the proposed AFT Super Twins class has really riled some people and caused a lot more people to comment than usually do on our blog posts. There are plenty of salient points, but there seems to be a lot of contradiction and short-sightedness, at least from my point of view. Below are some of the comments.

First, we're not knocking AFT's vision. Because they are:

  • Putting races at tracks near big cities to try increase exposure and income.

  • Supplying a national TV channel a package they're putting on screens at decent times, increasing exposure for teams and sponsors.

  • Livestreaming all the races for free in an effort to grow the sport around the world.

  • Looking to improve safety (slowly, but more on that soon).

  • Running a series with five 'factory' teams - Indian, Harley, Estenson Yamaha, RMR Honda and KTM.

  • Creating a more coherent schedule with races actually falling between Daytona in mid-March and Springfield in late-May and doesn't have wild cross-country swings, but races in clusters.

Neither am I saying MotoGP or F1 is the ultimate or ideal target, but AFT and pro racing is a money-making endeavour. If a series doesn't make money it is amateur racing, and that's going to continue whatever AFT do.

I've taken a few comments, both from below the original post on our website and also the linked post on Sideburn's facebook page. I haven't bothered correcting any grammar in the original comments. My replies and comments are in italics.

This will be the decline of "AFT". Its just STUPID. over regulate something that has worked well for years because of greed. David E

'Worked well'? What was working well? Every current pro rider we speak to thinks they deserve more money. When it comes to pay, pro flat trackers are near the bottom of the scale of world class motorcyclists. Who in the current AFT programme will be able to retire when they quit the sport, like most pro golfers, tennis, team sports players or top MX racers? If this is the pinnacle of the sport it's not working for those putting their necks on the line. That is not the current AFT management's fault. They inherited a sport that had been in decline since Philip Morris pulled their sponsorship money (due to government regulation?) in the 1990s. I believe the Super Twins class is an effort to make a class of Elite racers who might be able to make a decent living. Whether it does remains to be seen, but whatever is happening now is not working for the riders.

I've never seen anyone go home because a top rider didn't make it to the main, I've never heard anyone say I'm not going next year because so and so didn't make it to the main. But I've heard everyone excited when Larry Pegram comes out of nowhere and makes a main. or a local guy running a limited number of races makes a main. Not that long ago Carver was winning races out the back of his van running and old XR. working his was through the heats... It's one thing to try and make a popular TV product its another to alienate you base supporters. We are not nascar we have a unique sport. The guy in the back of his van may be an underdog cutting out his chance to make a main would undercut the sport as we know it. We have provisional starts now thats enough.. You've already undercut the privateer with the one brand rule. We're not Moto GP or any other elitist sport. We don't need to be to be successful. If you don't get a big money TV contract quick this sort of program will fold quick. Joe D

Good point about Carver and those like him. Brandon Price has just had a great week: fastest qualifier at Lima, 4th in the main, then won the Barbara Fritchie Classic (a big, non-AFT race), and it's unlikely he'd have been in this year's version of the Super Twins, but I might be wrong. We don't yet know how the 16 Stars will be decided (if the Super Twins proposal even goes ahead - though I think it will). However, 'We're not Moto GP or any other elitist sport. We don't need to be to be successful' is not something any of the pro riders who have made sacrifices and taken risks all their lives would agree with. They are desperate to be successful. Joe highlights one of two views: that of the dyed in the wool, long-term fan opposed to that of the pro athlete. Riders could get the equivalent of $16,000 for winning a four-lap dash for a cash in the Camel era. They can't now.

Flat track is always talking about family I wanna see which 16 riders will ditch family and history for possible fame and money. (Other than those already under contract) Ritchie R

This is an unusual take on the whole debate. If a racer is the most talented privateer in the pack and is offered one of the 16 spots in the class why shouldn't they take it? That is the very essence of elite sport's participation. You've earned your chance to compete in the top class. If a footballer is chosen to play for their country do they turn it down in solidarity with the hundreds of pro players not chosen? Pro racers are doing it for the money! That's what makes them professional.

For me, there are still too many "ifs", and an overriding sense of there not being enough direct sponsorship (as opposed to contingency) to run the risk of investing in the top class without knowing if your rider is eligible for more than one season... Nigel T

This is an interesting point. If there isn't promotion and relegation, as I posited in the original post, then how does anyone break into the class? And if there is, which sponsors will take a risk on a rookie who might be relegated? And if they don't take a risk, the rider will be operating on a lower budget and will probably struggle. I guess that's life.

AFT doesn't have a freakn clue of what real dirt track racing is all about!! they have turned a 3 maybe 4 hour grand national dirt track race into a 8 to 10 hour JOKE! i have posted some comments on facebook that AFT should read!! you people at AFT need to be replaced with real flat track personnel that know how to promote and Grand National Race!! just like back in the Winston series and the Camel Pro series!!! now that was Awesome ass kickn racing!!! get a clue and clean up the DISASTER you have created !!! ric rael RAELCYCLE BILLINGS MONTANA!

I wasn't around in the days of Camel Pro Series, so I don't know if it was a four-hour programme, but how on earth they got an entry of 100 Expert riders (which I've been told numerous times by riders of the day wasn't unusual), plus a big Novice and Junior class through in 3-4 hours? It seems impossible to me. The '8-10 hour joke' is from the very first practice to the very last podium, not the 'show'. In the same way an F1 race doesn't show the previous two days of practice and qualifying or an Isle of Man TT race doesn't show the previous week's practice sessions.

This proposal is what they call a "trial balloon" in politics. I reluctantly ask only one will this address the two major reasons that the premier class of FT racing today is down to 16-20 racers. 1) The cost of the "Indian influence" verses the benefit (ie, return on investment) and 2) The reluctance of new sponsors/teams/brands to invest in the premier twins class because the rules and regulations and classes change so frequently. Lets say a manufacturer spends millions to develop a 750 like Indian has, produces enough to make a legit entry into the twins class, then AFT changes the rules again. How could a new manufacturer make that kind of gamble. IROC on two wheels. Doug W

Doug makes a good point (eg. one I agree with). The rules have changed numerous times and affected teams running KTM and Ducati twins, perhaps others. The FTR domination on its own isn't necessarily a big problem, because the XR750 was the dominant bike through the Camel era glory days, but it will discourage other manufacturers from getting involved. I don't doubt that for a second, however, if the Production Twins becomes a more vibrant class Triumph and other manufacturers going into that. Perhaps that's the optimist in me.

The pro class is down to 20 riders because of the Production class.

I don't get the IROC reference. If someone can explain.

What I am picking up from this is, the super class does not need to practice, qualify, run heats, run semis only a final? I won't go 400 miles to see the same 16 riders. This will also mean the greatest riders may be riding on local tracks because they don't get discovered or have the equipment to compete in your sport. Although, they may start their own racing group. Turn it into something that has a reasonable payout to the riders, not a governing body, and won't want to be an AFT rider. One last point I will give you to consider. You know media can make a superstar. When Tiger Woods wasn't playing the people going to and watching Golf dropped significantly. What do you think will happen when a few of your superstars can't race. I've thought of 5 scenarios in just a few minutes that would make anyone at the race say, well that sucks! I think your idea is the worst I've seen in a long time. Goodbye! Paul Z

I'm not sure if Paul thought this was our idea or not, but we can't legislate against that. Anyway, why would the Super Twins riders not practice, qualify, race semis, etc? They still need to qualify for grid position. MotoGP riders all make their main and they spend two whole days practicing and qualifying. The very biggest world motorsports are built on a limited number of regular riders/drivers racing the whole series. It's flat track that is the weird anomaly. Every sport has it's mega stars. MotoGP might struggle when Rossi retires, but which star couldn't flat track cope without? AFT doesn't have a Rossi or a Tiger or a Messi.

The greatest riders always rise to the top. Some very good riders might not get the chance, but the great riders will.

Here's something that bothers me. What if the points leader in the 16 team format gets fired from their team, with say 5 races left in the season, and isn't hired by one of the other elite teams? Is that rider just out of the picture? Things like this bring up lots of possibilities for manipulation of the series. This AFT proposal brings up many "What If" questions that I hope AFT has given serious thought to, but based on their history, I doubt it. Farley McD

What would a leading rider be sacked by a team for? If it's a drug offence, they're banned. If it's a serious behaviour issue, then perhaps they should miss out on the rest of the season. If it's a simple personality clash, then someone will come through for them, and delight in 'winning' the title with a salvaged rider than they can say was unfairly treated. I'm not sure why anyone else would be sacked, but I haven't spent hours thinking. Surely this is the same with any motorsports, right? Whether it's 16 riders or not.

Growing up on the other side of numbers when over 100 would show up to race at dozens of GNC / Regional events around the country, money was great (for the top) and a great twin cost a couple grand. A brand-new Van was $4k to cover the 50k miles on the racing season. Today it starts at a million to have one top AFT Twins rider running fast at 18 races, bikes, transporter, travel, team, marketing. This is all well and good to have the special teams, there really always has been 16 teams that would make the mains on a regular basis. The feeder class Production Twins or Junior class getting life from the AFT Singles keeps the marketing package a fit for live broadcasting... We have known for a long time that's where the money comes from. Creating a world wide marketing planform is the answer to the tobacco money of past. You really can't run mass racers off to fit TV time... This is why NBCSN features highlights from qualifying and shows the main events to fit a one hour programing slot. Daniel J

There's a lot of sense here, but Jeffrey Carver and /Henry Wiles are not operating on $1 million budgets and they were on the podium at the most recent race.

What will be the effect on the fanbase and with the paddock - the actual people who build and pay for the equipment to continue in this series under these parameters - this series has always been the grass roots of all two wheel competition - creating a Star Chamber to over see the creation of Stars is not going to go down well with a sport that needs growth that will only come with serious "outside of the industry sponsorship" bg279

It would be easy to argue that Singles and Production Twins are the entry classes for the teams and folks you speak of. And the Production Twins class at Lima was great. American Honda and KTM both have 'factory' teams in Singles and no representation whatsoever in either Twins class. Plus the whole idea is to raise the sport above 'grassroots'. Grassroots doesn't get regular TV time. Grassroots doesn't get blue chip sponsorship. Flat Track is where Grand Prix 500s were in the 1970s. A couple of big teams, a couple of big stars, but the rest were privateers, guys working out of vans and small trucks. The parallels are obvious, I think.

Plus don't the grassroots supporters want to see the young men and women they support rise up and become as big and successful as possible, don't they? Or do they want the down scrabbling for crumbs and having to work on building sites on the off-season to make it through the winter?

Please tell us what you think.

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