American Flat Track debuted a new racetrack yesterday, the purpose built short track in Laconia, New Hampshire. Why there? It hosts the oldest bike rally in the US, like a smaller Daytona or Sturgis. It's a decent idea, but there were problems. I was watching on Fanschoice, not live, but the crowd looked quite thin. As the reputation grows, hopefully so will the crowds, but if this was anyone's first flat track race as a spectator perhaps they won't have had the greatest experience. The track is a cushion short track, which can make for very good racing, with lots of opportunity to experiment with lines. There certainly was some good racing, but the bumps in the braking areas were sending both wheels off the ground. The night was peppered with red flag incidents, especially the mains. There were THREE red flags in the twins race and this inadvertently ruined a couple of people's nights.
Because the track was so rough there was a lot of frantic track prep to try salvage something from the track. The programme was running late and shortened. Both mains lost five of their laps and the rider intros were ditched. So not the greatest fan experience.
Anyway, this is what I noticed.
24 entries, two more than the last round at Kentucky.
Ronnie Jones, who I think the commentator said was 58, is still trying to make a main this year. I'm sure they said he made his first main in 1980. What a hero.
JD Beach was off road racing again, so Roger Lee Hayden stood in for him and was hassling Mees in the semi. I was amazed. He hasn't raced pro flat track in well over a decade before the last round.
Briar Bauman was on it from the first lap. He, like Gauthier in the singles, was often out the front in the session and seemed to be finding a smoother line than everyone behind them.
In the downtime between on track action the cameras caught Mees with one of his team. The team member was stood behind dropping tennis balls over the rider's head, Mees trying to catch them. I've seen F1 drivers do similar in the excellent F1: Drive to Survive series. Seeing it reminded me of the time I was at the Perris race in 2017 with photographer (and amateur racer) Scott Toepfer. We walked behind a brick-built food outlet to see Mees jumping rope (skipping) like a boxer. We turned away, but Scott went back to take a photo. Mees told him he'd shove the camera up his ass (or words to that effect) if he took the photo. Mees is always looking for new methods to improve.
Wiles was up for the fight that the track was causing. He was on the front row for the main.
H-D rider Sammy Halbert was on the only non-FTR750 on the front row.
Privateers Carver and Wiles won their semis.
Jake Johnson also found some speed on the Estenson Yamaha.
Title contender Brandon Robinson didn't make the cut in his semi and used his provisional start card to get out of jail and move to the main.
Dalton Winkler makes the main, for the first time, but crashes out on the exit of turn 4 (I think it was 4). Red flag 1.
Winkler remounted for the restart and crashed out again. He was carted off in an ambulance. Red flag 2.
All the while Bronson Bauman is at the front. He is overtaken by Wiles, but the red flag comes out, a lap is counted back and BronBo is the front of the staggered restart. Next time it's his brother, Briar, who overtakes him. Red flag, back one lap, BronBo is in the lead again for the restart.
Halbert in in 4th or 5th for the second restart and stalls. He can't bumpstart the bike. He's out.
There are two laps to go when Wiles crashes out of a good position and his bike is hit by Vanderkooi.
At the restart some of the bikes are boiling over, particularly Jay Maloney's FTR. It looks like a steam train.
Now Mees stalls in the restart line-out. Like Halbert, he can't get it started, the other riders are going wild because they can feel their bikes boiling over, the lights change, with Mees as a spectator.
The FTR750 can't be retrofitted with an onboard button starter, but perhaps the XG750 based Harley could. Maybe they should consider it. Sammy was running in the top four when he stalled out. It can't weigh that much more, can it?
Despite there only being two laps of the main, it's explained that any restart must have a minimum of five laps. This time Bronson keeps the lead and wins his first ever Pro Twins main, ahead of his brother, the reverse of the result of the final race of 2018.
Jake Johnson was 3rd, his second podium of the year and the best non-TT result for the Estenson Yamaha MT-07 this season.
Vanderkooi was 4th, another solid if not spectacular finish for the improving Vance and Hines-prepared Harley.
Brandon Robinson's gamble paid off. He scored 6th, behind Bryan Smith on the Crosley Howerton Kawasaki.
Briar is now 34 points ahead of Brandon Robinson in second and 35 ahead of Mees in third in the standings.
The next race is the Lima Half-Mile on 29 June.
Photo: Scott Hunter/AFT