Indian Motorcycle have secured the services of Greenfield's George Pickering to race their S&S-prepared FTR1200H in the DTRA Hooligan championship. Pickering (above, on Indian's FTR750) will debut on the V-twin hooligan at the first DTRA round, King's Lynn on 8 May. It will be his first ever Hooligan race.
We caught up with him for a quick Q&A about the new.
SIDEBURN: You've had two or three seasons off from racing, running the title-winning Greenfield pro team, and developing the Greenfield tracks instead, what has made you return to the DTRA on a hooligan? George Pickering: I have a good relationship with Indian Motorcycle and to be honest, had no concrete plans for the 2021 season. Obviously Covid has made things difficult for our foreign Team Greenfield riders to compete in the UK Championship, certainly at the beginning of the season so making plans has been tough. Also, as you’ve said I haven’t raced for a couple of seasons, so I guess I kind of miss that side of it. I don’t ever want to look back on life when I’m older and regret the things I’ve said no to, so when Steve Cain from Indian Motorcycle called me and asked if I’d like to ride the other S&S Cycles Indian FTR1200H it was an easy decision. What experience do you have on hooligan race bikes? Very little... I have ridden the older Krazy Horse Indian Scout Hooligan a couple of times and once had a go on the other FTR1200H, but other than that not too much. I know they’re big, heavy and don’t want to turn very well though! Tell us about your teammate and what you think of their performances on a hooligan? I’m good friends with Leah Tokelove and I think she rides her hooligan bike very well. She’s not very tall, so I think you have to have a lot of respect for how well she handles it and how fast she is on it. She’s going to be one of the frontrunners again for the 2021 season, for sure.
Photo: Kaydaek Photography
Do you think Leah (above) will take you out if she can sniff a win, or are there strong team orders to behave? Ha,ha, you’d have to ask her that but I’d like to think she would, otherwise what’s the point in her racing in the Hooligan class? Also, who wouldn’t want to see that? You used to be able to beat Leah consistently on a DTX, do you think it's a different proposition on a hooligan? Yes I do. I think the hooligan bikes really level things out. The lap times are obviously much slower and you’ve really got to wrestle them around. On a DTX bike you’re always pushing for the fastest lap that’s possible on that racetrack, on a hooligan I feel you’re just pushing for the fastest lap possible on that bike. You seem very good at setting up bikes, do you think that will be an advantage for you? I guess it won’t be a disadvantage, but, like I’ve said, I’ve had little riding experience on a hooligan bike, so I’m aware it’s going to be a different ball game. We will be trying different things with it though, I love nothing more than trying to set up a bike to get it to perform better, so I’m looking forward to the challenge. They’ve obviously got a lot of power, so the task is going to be getting the bike to handle and be as rideable as possible.
Photo: Braking Point Images
We reported that you were going to race the Harley XG (above) in the DTRA Twins class. What happened there? We had a few issues with the bike, and again Covid hasn’t helped the situation. It’s publicly known that Harley made a lot of cutbacks and people redundant etc, so I guess it wasn’t a priority, which is totally understandable. I do feel like I’ve still got unfinished business with that bike though, so never say never. Gary Birtwistle is moving out of the Hooligan class, but Jack Bell is in, and, we hear, maybe one other DTRA Pro class rider, plus there is Max Hunt on the Ducati too, what do you think of the competition in that class? Without trying to sound like I’m hyping it up too much, I think it could be the most competitive class in 2021! It doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to see as many foreign riders in the Pro class this season and like I’ve said the fact that I believe the hooligan bikes are a real leveller I genuinely think there could be 7/8 riders who could win the Hooligan championship this season. Also the fact there’s going to be a Hooligan round on the Greenfield TT track, I think it’s going to make for great watching. What makes the S&S FTR 1200 the best bike to be on, in your opinion? Well they’re obviously the ones that have had to most money spent on them. They’re a thing of beauty but at the end of the day they’re still a heavy motorcycle with a standard road legal chassis that hasn’t been designed to go around dirt race circuits. All the time and money S&S Cycles and Indian Motorcycle have invested in the bikes is great. I’ve never been too excited by a hooligan bike, until I saw these. These are the best hooligan bikes in the UK, and I hope with a bit of time on the track we can get them to where they should be. What do you need to do differently from riding a 450 DTX? A lot. Obviously the weight is the main difference. So it’s going to handle a lot differently, I don’t think the racing line on the track will be quite similar. Even the way the bike is going to set off from the start line is going to be different. Getting 100bhp to set off fast and smoothly is going to be a challenge in itself.
The DTRA hooligan class developed really quickly, from a few have-a-go types (me included), on shed-built bikes to what felt like a serious class with some big-budget bikes, what have you thought of its rapid development? Any kind of progression for UK Flat Track is good with me. I think the DTRA introducing the Hooligan class was a great idea, it’s been the main focus for manufacturers getting involved with the sport which can’t be a bad thing. Most Motorcycle shows you go to in the UK there’s now a manufacturer there with a Hooligan bike that is being raced in the UK. Indian Motorcycle have obviously been the main driving force, they’re really helping to showcase flat track racing all over Europe, sponsoring events and race meetings. With the riders that are going to be on show this season, I can’t see the rapid progression slowing down. I don’t think it’s lost its roots though, I’m sure they’ll also still be plenty of homebuilt Hooligans this season, and rightly so. I was actually thinking of building one myself before this offer came along. I think on the type of tracks we race on in the UK there isn’t much of an advantage or disadvantage to the quality of Hooligan bike, it’s who can wrestle their beasts round the fastest. Is the deal just for the DTRA or any foreign rounds? It’s just for the DTRA rounds. Travelling overseas is obviously still a little tricky at the moment, but I guess we’ll see how the year and season develops. I’d love to take the FTR1200H abroad.
Any sponsors you'd like to thank? I’d like to thank Ben Fricker at B&G Motorsport for all his advice with our suspension set ups.
Indian Motorcycle & Steve Cain of Indian Motorcycle for the chance to ride with them.
S&S Cycles for preparing this beautiful bike. 250 London for the racing gear and custom Greenfield Jerseys they design and print for us every year. Bell Helmets. Braking Point Images for driving miles around to capture all our favourite moments. You guys for the way you promote flat track all over the world, you’re the best at what you do and for me the main reason hooligan racing has grown so quickly across Europe. ...and I’d mainly like to thank Steve Nicholls for all his help. He’s been helping me with everything flat track from the start and him being with me at race meetings again this season is going to be a massive help.
Find out more about the DTRA
Leah compared the Indian Scout Hooligan and Indian FTR1200 Hooligan in Sideburn 40
The Harley XG750 Evo George was lined up to ride in 2020 is featured in Sideburn 39