This is getting daft. Sunday's race was delayed nearly two hours because of rain, so the first singles practice started at 11pm UK time. I saw the new schedule, watched singles Qualifying 1 (Q1), then set my alarm for 1am and slept for a bit. I woke, watched the singles heats, then set the alarm for 3am and watched the semis and mains. It all finished, for me, after 4.30. I set the alarm for 7 for work on Monday and tried to get some sleep.
And I'm not even that fussed about AFT TT racing! I only watched it for the effect it would have on the championship, and out of some completist autistic streak I'm developing.
Firstly, I should explain, for those who didn't see it, the race is held in and around the bars and entertainment stages of the Buffalo Chip, a temporary campground/bar compound that is a huge draw for V-twin riders who attend the Sturgis Bike Week in South Dakota. The commentators make of the bikes riding past the bars where race fans and people new to the sport are sluicing down Bud or MGD. Even more was made of the fact the race had to be finished by a certain time, 9pm?, so that Godsmack (who?) could play.
First I'm going to play Devil's Advocate and say it's a good thing that AFT are partnering with these events to raise the profile of the sport and attempt to attract new fans. Now my true feelings, MotoGP would not be rushing through their program so Godsmack could play. Godsmack could go whistle. The Isle of Man TT would not rush proceedings because Godsmack or Styx or Skid Row or whoever the hell else were waiting to play. It feels like the sport is selling itself short, as a sideshow warm-up to the bands. Let the bands wait. I'll admit I'm not fully conversant with the licensing laws of the event, but I want the sport I love to value itself higher than Godsmack, even if they have sold a ton of discs.
NOTE: Apologies for the swapping and changing of tenses in this thought report, these things take a lot more time out of my day than they should.
Ryan Sipes #264, who is a modern day, ultra Bruce Brown, looked a different league in qualifying. Sipes wins Supercross races and competes in ISDT. He only enters a handful of races and won the Buffalo Chip TT in 2018.
There was a spectacular crash in qualifying when Colton Smith looped it over the jump (see a clip of it HERE )
Shayna was dead last in timed practice, barring TT specialist Jesse Janisch who had mechanical issues and he was 11s off the pace on a 33s lap. Shayna is only slightly better in Q1 and up to 44th fastest in Q2.
Her Red Bull KTM teammate Dan Bromley qualifies 1st.
0.5s per lap covers the top 13 qualifiers. Less than 0.1s covers the top four in the Singles class. Zero point one second!
There are 51 entries.
Singles Heat 1
I'm not sure if it's because of the rain, but the Singles heat races are just five laps. The track is a one-liner unless you can overtake in mid-air. If you want to pass you have to push the rider in front out of the way.
Ollie Brindley was 6th in his heat, making the semis.
Shayna doesn't make the 10 rider cut-off in the first of the three heats. Her race is over.
Sipes wins the five-lap race by 2.5s!
The 450 singles make this TT look a bit like shit MX. Of course there's skill on show, but I try looking through a newcomer's eyes and it's all a bit lame, if you don't know the impact of, say, Shayna not making the semi, on the overall championship.
Bromley passes Rush. Barring moves from the startline before the first corner, it's the first significant pass of the day.
Ryan Wells wins this heat.
SX and MX legend Jeff Ward #336 is back for more AFT fun. He's qualified well and is on the front row of his heat race.
Former road racer James Rispoli is second fastest qualifier.
There's a 6/7 rider pile-up at the first corner and a red flag restart.
Dawson Scheiffer is checked out by the medical staff and lines up for the restart, but is ushered off the grid, officials worried that he's not up to a 5-lap heat. It was encouraging to see someone make this tough call.
Jeff Ward wins the heat, Rispoli second.
Janisch is having a nightmare, gets tangled up trying to make moves and comes in 7th, making the semi, but not the front row.
There's only about 20 mins between the last heat and first 8-lap semi.
Brad Baker confirms, from the commentary box, that it's a very hard track to pass on.
In a classic case of nominative determinism Jake Fell fell. He stays on the track long enough to force a red flag restart.
Bromley gets in the lead and looks strong. Sipes passes him but another red flag is out and Sipes is put back a lap and Bromley heads the restart line-out.
Sipes holeshots the restart and wins by 1.6s from Bromley.
Two-time Superhooligan champ, road racer, MX race winner and Sideburn collaborator Andy DiBrino makes his pro Flat Track debut and progresses to the 16 rider main, from 51 entries, beating a whole raft of regulars (admittedly on a quirky track).
Jeff Ward is into the main too.
Chad Cose is on pole, with the impressive Rispoli in second.
Eight riders transfer to the main from the 16-rider semi.
Oliver Brindley is tenth, missing the main.
There are two Australians in semi. Regular Max Whale and Kayden Downing. They both make the main.
Rispoli has swapped from Kawasaki to Yamaha for this race.
This semi passes without a red flag.
Cose wins, Rispoli second, Hunter Taylor third. Taylor is wearing no name leathers, with no sponsors, looking exactly like a club racer. He looks tougher than a cast iron clog.
Cose is on pole.
Janisch is on the second row. This will be the first TT he hasn't won this year.
US MX GOAT Ricky Carmichael is interviewed and says he wishes he was out there racing and that Jeff Ward is his hero.
Super-consistent Dalton Gauthier is 2nd on the grid.
Sipes gets the holeshot. Even with Gauthier in second, the race is already as good as over.
Ward makes a good start, but Rispoli nudges him off line to get past.
Brad Baker sees Janisch (who made a good start) behind Cose (who made a poor one) and says there is 'bad blood' between these two riders. I don't know where it developed from.
Dallas Daniels makes another main, in only his second ever AFT pro singles race. He tangles with Jacob Lehmann and the red flag comes out.
There's a 5-lap restart.
There's another crash, series contender Mikey Rush is down. No red flag.
Wells is moving through the pack with the determination of a Black Thursday shopper with his eyes on a 60in flat screen for $99
Sipes scores back to back Buffalo Chip wins. Gauthier is second, Bromley third. Jeff Ward didn't complete the laps.
Gauthier is 21pts clear of Bromley in second.
Reigning champ Bromley is the only Singles rider to score points in every round of 2019. This shows the class of the man in a series that consistently has 50 or more entries. He hasn't won a race this year though.
There are just 22 entries, and that is including Kolkman, Carlile and Ben Lowe taking the opportunity to move out of the Production Twins, who aren't racing this event.
31 different riders have have made AFT Twins mains this year. 46 different AFT Singles riders have made a main this season.
There are 12 Indians, 6 Yamahas, 2 H-D, 2 Kawasaki.
Brandon Robinson announces he is still suffering from an injured wrist and is sitting out the race. He'll be back for the next one.
Bryan Smith doesn't attend either.
Mees says the race is 99.9% determined on the start.
Estenson Yamaha's top riders are good TT men and Beach and Johnson are both strong in qualifying.
Bauman is consistent as always in Q too.
As usual this season, there aren't enough riders for heats so rider all go into thin semis. Only five riders won't make the main.
Remember when AFT introduced the Twins class and people said they couldn't jump? Twins can jump.
Twins Semi 1
PJ Jacobsen, who spent a recent few seasons road racing in the BSB and World Supersport series', is on the Coolbeth NILA FTR750. He's on the front row of his semi.
Beach gets the holeshot.
Wiles steps the back end out in a tight corner and Briar B either can't avoid him or moves to pass him and the impact puts both of them on the floor. Wiles is out. Somehow, even though his Indian goes completely upside-down, Bauman's bike keeps running and he finishes the race in 8th making the main.
Brandon Price stalls trying to miss the crash and his night is over. Cruel luck.
JD Beach wins, PJ J 2nd, Vanderkooi third. They are all on the front row for the main.
Twins Semi 2
Privateer Kolkman is on the front row on his self-built Yamaha framer.
Carver gets the holeshot.
Sammy Halbert crashes exiting the first corner. He hangs around on the track (perhaps) to try get a red flag but is helped off track and the race continues. He was on the podium last year and now he's out without making the main.
Bronson Bauman is all over Carver for most of the 10-lap semi, then Carver seems to have a mechanical issue landing the jump, he runs wide and loses four places with two laps to go.
Johnson pounces to take the lead. Bronbo is 2nd, Mees third.
The racing is totally one line, and everyone looks nervous. If they run wide to try make a move, they leave the inside open to a rider behind. I'm not digging it.
Wiles uses a provisional and pulls out his back-up bike. Later he reports there was a transmission issue with his number 1 bike.
Bauman is 16th on the grid. Wiles 17th.
Kolkman just missed the front row, in 7th.
All four Estenson Yams make the main - Johnson, Beach, Carlie, Roger Hayden.
Jake Johnson is on pole, JD second
The bassist from Godsmack waves the green flag. Just typing that makes me cringe for some reason.
Jake gets the holeshot. JD is fifth.
Vanderkooi is 2nd on the factory Harley.
Briar is already up to 9th at the end of lap 1.
PJ Jacobsen gets out of shape and Briar nudges into him. Brad Baker says he thinks his front brake lever hits PJ or his bike, and causes an ugly over the highside of the bike crash (not a true highside though). I watch the replay but don't pick it up. Perhaps barkbusters are a good idea for TT racing, especially this super-tight track. There is no red flag.
Briar remounts but is blackflagged. Bad night for the points leader.
Vanderkooi seems to be holding those up behind him and the pressure on him is intense. He eventually runs wide, not sure if it's pressure or brakes or what, and is back in fourth on lap 13 of 25. He loses another place when Bronson passes him.
Mees is up to second, but Jake Johnson has it in the bag...
JD Beach is piling pressure on Mees. Mees, who has seen Briar out of the race, allows Beach to pass rather than have him take him out as a result of a rash move. It's the kind of decision that can help win a title.
The leaders are lapping Jay Maloney by lap 16.
JD Beach cuts through traffic like a laser-guided greyhound, but doesn't look like he'll catch his team-mate until...
Jake Johnson's Yamaha pops with 20m of the race to go. Beach wins. Johnson rolls in 2nd. Mees is third.
Johnson is composed on the podium. He's great.
The owner of the Buffalo Chip is introduced and says the main was 'an exciting frigging race'. I'm not a Victorian lady, but shouting frigging from the podium of a major race series seems inappropriate.
Mees says he's happy to come here, but he's happy to be leaving.
JD Beach has back to back TT wins, and it sounds like he isn't racing again till Peoria, but we'll see soon enough.
Next race is TODAY the Black Hills Half-Mile on a Tuesday night.
Photos: Scott Hunter AFT // Estenson Racing/Andrea Wilson