In the past I have been disparaging of the headline figures trumpeted by some companies in relation to their AMA/AFT contingency prize funds offered (I'm looking at you Ducati), but news of Indian Motorcycle's AFT SuperTwins pay out plan looks more encouraging. It comes off the back of them disbanding the factory team, so, y'know, swings and roundabouts.
Contingency is the prize money companies hand out after every race, and, in many cases, for the championship too. The money goes specifically to riders who use the company's equipment, often with some stipulations. In Indian's case, they always wanted racebikes in their corporate race colours. If you won the race on a bike that was in your sponsor's colours, you risked not getting the Indian payout. This is the same for the majority of manufacturers. When it comes to consumables or tuning parts, you have to have the logos displayed in the agreed places and sizes.
The problem I've had with contingency in the past, especially from a company like Ducati for the six months they wanted to be involved, is they're not really helping the sport. They're just dangling a carrot for a private team to use a Ducati engine, and if the team has any success they get a payout from Ducati. There is no up front payment or support for the team to help them build towards success. And no risk or investment on the part of the OEM. The team put everything into the effort up front. The situation is very different with Indian for at least two reasons: one, the FTR is still the bike to be on, it's not an unknown package - even if rule changes have dulled its edge. Two, there are a number of them being used in the series so Indian will actually be paying out to riders.
Indian sent out a release outlining their contingency figures for SuperTwins, Super Hooligan (now road race based) and the King of the Baggers series. SuperTwins gets the lion's share. This is the breakdown for that series.
The championship winner gets $25,000. Additionally, each Indian privateer who finishes in the top ten gets the following payout.
● 1st: $7,500 ● 2nd: $2,500 ● 3rd: $1,500 ● 4th: $1,000 ● 5th: $750 ● 6th: $350 ● 7th: $250 ● 8th: $150 ● 9th: $125 ● 10th: $100
As I understand it, everyone on an Indian will be regarded as a privateer in 2023, because the factory team has folded. If we look at Jared Mees' championship-winning results for 2022, and extrapolate the results and 2023 prize fund, we come up with a figure of $43,250 for the race results and $25,000 for the title win, a total of $68,250. This is in addition to AFT's own prize money, and other contingencies available - tyres, fuel, consumables, tuning parts, leathers and helmet.
Mees is the most committed hustlers in the sport, looking after his sponsors, filling his leathers with logos of partners, and getting performance-related payments from many of them. Few would argue he works harder than anyone in the pits on that side. And while Indian are being very generous with their fund, if we go on the figures above, the champion is still taking less that $70K in prize money from multi-national motorcycle company whose machine he races. We don't know what other deals, if any, he has with Indian.
This is, in no way, a dig at Indian. They have put millions into the sport since 2016, on many different levels, including right down to the grassroots. They will pay out more than any other OEM in AFT. It's simply another reality check for where pro dirt track sits in the motorsports world.
Jared Mees and his fellow racers are competing in a sport that repeatedly shows itself to be brutally unforgiving and the rewards are meagre compared to the pay some industries reward their workers with. I'm not talking about other high-level sports, I'm talking about skilled industries. Jared makes it work, with grit and guile, and being a seven-time national champ, but further down the results standings it's extremely difficult. Indian promise $7500 for a race win, but fifth place get $750. Yes, better than a nothing, but racing an AFT SuperTwin to a fifth place finish is an expensive business, even in the ear of 12 or 13 entries in the class.
Risk v reward is one factor of the dwindling race entries that doesn't get the coverage it deserves. Lots of fingers get pointed by fans as the causes of low race entry numbers, but I increasingly feel that racers look at the risk versus reward of a mid-pack existence and it doesn't add up financially. Dan Bromley says as much in the interview in Sideburn 51, and we've had similar conversations with racers over the years, often after one of their peers has been badly injured.
The option is to work a regular job, pick, choose your races and have much more financial stability, while still racing when it suits. It's not what the fans want to see, but that's the reality.
Is this financial situation ever going to change for the better? From where I'm sat, it's hard to see it. Gary Inman