As this edition of AMD went to press, the market was gearing up for the next instalments in the renewed track rivalry between Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle that is playing out in the AMA’s reimagined 18-round American Flat Track Twins race series this year.
Following three straight wins by Indian Motorcycle riders in the first three rounds (Daytona TT, Atlanta Short Track and Charlotte half mile) the first in a sequence of five mile races slated for six weeks will kick-off with the Law Tigers Arizona Mile Presented by Indian Motorcycle at Phoenix on May 13.
The Daytona TT and Atlanta Short Track wins were taken by Jared Mees with reigning Grand National Champion Bryan Smith making it three from three for Indian straight out of the gate – leaving Harley’s XR750R eating the Scout FTR750’s dust.
Indeed, Indian took the top two spots on the podium at Daytona, had a clean sweep at Atlanta and took the top two spots again at Charlotte.
There are plenty of perfectly good reasons why, at this stage, the Indians appear to be dominant, and why it really is too early to draw any conclusions about the likely destiny of the championship - not least among them being the fact that compared to the Harley, the Indian had a full second half of the 2016 and full winter 2016/2017 closed season to get the bike dialled in and get the team set up and ticking like a Swiss watch.
Plus, the FTR750 is a pure race engine, developed for Indian in their own race department, at Polaris Switzerland by Urs Wenger, and is one that features race-specific engine and clutch geometry and set-up.
Whereas Harley’s is an adapted low-cost street bike motor made for them in India, shipped as a kit then re-built and race-tuned by one of America’s (indeed the world’s) leading race shops.
So maybe the results that Harley have had so far actually speak more to the closeness of the racing to come than to any conclusions that can be drawn so far but, either way, I put it to Indian’s head of project Gary Gray that their offices must be a pretty cool place to be working right now.
“Ha, yes they are. Obviously, we’ve got to be super happy with the way the season has started and we are pretty excited about resuming competition again after the break, but we are not taking anything at all for granted.
“Preparations for Arizona are going well and in the break, we’ve been able to do some tear downs and have some more testing coming up before the next race weekend. We had some electrical issues with Brad’s bike at Charlotte, but we’ve got that squared away now, so that shouldn’t happen again.
“But all credit to our team, to our racers and to our pit crew, and to S&S Cycle too. They have been super supportive and so good to work with. Theirs is the exhaust on the race bikes, and their performance and tuning experience and expertise has been a massive help.
“When we initially developed the bike, we tried hard to make sure that the FTR750 race engine was making peak power that would show well at the mile races, so we’re looking forward to the next few weekends.
“We also tried to make sure we could get those top speeds down to the ground to give us the traction needed for the half miles and shorter tracks and so far, that is exactly how it has worked out. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that you’ve got guys like Jared Mees, Bryan Smith and Brad Baker on the throttle, and S&S’s involvement goes deeper than the exhausts, important though that is. They have been helping us with the development of that power, helping us in the development process, the race tuning and making sure the bikes run right.
“S&S is a very capable company. With Paul Langley’s experience as a racer, and with other performance experts in the industry such as Vance & Hines, he and his team have been able to give us advice on everything from chassis geometry to the race day track set-ups and different power configurations – they’ve been really helpful.
“S&S is making a big push now with its performance exhaust manufacturing capabilities, so it’s a good relationship for both of us – they are getting to show what they can do and hey, guess what, we’re getting to win!”