American Flat Track is not turning into a one-make series yet, but the latest news is ominous for other manufacturers competing in the 2018 series.
On top of the the three rider official Indian 'Wrecking Crew' of Mees, Smith and Baker, several privateers are now putting the FTR750 at the centre of their programmes (and why wouldn't they?). The latest is Kenny Coolbeth. The three-time AMA GNC title winner will ride an FTR750 at all rounds.
In addition to Coolbeth, there is Cose and Maloney, who look like they will ride exclusively on Indians at all rounds. Carver, Johnson and Wiles will use FTR750s when they feel they're the strongest, but will have other bikes in their metaphorical lockers, to use if they feel other manufacturers' twins have the edge.
The Johnson and Wiles announcement is news to us. Johnson is with the Estenson Racing team, which put rapid Yamahas under Halbert in 2017. Wiles ran his Kawasaki moto-twin in 2017, but it's since been outlawed by AFT. Both, it is now announced, also have FTR750s.
Coolbeth and Johnson can both win on on FTR750s, they're fast, wily, experienced. Coolbeth is a mile expert, Johnson is an all-round threat. This should lead to a more exciting championship in 2018, but it's looking less and less likely that any other manufacturer can challenge Indian. Currently, they have the best riders + best bike + best crew chiefs. The allowances AFT gave Indian to allow their prototype to race has given pro flat track a shot in the arm, but it must be scaring away other manufacturers away. Triumph pulled their back of a private team before the 2017 season and don't look like they're coming back any time soon. There is contingency from other manufacturers, but that just puts the onus on the private teams to choose their engine and pour $10,000s into their own development and race costs, gambling that they might pick up some prize money. It's not the same as a proper factory/importer backed effort.
Harley are in for the long haul, and we''l have new about them soon, but we made our thoughts on their 2017 season in our Inquest in Sideburn 31. A very good private team could take it to the best Indian riders, and perhaps that's Jake Johnson, this year, but AFT's hope of attracting more factory backing is looking like a dream. The Grand National Championship has survived for years on a foundation of private XR750s, so the sport will survive, but it will struggle to flourish, in quite the way AFT's head, Michael Lock, hoped it would without more manufacturers joining the ranks and that looks no more or less likely than it did five years ago, before Indian joined.
Let us know what you think, but leaving a comment below.
You can also read our FTR750 blueprint feature in Sideburn 31.