The Royal Enfield Twin FT is a bike we have followed and reported on since it first appeared as a concept show bike. We shared the very first spy shots of the race bike being tested in the UK; we covered its transformation into an American Flat Track Production Twin with Johnny Lewis’s MotoAnatomy team; their testing, first race and first win, then the news that Royal Enfield would race in the UK (see the bottom of the post for links to the coverage). Yesterday, two AFT spec Royal Enfield Twin FTs debuted in the DTRA series.
This was a big deal for a National amateur series. It shows the respect the DTRA is held in. Indian sponsor the series and support the Hooligan championship with top level S&S-prepped race bikes (and with Krazy Horse and their Scouts before that), and now Royal Enfield have joined.
The whole pits and track hummed with Royal Enfield's entourage. Mechanics; suspension experts; a film crew; photographer; the project’s leader, Adrian Sellers, and, of course, the two riders, Gary Birtwistle and Paul Young. Prior to the race I knew Gary was racing, but not Paul. Paul is one of Royal Enfield’s road tester and development riders (for their road bikes). He covers tens of thousands of miles, and countless laps of industry test facilities developing future models for the company. He is also the rider featured in the spy shots we exclusively shared, a former British National road racing champ, and a fast (by DTRA standards anyway) dirt tracker. ‘I’ve been thinking about this day for five years,’ he told me, illustrating just how long big manufacturers can sometimes take over the gestation of an idea.
I took these snaps in the pits before racing started, then got on with my own racing. The race shots were supplied by Royal Enfield. My snaps are worth sharing, and nerding over, because they show how different the two bikes are.
This is Gary’s, #11. It is closer to the spec Johnny Lewis started the 2020 season on. The top frame tubes are wider apart allowing for a tank big enough for AFT mile races.
Paul's #75 racer holds just five litres (1.3 US gallons). Both bikes have Harris Performance chromoly frames and alloy swingarms.
Gary’s bike has a direct/linear shock arrangement...
Where Paul’s has a linkage system.
Both bikes had machined R/H side engine covers…
But only Gary’s had a matching L/H side cover. Paul’s was a stock, road bike cover. Gary’s bike had a single downtube, from the headstock to the front engine mounts, while Paul’s had two tubes, side-by-side. The front alloy, dog-leg engine mounts differed too.
The bikes had different wheels too. Paul's had RSD Traction, with a Hammer rear, Gary’s were PM-style, split spoke forged alloy 19s. Each bike has an S&S two-into-one low exhaust and Ohlins suspension.
Gary is often quiet at races, but seemed especially under pressure to perform. The Twins class that the two Enfields were entered in is new for the DTRA, and as yet, there are few entries, so they raced with the Thunderbikes, the class for big four-stroke single framers, and modified street bikes. Because Saturday's racing had been rained-out, three Hooligans were also racing in the class.
There were total of 17 bikes in the combined Thunderbike and Twins class, but only three actual framer Twins, the other being Kye Forte's XS650 framer, the SB32 cover bike, a parallel twin of very different era. The DTRA are keen to keep the Hooligans and Twins distinct, as I understand it, but I'm not sure if there are rules in place to stop Hooligans entering Twins, or, now Hooligans have raced in the Thunderbike class, if more will enter in future the Thunderbike class to test themselves against these AFT level bikes on UK short tracks.
The format of the Thunderbikes class differs from the DTRA Pro class. Thunderbikes (like every class except Pros/Inters) has a practice, then three heat races. If the class has more than 12 riders, the heats are split in two and the the points/results from each rider's heat racers are combined to see if or where they qualify for the 12-rider final. Gary and Paul only won one of their heat races, each, and were beaten by George Pickering on the Indian FTR 1200H in the other. And, due to Covid restrictions, no spectators were allowed in to see the debut.
The final took place on a dusty, marbly track, blown out by 60-plus previous races. Paul went down in the first corner and was put on the back of the grid for the restart. Then there was another crash, and restart. The third attempt went the full eight laps, and Gary led them all with Texas Chris Jenner snapping at his heels. Texas Chris also got the fastest lap of the race, on his budget Survivor Customs CCM Rotax. Jake Young was third, in the combined standings, on the Stockwell Harley Sportster Hooligan, with Paul Young, on the other Enfield, in fourth.
I can't wait see the Enfields race at round two.
LINKS/ FURTHER READING
Johnny Lewis describes testing and developing the FT Twin race bike in SB41
The story of the first race and first win in SB43
For more info on the DTRA, go to dirttrackriders.co.uk