Only hours after posting yesterday's interview with Royal Enfield's Adrian Sellers, regarding the rule changes that will inevitably affect their Moto Anatomy x Royal Enfield Twin FT programme, American Flat Track announced that the Wally Brown Racing team are entering the Production Twins series in 2022 with a KTM. They will use a Duke 890-based machine (like Andy DiBrino's KTM Super Hooligan from Sideburn 43, above). Wally Brown Racing have a background in car racing, but have spent two season in AFT Singles (see panel below). As yet, the team hasn't announced who will ride for them. Andy DiBrino's bike was borrowed by KTM and ridden at the official AFT Red Mile test late last year.
While we're very happy to have another manufacturer's machinery join the twin series, we wonder how this is going to affect Royal Enfield, and other existing teams. We don't need reminding that racing is survival of the fittest, but when the rules keep changing it turns into a situation of robbing from Peter (in this case Royal Enfield and their 650cc-based bike, that is two years into their racing project) to pay Paul (KTM and their 890cc base model, yet to debut).
A quick check of specifications threw these stark facts back at us: Royal Enfield claim a power output of 47bhp for their air-cooled 650 twin, powering the Interceptor and Continental models. KTM claim 115 for their 890 Duke and 119bhp for their 890 Duke R (the high-performance version of the model). Power is nothing without control, especially in dirt track, but surely it's better to have 119bhp that can be detuned for additional torque, than trying to double your engine's output and still be shy of what the opposition will have in combined 2023 Twins class.
And yes, the Twin FT (above) has the benefit of a heavier crank, which helps traction, but still, the deficit of power is huge. Also, there are all the electronics that a bike like the Duke R can experiment with, because they come as standard, and are therefore allowed due to proposed rule changes, that the Enfield cannot, because it is aimed at a different type of rider and comes with very basic electronics and no rider aids beyond ABS. Bikes with electronics as standard can use them, but they can't be added to a bike that didn't have them as a stock road bike.
Still, we have communicated with Johnny Lewis, the Moto Anatomy x Royal Enfield team rider, and he's confident the Enfield can be in podium contention at every race in 2022 and a top five bike in 2023's combined class. Adrian Sellers was also remarkably positive about the Royal Enfield Twins' future in the sport, but from Sideburn's point of view, even with the talented team and technical partners they have on board, they will have an uphill battle at the every least.
We are getting ahead of ourselves, but let's imagine this widening of the rules (read our posts on the rules below), that allows an 890cc to race against a class based on 650, 700 and 750 road bikes, and a soon to be strangled FTR750, means the KTM proves itself to be a beast that tears up the class, and there's a privateer migration to KTM, like there was to the FTR750. Then what?
WHO IS WALLY BROWN?
This taken from the team's website: 'While new to AFT, Wally Brown is not new to racing. He has been working in motorsports for more than 25 years. His first job in the industry was an internship at Marcis Auto Racing in Arden, NC. After finishing college he began as a general mechanic at Ken Schrader Racing. Combining practical race knowledge with mechanical engineering, Brown quickly expounded [sic] his experience and worked his way through the ranks of several NASCAR teams including Penske Racing and Roush Racing. He currently works as Competition Director at Joe Gibbs Racing.
'Wally Brown Racing builds performance motorcycles optimized for speed and precision on the race track. Founded in 2019, this pro flat track team set its sights on competing in Progressive American Flat Track Singles Class. In its first full season of flat track racing in 2020 the team garnered seven top ten finishes and one win at the Daytona Short Track I with veteran rider Chad Cose. In 2021 young gun Trent Lowe scored 12 top ten finishes and third at Charlotte Half Mile. The team is ready to tackle the 2022 season.'
KTM photo: Nick Zaback. RE photo: Royal Enfield