Indian officially announced that they would run a two-man Wrecking Crew (as we reported earlier in the week). This is made up of a one-man factory team of reigning champ Briar Bauman, and the factory-supported independent (but not a true privateer), the former champ, Jared Mees. This is the first time in the new Indian team's lifespan that they've had two-rather than three riders on their 'Wrecking Crew' (see why we think that make business sense in BronBo Goes Private).
On the same day Indian announced more news. Bryan Smith is back on an Indian, this time as a factory-backed privateer with his long-term team boss Ricky Howerton. Smith will be on an FTR750 with a unique chassis developed just for him.
Indian also outlined their privateer contingency fund for the Mission SuperTwins class. Mees and Bauman are not eligible to take any of the fund. If a privateer wins the championship they will receive a bonus of $25,000. The last privateer to win the title was Bryan Smith on a Kawasaki in 2016. Since then all four titles have been won by Indian factory riders: Mees twice, followed by a pair of Bauman titles.
These are the Indian contingency pay-outs for the places per race.
1st - $7,500
2nd - $2,500
3rd - $1,500
4th - $1,000
5th - $750
6th - $350
7th - $250
8th - $150
9th - $125
10th - $100
The press release announces 'Indian Motorcycle Racing commits over $266,000 in privateer contingency'. This includes a theoretical total of $14,225 per race, but it is all theoretical and Indian won't pay anything close to that. If the top ten is filled with FTR750 riders, but Mees and Bauman go 1-2, the pay out is reduced to $4225 per race. We're not down on Indian, and there would have been four races in 2020 where a privateer walked off with the maximum $7500, but nothing is what it first seems with headline contingency funds. If there were four privateer winners in 2020, that means there were 11 times when there wasn't, so, working on the 2020 results, that's $82,500 out of the headline figure. If Mees or Bauman score as many second places between them, eight in total in 2020, they'd take another $20,000 out of the fund. If we say the same for third places, five in total, they'd reduce the fund by another $7500. There's another $5000 for the official Indian riders' fourth place finishes.
There were 15 races in 2020, 17 are scheduled for 2021, so if we look at 2020, the fund would be £213,375 + £25,000 for the title. Of that, Briar and Jared would nullify over $115,000, more than half available. Plus, Briar won the title, of course, so the $25,000 was off the table. So, while the headline figures looks very impressive, Indian are actually betting on their Wrecking Crew to keep winning (and earning their own contracted bonuses).
We dug further to see what difference the pay-outs would have made to privateers last season.
Sammy Halbert, on the NILA-Coolbeth FTR750, came third in the championship (behind Bauman and Mees), winning one race. In the 15-race season he only finished outside the top five twice, in 6th and 15th. This consistency would have earned him $23,700 in Indian contingency.
Davis Fisher (above) came 8th in the title race, good but not spectacular, and his 15 races would have added up to just $3325 from the contingency fund (working on 2021's figures).
Additionally, to be eligible to earn the prize payouts, Indian demand, 'The bike must maintain the original red, white and black paint scheme on the tank panels and include the full “Indian Scout” logo across both sides. Additional logos on the bike are acceptable but must be pre-approved by Indian Motorcycle Racing.'
This sounds like it would make it harder for a privateer to attract a sponsor, because they can't offer the company a unique paintjob as part of their package. A rider like Fisher is taking a risk. He is likely to get more than £3325 from a sponsor for a paintjob on the bike, but if he had two wins in a season (possible, but far from guaranteed), he'd lose $15,000.
We wonder if Smith and Howerton, who will be supported by long-time sponsor, Crosley, will choose their own bike colours and take themselves out of the contingency running. We don't have long to find out. The season starts on 12-13 March at Volusia. Go to American Flat Track to learn how to watch the races in person or on livestream.