American Flat Track has announced a raft of new rules and a strategy for unifying the SuperTwins and Production Twins classes for the start of the 2023 season. This is something many fans have been asking for and it feels necessary for a sport whose development and growth, at the pro level, has diminished since the underwhelming launch of the SuperTwins class.
For next season there will still be Production Twins and SuperTwins classes, but the dominant Indian FTR750 will have further restrictions put on it, while the Production Twins are allowed more tuning leeway to, as AFT put it, 'align the performance envelopes of production-based and race-only machines'.
First the strategy, outlined by AFT. They say (followed by what we think):
'While the technical changes serve as the first step to a single twin-cylinder championship, the Mission Production Twins Challenge will act as a bridge between the classes in 2022. Following the AFT Production Twins Main at each event, the top four finishers will be granted provisional starting positions for the Mission SuperTwins Main Event on a dedicated Mission Production Twins Challenge row.'
Sideburn assumes that's the back row. It would be fun if it was the front row.
'The inclusion of the top AFT Production Twins entries in the premier-class Main will allow for repeated head-to-head comparisons between the Mission SuperTwins contenders and the most competitive AFT Production Twins machines, providing critical data to guide the future evolution of the technical rules.'
Well, yes and no. There will be a lot of bragging rights for Production Twins racers who can finish mid-pack in SuperTwins, but really, they're coming off their own main, so they're at a disadvantage, however fit they are, especially in the heat of midsummer. Plus, their race-tuned bikes are asked to go out and do another 25 laps or more flat out. Will they hold up? Also, some of the sketchiest moves witnessed in recent years were seen at the front of SuperTwins races in 2021. Are the leading Prod Twins riders going to throw their balls at the wall from a back row start to prove their bikes are on par, performance-wise, with a strangled FTR750? Maybe, because...
'Along with acting as an ongoing evaluation program, the Mission Production Twins Challenge will aid in the development efforts of AFT Production Twins teams by providing an opportunity to earn over $100,000 throughout the season. The top Mission Production Twins Challenge riders at each round will be eligible to earn $72,000 in potential Mission SuperTwins purse payouts plus $28,800 in race bonus awards from Mission Foods.'
We haven't seen a breakdown of exactly how a rider can win $100,000. Do they have to beat Jared and Briar 16-18 times from the back row? Not sure.
'In addition, the top three riders in the Mission Production Twins Challenge point standings at the conclusion of the season will also be eligible for a $26,000 year-end points fund from Mission Foods. To qualify for the year-end bonus, Mission Production Twins Challenge riders must compete in every Mission SuperTwins Main Event for which they are eligible.'
Did you get that? To be in with a chance of winning a share of $26,000 a rider must take their place on the 'dedicated Mission Production Twins Challenge row'. If we use this year's data, the 2021 Prod Twins champ, Cory Texter, would have had to compete in 12 of the 16 races to get any end of season prize money, because that's how many top four finishes he scored in 2021. If he lines up and just does a lap and pulls in, to complete his obligation, he wouldn't have much chance of winning the prize money anyway. If Cory's bike and team were up for it, it's likely he could be fit enough, and it would be nice extra money for a Prod Twins rider nearing the end of the pro career.
THE RULES CHANGES
The full 2022 rulebook hasn't been publicly released yet, but key sections, allowing teams and tuners to prepare for a season that starts in three months, have been. Below are rules that affect both the SuperTwins and Production Twins, to bring the two closer together. These are just proposed rules, yet to be ratified.
New Rev Limits for Indian
Firstly, race-only engines - that means definitely the FTR750 (and maybe the Harley XG750R Rev X if it's changed so much from stock to be regarded as race only, but we doubt it), are limited to a rev ceiling of 11,500rpm. We're consulting with AFT tuners to see what this affect might have, but it might be preventative to stop Indian tuners raising the rev limit of their bikes in the future to increase, or recover, horsepower lost due to the next rule.
Restrictor plates for FTR750s
Intake restrictor plates are the favourite blunt instrument of pro flat track governing bodies when it comes to limiting a bike. It's a plate with a smaller than optimum hole in it that reduces the diameter of the engine's intake tract in a very crude way. Depending on the size and positioning of the restrictor plate it doesn't necessarily have to make a drastic difference, but it can. Also, there is a new maximum diameter of throttle bodies of 38mm, but I was sure FTR750s were currently fitted with 38mm throttle bodies anyway. The new rules for race-only engines state:
Throttle body and velocity stack minimum I.D. is 38mm.
Race-only engines will be required to utilize AMA Pro Racing issued intake restrictors with a circular I.D. of 32mm. Issued restrictors or their location cannot be modified in any way. Model specific information will be posted to illustrate restrictor dimensions and location.
32mm sounds very small, especially when fitted to an engine designed specifically for a 38mm throttle body. Big Ducati road bikes are running 50mm throttle bodies (but have longer inlet tracts).
Increased Cylinder Capacity for Production Twins
Production Twins can now increase bore and stroke to reach a limit of 900cc, up from a previous limit of 800cc. This opens the door for other manufacturers. KTM make an 889cc twin. Just saying...
Ride-by-wire Now Legal
Cable-less, ride-by-wire throttles have finally been allowed into the Production Twins class, so teams don't have to backward engineer their bikes to fit push-pull-style two-cable twistgrips. This will also allow for bikes to more easily use rider aids, like traction control, if it comes as standard with their bikes. That's a can of worms to open on another day.
Production Twins Bigger Throttle Bodies
Where race-only engines will be limited to 38mm throttle bodies, Production Twins engines can have 40mm throttle bodies.
Additionally, there was a rule that said twins must not resemble motocross or supermoto bikes (Wiles and Cose both had twins fitted with MX bodywork in the early days of AFT Twins). That rule has been scrubbed. Why? Is KTM coming with a supermoto-style twin?
More of the effect these changes might have to the FTR as we get them.