New formats, Daytona venue and Indian's return mark big changes for American flat track racing
Fans of flat track racing are going to have even more to look forward to next year with some significant changes in race formats and venues, and the potential for a revitalized rivalry with the reintroduction of Indian Motorcycles into the mix.
AMA Pro Flat Track will now be known as American Flat Track (AFT), and the former GNC-1 and GNC-2 classes have been changed to AFT Twins (650 to 999 cc) and AFT Singles (450 cc only). Previous rules allowed singles to race against twins in both classes and displacement restrictions were broader, from 550 cc to 1250 cc.
The AFT Singles class, like the former GNC-2 class, is meant to help new riders gain experience to enable them to move up into the next higher class.
Additionally, next year's events will be in a tournament style format where the fastest 48 riders from timed races advance to four heats with each heat consisting of six laps. The nine fastest riders from each heat will then move on to the semi-rounds and eventually to an 18-rider, 25-lap main event.
"We made the class and format changes to have a clearer delineation between the types of bikes run in each class, and ensure that riders finished the season on the same make of bike they started on," explained Michael Lock, CEO of AMA Pro Flat Track. "Experienced fans may initially find it confusing, but novice fans who follow other racing series will get it."
The AFT will make things even more interesting by holding the first race of next year's season on a specially designed 0.6 mile TT racecourse inside the Daytona International Speedway. Unlike the typical flat track races that are run on dirt ovals that can vary in length from short to a half-mile to a mile around, the TT course at Daytona will feature multiple turns in both directions, as well as a jump.
Fans at the track and at home will also be treated to an even more visceral experience thanks to the use of more cameras on the bikes offering 360 degree views of the races in action.
The first ever broadcast deal with NBCSN will feature every event carried live on that cable channel next year. Until now, the only way to see an event without going to an actual race was via a live online feed.
Lock pointed out that the re-introduction of an Indian Motorcycle wrecking crew into flat track racing promises to add yet another dimension to the sport by reigniting a rivalry between Indian and Harley Davidson that has been dormant since 1953, the last year Indian fielded a team in the series.
Indian announced this week that it will start the 2017 season with a highly experienced set of riders who formerly rode for Harley Davidson and Kawasaki. It includes 2016 Grand National Champion and X Games gold medal winner, Bryan Smith; multi-year Grand National Champion Jared Mees; and the winner of the Santa Rosa mile, Brad Baker.
The company ran its specially designed Indian Scout FTR750 bike in competition for the first time at the Santa Rosa mile last Sunday. Piloted by former champion Joe Kopp, the Indian finished seventh in the final event, with higher showings in qualifying heats, and a first place in the Dash for Cash.
According to Lock, ticket sales for this year's events were up by 20 percent and its expected that will only continue with the announced changes and the potential for new venues on the West Coast and in the Southwest.
Check out the video to see a bit of flat track in action.