As a fan, and low-level amateur racer, the inherent danger of motorcycles, bike sport and flat track in particular has been like a constant dull ache for the past few months. Since the mid-point of the season it seems like every other AFT race has left a rider with a serious, sometimes life-changing injury. Jeremy Higgins, in the Production Twins at Springfield; JR Addison in the Production Twins at Minnesota; James Monaco in the Expert Twins at Minnesota and that's not to mention 'regular' season-ending injuries to the likes of Tanner Dean and others.
Closest to home is UK rider Oliver Brindley who hit a downed bike at the Meadowlands Mile, AFT Finale on Saturday night and suffered serious injuries that we don't know the exact details of yet.
Is this the right time to talk about track safety? I have been communicating with a seasoned US pro racer today who says there have been improvements since AFT took over. There is more airfence, more boarding at the side of the track, but mile and half-mile racing can only improve so much. There is no run-off, there can be as many as 17 bikes on track...
Track prep seems to be an area that can improve. From what I've gathered from this competitor, the track conditions were completely different at Meadowlands to last year, because, he said, the track owners dumped a load more dirt on the track in the lead up to the race. From an event organisers' point of view, this is unexpected, but does there need to be more stringent contracts and track specs in place to guarantee some kind of consistency? Or is that impossible when dealing with cushion tracks visited once a year? Apparently the track was great last year, so why would AFT or anyone else expect anything different? Well, regulars said Lima was completely different in 2019 to previous years, so it is not something totally out of the blue.
Track condition is a life or death situation. Dallas Daniels crashed and the roost at Meadowlands seems to have contributed to Oliver's crash. It looked like he was unsighted.
The Expert Twins negotiated a shortened race and their main was reduced from a scheduled 25 laps to just 8.
AFT are planning to make airbag suits mandatory, to protect the chest and internal organs, but that won't alter head injuries. What more can be done?
If you would like to donate to a charity set up to help injured pro riders visit Rookies of '79 and friends. They take donations through paypal, so it's very easy to contribute. There now an option to donate to Oliver Brindley.
Photos: Scott Hunter/AFT