American Flat Track: The Story So Far

June 18, 2017

Eight rounds down, ten to go and Indian's Wrecking Crew have won every round. I did think the competition was getting closer. Jared Mees won round 7, the Red Mile in Kentucky by a mere 13/100ths of a second from Sammy Halbert on a privateer Yamaha, but last night's mile race in Oklahoma was back to shooting fish in a barrel for the Indian team who filled the podium again. 

 

Every race this year has been won by either Bryan Smith (four) or Jared Mees (four). Mees has now moved ahead of Smith in the standings. Baker is yet to win a race and is fourth overall behind Halbert.

 

Harley's factory team had a better race in Kentucky, two weeks ago, with Brandon Robinson taking fifth in the main, just 1/10th behind Smith. But I always felt, and have written, that the FTR750 was released with the power turned down and there is so much more potential in that motor to be released. There is no way Swissauto designed a pure prototype race engine that would only make 100bhp, or whatever power it takes to win a 2017 flat track race. It's a liquid-cooled 750 race engine, if it can't make 130bhp there's something wrong, not that 130 horsepower is right for a flat track, but having that potential allows the team to adjust the curves and experiment. It seems when someone gets close, the team find a little extra, and their three riders have the skills to take advantage of it. The same cannot be said for the H-D XG750R.

 

In Oklahoma the factory H-D team had a disappointing night, just when they looked like they were making progress. Robinson was the only rider of the factory trio to make the main and he finished 13th. He had to make it into the semi via the last chance qualifier, and in the main he was beaten by Danny Eslick on a private XG750R. What the hell? Admittedly, I don't know the ins and outs and I know enough about racing to not just look at the results and deduce too much from it, but how the hell is a private dealer from Staten Island out-performing three great mile riders, two of which are former GNC champions? What is up with that Vance and Hines prepared bike? I saw the Staten Island bike at Daytona and it was running so badly it sounded like it was running on one cylinder, but they've sorted it out and come back stronger

 

Kenny Coolbeth was 12th in his semi, 33 seconds off the winner in a 10-lap race! There were only 28 entries in the twins class (so much for new manufacturers supporting the series) and still two of the factory Harleys were in the ten that didn't make it to the 18-rider main. 

 

I'm not bashing the Motor Company, and I'm sure I'm not saying anything that the decision makers at Harley aren't saying themselves, but there's no way to pretty up last night, unless there is some outside force that I'm ignorant of (possible).

 

This brings me back to anther question: How long can Indian dominate for before it starts damaging the sport? Indian are not cheating, they've been given permission by AFT to build the FTR, but that is a pure race engine competing against motors derived from budget commuter bikes and a couple of hot nakeds (the KTM that came in 5th last night, with Shawn Baer on it, and, occasionally, Lloyd Brothers liquid cooled, Ducati 939cc Hypermotard-powered machine enters and scored a solid top ten with Johnny Lewis on board last time out).

 

An insider has said AFT are doing a great job of promoting the sport but when it comes to rules and the way teams are being treated it is not good. One bug bear for the private team is the Indian has been designed and built to run with slide-type throttle bodies, where everyone else must use OEM butterfly style throttle bodies. The Indian's intake might be the same size as is permitted in the rules, but because it uses slide type bodies, ones not usually used on road bikes, it has an uninterrupted intake flow. 

 

We admire Indian's drive and commitment, but one team/bike/manufacture winning every round isn't a healthy situation in any sport. AFT could be damned if they do and damned if the don't. 

 

Sideburn 29 includes an in-depth report from Daytona AFT with much more of this kind of stuff. 

Sideburn 27 includes our test on the FTR750

Sideburn 20 has a feature on an earlier iteration of Shawn Baer's KTM

 

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