Messing with a good thing – American Flat Track rewrites the rules.
You know that thing that happens when things are going well and it all seems to be falling into place. The expression that comes to mind is “leave well enough alone.”
Consider flat track racing, the sport is riding a high. It has a robust national race series in the US, it turns up at the X-Games and the ubiquitous Roland Sands orchestrates his own successful Hooligan flat track series. Both Harley-Davidson and Indian have a strong presence in a homegrown race series in which both companies, along with others, throw greater and greater contingency funds at the racers. With national TV exposure, these really are golden times for flat track.
But heads got to scratching and it appears that some folks don’t like the ideas that fell out. The downhome appeal of flat track has been that it is a relatively inexpensive series to join and theoretically any rider, including privateers, could make their way through the heats and into the main. Lately it is Indian dominating but before that it was a Harley-Davidson but the big Yamaha team also found riders atop the podium on multiple occasions.
Still, privateers were out there giving it their best shot, living the dream and racing with the big boys. But the flat track brass want to change that by nudging privateers out of the top class so that the so-called premier races, the new SuperTwins, are more like MotoGP races where fans in the stands and more importantly on television will see the same riders in action every week or two. The idea may have been in the works for a season or two as flat track launched a Production Twins class for the 2019 season, which could now be the ultimate home for privateers who don’t want to run in Singles.
The most successful motorcycle racing series on the planet is MotoGP so one could understand management looking over at that series for inspiration. MotoGP does feature the best road racers in the world but it is the same handful of racers landing on the podium from the 20-odd regular participants. If you are a Marc Marquez fan, you are happy but otherwise it’s tough sledding to see regular podium visits from others.
The SuperTwins category will be limited to 16 racers and each must commit to running every race in the series. American Flat Track is upfront about the objective of the change as they state “AFT developed the SuperTwins concept from the ground up to build the stars of the sport, deliver visibility and value for teams and manufacturers, ensure that recognizable teams and riders are in the Main Event every week and to package the premier class for live broadcast.”
It remains to be seen whether this approach will prove successful for flat track but even though Production Twins and Singles categories are up for grabs for all, nudging privateers from part of the equation has left a lot of people lamenting the lost possibilities. It is tough for any privateer to challenge the deep pockets of the big teams especially now that the series has become so popular and drawn the marketing and promotional interest of so many manufacturers. The AFT Twin class for 2019 saw five different riders reach the top of the podium over the course of 18 races with Jared Mees landing eight of them. It’s tough to win in this super competitive environment but at least the possibility was there for all.