Article By: Tyler Porter
Photos By: Savannah Rose
Originally Published In The January 2020 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
A lot of things are set to change in 2020. We will all be inundated with political nonsense for 11 months of the year. Markets will reflect the political turmoil, and we may end up with a new president in November. Who cares? This column is about racing. Even with our nation’s future at stake, so too is our flat track series. In 2020 American Flat Track is rolling out its most significant departure from the status quo, the Super Twins class. In early September, AFT issued a memorandum to all teams and riders explaining the new class. Want the cliff notes version? Basically, they are selling 18 starting spots in the class. You pay AFT to have a guaranteed spot in a Grand National main event. No more than 18 riders, and in their optimistic musings, no less. You didn’t turn to this page to get the cliff notes, however. Let’s dive in.
It seems to me that AFT boss Michael Lock is dead set on turning the series into Formula 1 or at the very least, MotoGP. While there is an admirable thought process to moving our sport in that direction, it is my a belief that fans love those top levels of motorsports for what they are; high glitz, high glam, and more pomp and circumstance than 100 high school graduation ceremonies. It is also my belief that people love American Flat Track because it is the opposite of that. It’s a sport where a farmer from Quebec can hop off his combine and win a national. A father and son can build a competitive motorcycle on a working man’s budget in their garage after work. People relate to that. I think your typical flat track fan actually is living that lifestyle.
Sure, there are teams funded by millionaires, and most of those teams do their share of the winning, but is this a “too soon” move? My day job is in product development for a global manufacturer. Change is a constant. At first, I couldn’t handle it. Just as we were moving in the right direction on a project, we changed course. It drove me batty. However, 5 years in, company procedures haven’t changed, but I’ve learned to give everything a shot. That is what I am doing with this super twins development. Let’s see how it works first. At the end of the day, we aren’t going to miss a race because we don’t agree with the structure, are we?
Here’s how it works: Teams are allowed to field up to two Super Twins entries for a season. There are 2 different levels of teams. There are Partner teams at a cost of $35,000 for a two-rider team or $20,000 for a single rider team, and then there are Pro teams at a cost of $24,000 for two riders and $13,000 for one rider. What is the difference between Partner and Pro teams???… How much marketing you pay for from AFT. American Flat Track is promising to basically handle all of the marketing duties for Partner teams. Pro teams will get some marketing help, but they will be responsible for the heavy lifting. There are also “single event wildcard entries.” There will be up to 4 available wild card spots at each round. These entry spots are just shy of $2,000 per event.
One of the huge questions that I have is about American Flat track’s marketing efforts for the teams. Hypothetically speaking, what if you spend the same $20,000 that Jared Mees spends for your one rider Partner team. However, you’ve got 12th place talent. You mean to tell me that my $20,000 is getting me the exact same exposure and TV coverage that Jared is getting when he’s dancing on top of the podium? I also worry about the type of marketing that AFT will offer. If it’s just cookie-cutter autograph sheets and race reports, that doesn’t cut it, that isn’t worth the cost.
Technical rules won’t have any significant changes from this year to 2020, so the teams won’t be scrambling too hard in the offseason, at least not any harder than usual. So what will we see on the track, who knows? I can tell you this though, the professional side of Flat Track isn’t as healthy as it looks from the outside. Rider counts have been in steady decline, and ever since I have been involved with the pro side of the sport, all that has ever been said is that “TV Coverage will save us.” The problem is, what if there are only 10 riders who can afford to race super twins? That won’t be much of a show. The “show” is what sells out the stands; it’s what made MotoGP stars pick their jaws up off the dirt in Indianapolis in 2009. American Flat Track is basically tidying up the race day schedule for TV consumption.
Alas, there is a solution: Take it easy on the Super Twins. Let them do what they are going to do. Watch them on TV and hope and pray that it takes our sport to the next level. What you don’t have to hope and pray for are the Production Twins and Pro Singles classes. I think a lot of Super Twins talent is going to move down to the production twins classes and really shake that class up. It will be a class of underdogs and misfits. They will become the new “show to watch.” I don’t even have to explain Pro Singles to an avid fan, that class is bonkers all on its own. So while we have major changes at the top, at the lower levels of our sport, we will still be enjoying the party. Hmmm…kind of sounds like a political situation.