We have been getting very excited about new Estenson Yamahas and team changes, but the entry list for the twin class was very thin. 26 riders aiming for a new, reduced, 16-rider main.
The track took what looked like a 1/4-mile drag detour down the tarmac banking, before braking hard for a hairpin. The dirt section had two dogleg kinks, one each before and after the jump. The jump itself was a decent size with the dogleg soon after. The exit of the kink and the entry of turn one was rough from first qualifying and caused problems all night.
Riders with TT form shone from the start: Wiles, Briar Bauman, Mees, JD Beach, Johnson.
Brad Baker was in the commentary box. Listening to him was melancholic, heartbreaking and informative in almost equal measures.
Privateer Kayl Kolkman (SB14 cover star) was setting a blistering pace on his Yamaha.
Mees lost the front early in his semi and was dead last, but was given a get out of jail free card when Davis Fisher took and even worse crash and the red flags came out. As less than three laps had be completed, Mees regrouped and made it back on the front row for the restart.
Rob Pearson jumped the restart leaving Mees and Cory Texter looking at each other waiting for the restart, while the rest of the field set off. Pearson was given a 10s penalty but did enough to make the main because the semi was so sparsely populated, but it didn't help Mees who was waiting for a red flag and restart.
Mees crashed again, in the restarted semi, trying to pass Kolkman, he still made the main.
Brad Baker said the last time he remembers Mees crashing was in 2013.
Harley's Vanderkooi crashed out of his semi, but was the first rider to put in his provisional card, meaning he could join the main.
JD Beach had looked very fast all night, but lost the front of his Yamaha in his semi, before the first corner of the first lap. He remounted but couldn't make the main. He couldn't use his provisional, because only one rider per event can do it and Vanderkooi had beaten him to it. Beach, or his team, were snoozing, because he crashed in the first semi, and Vanderkooi in the second, but the Harley rider put his request in first.
Kolby Carlisle and Brandon Price both secured their national numbers by qualifying for their first twins main.
Both Baumans (Baumen?) were looking lean on the front row of the main on their factory Indians.
Carver squeaked into the main (UPDATE: After breaking his footpeg and brake pedal in the semi) but wasn't on form all night.
Briar Bauman made the break and led pretty much flag to flag with Wiles chasing him. Wiles would finish a comfortable second.
Briar lapped everyone up to an including Kolkman who finished 6th
Mees' night to forget continued when he suffered a DNF due to a mechanical failure when charging hard for a top 5.
Bryan Smith was looking at solid points until he DNF'd with one lap to go, with a mechanical problem.
Vanderkooi's provisional start card gamble paid off as he came from the 4th row to finish 4th.
Third place Jake Johnson was the top non-Indian on his new Yamaha MT-07 DT. Jake's best result was the win at Buffalo Chip TT last season, but that was on an Indian. He was also on the podium at Peoria, so he's on it when it comes to TTs. Yamaha are saying their testing times have been excellent, but we will see how the bike performs on the ovals in a crowd of other bikes. Fingers crossed.
Both Harleys made the main. Halbert finished 12th.
Four manufacturers were represented in the main: Indian; H-D, Kawasaki, Yamaha.
Ten of the bikes in the main were Indian FTR750s. Only two of the FTR750s that entered didn't make the main, Maloney and Fisher. Fisher crashed (not sure what happened to Maloney, but he only did one lap of his semi)
I don't recall the commentator mentioning the name Kawasaki once when describing Bryan Smith's Crosley Howerton bike, almost like someone had had a quiet word in his ear (this is purely our conspiracy theory, read more about Bryan Smith's red bike)
The AFT singles class was packed with talent, including a 2018 Twins podium rider, Chad Cose.
64 riders entered to make a 16-rider main.
Dalton Gauthier, the phenomenon, who was banned from competition for a positive drug test in 2017, was given the all clear only days before this race. He was immediately back on the pace.
Shayna Texter's TT woes continued and she didn't even make it through the heats to the semis.
Ollie Brindley swapped fastest laps through practice and qualifying with his Roof Systems Yamaha team-mate, Jesse Janisch.
UK rider Ollie won his heat race and was on pole for his semi.
The front row of his semi also had the Spaniard Cardus and Australian Whale.
Ollie was leading his semi when he lost the front on the final lap. Janisch inherited the lead. Mees would have an almost identical crash in his own semi.
US Motocross legend Jeff Ward had announced he will race the TT rounds this year. He made the semi, but didn't transfer to the main.
Brindley used his provisional to make the fourth row of the main. That's it for the year, but makes sense as his pace was so good and he came from 17th, to finish 9th.
Gauthier, first time in an AFT race in nearly two years, won his semi.
Janisch dominated the main, having such a lead that he wheelied the length of the straight in celebration. Gauthier was second, in his comeback race. Defending champion and KTM factory rider, Dan Bromley was third.