Article By: Tyler Porter
Photos By: Chris Callen and Missi Shoemaker
Originally Published In The August-September 2020 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
What’s the number one rule of Fight Club?
Don’t talk about Fight Club. I’m not breaking that rule now because what’s at hand is Fite Klub. You see? Totally different. If you follow this column month in and out, you know that my track record for predicting 2020 and its racing season has been poor at best. No, let’s quick kidding ourselves, it’s been atrocious. At first, we were gearing up for the Daytona TT. That has been postponed until October. When I last left you, we were asking the sport’s top riders what they thought about kicking off their season at the Red Mile at the end of May. Canceled of course. Well, thanks to some outside- the-box thinkers both within and on the fringe of the sport, the Flattrack Fite Klub was quickly organized and executed to give us all that shot of flattrack that we so desperately needed.
Flattrack Fite Klub is a brand new concept. It is a pay-per-view event produced by FITE TV, who, before this, has mainly focused on producing mixed martial arts and w even professional wrestling events. To test the waters, they did their first motorcycle event a few weeks prior with Moto Fite Klub, where legends from the sport of motocross both current and past fought it out in short, bracket-style, heads up races. I purchased that event, and outside of a few technical hiccups, it was fairly entertaining. With lessons learned from the motocross crowd, event spearhead and “voice of the industry” Rob Buydos pulled in more flattrack focused backers such as Terry Rymer and Flattrack Fite Klub was quickly put together.
There were many similarities between the two events. Both raised money for very worthy charities. Flattrack Fite Club namely went to benefit Motor Racing Outreach, which is an organization that provides chaplains for many racing disciplines and the other is the Class of ’79 and Friends, the official charity of American Flattrack, which provides much needed medical assistance to injured racers. Not only were both events charitable, but both mixed in a great deal of legends from both past and present. Both events also had short, bracket style match racing. Both, yes, were very entertaining. That is where the similarities ended. In Flattrack Fite Klub, the name of the game was “spec”. Yes, spec equipment. All of the racers were on vintage Bultaco Astro 360’s. A bike nearly 50 years old. The Bultaco Astro was the weapon of choice in the 70’s for aspiring short track racers around the country. The Spanish company developed a quick and simple air cooled two stroke motor (both 250cc and 360cc models were produced) wrapped in a legit, purpose built flattrack chassis.
All available, ready to go, off of your Bultaco dealer’s show room floor. They were an instant hit. Of course, as the years went by, four stroke singles came into vogue, and most of these Bultaco’s found a dusty corner of a shop to live in. About 10 years ago however, they started to come back. They were being restored, raced, and enjoyed. The Bultaco Astro Cup became a championship in its own right. The Flattrack Fite Klub Organizers found a group of owners that had the best, fastest, and most reliable examples of the Astro 360 and had them trailered to the “top secret” quarter mile race track where the event was to be held. The legends set to participate were named. Jay Springsteen, former national champion, and a man who had a longer pro career than nearly anyone in the world. Scott Parker, 9 time AMA Flattrack Grand National Champion, a man who’s 94 national wins may never be beat. Chris Carr, 7 time Grand National Champion and former “fastest man on two wheels” for his Bonneville land speed records.
As we bent more into the current racers we had Joe Kopp, 2000 Grand National Champion, who has still been racing and who debuted the Indian FTR750. To complete the current legends we had Bryan Smith, 2016 Grand National Champion. Sammy Halbert, all around scrappy badass who just wants to “keep it twisted.” Ryan Sipes joined the fray, arguably the best allround motorcycle racer in the world; who has wins in Supercross, several disciplines in Off-Road racing and American Flattrack. Rounding out the field was Jared Mees, 5 time Grand National Champion. Would you say the field was stacked? Well of course it was, that’s what the fans want to see.
The track held up fantastic all night long and the competition on their spec bikes were insanely close. Fans were treated to some great racing, high/ low slide jobs, some bumping, some moving, and as you can imagine with nearly 50 year old race bikes, a few mechanical hiccups along the way. The quarter mile oval was the perfect size for these bikes, their two stroke engines screamed, only to be quelled by the occasional pull of the compression release to slow them down. A cushion formed near the top of the track which opened up the line choice even more. The only true runaways during the night’s racing action were due to mechanical problems. There was a legends bracket and a current racers bracket that whittled the field down to the final. One by one, racers were done for the night. 63 year old Jay Springsteen had much more fight in him than I expected, even so, he was one of the first to be eliminated. Scotty Parker surprised me the most, but I guess 94 national wins don’t simply appear from nowhere, and he sure silenced this critic. His battles with his former nemesis Chris Carr took me back to the late 90’s.
Those two made more bumping than any other matchup on the night, still, it was Carr who prevailed, also eliminating Joe Kopp on his way to winning the “Legends” side of the bracket. On the current racers bracket, we have GOT to give Ryan Sipes a pass here. Heck, he even competed in Moto Fite Club and won several rounds! This guy can do it all! It was one of his first times on a specific flat track framed bike. He typically competes on a converted motocross bike. Even with all of those struggles, Ryan rode well, and his early dismissal shouldn’t be scoffed at. By now, the action was really heating up. Sammy Halbert, who I picked to win, due to his scrappy nature, gave Jared Mees all he wanted in one race. But Jared seemed to have a magical “sling shot” line that would get Sammy at the finish. From there it was an epic battle between Bryan Smith and Jared Mees, two racers who certainly have no love lost for each other. These two raced cleaner than I expected, but Jared did end up besting Bryan. That set up the final. In a best of three series of match races, only Chris Carr and Jared Mees remained.
For the third time of the night, race one was decided by a mechanical, 106 August – September ‘20 – CYCLE SOURCE MAGAZINE as Jared Mees’ ‘Taco dropped out, leaving Carr to take the easy win. Spare bikes were available, and Jared quickly hopped on another bike while Chris Carr sat in the staging area taking oxygen to recoup for his next battle. Race two went to Jared on his back up steed, leaving us all excited for the win-or-go-home race three. As the green light flashed, it was once again Jared’s time to shine. He took the win and the championship belt home with him. Will the Flattrack Fite Klub resume down the road? That’s hard to say. A lot of it will have to do with economics. Was this a profitable event for all involved? Was the $19.99 pay-perview fee worth it to consumers? One-off events for flattrack have not fared well in the past. Events like the Super Prestigio of the America’s only made one stop in the US. Even its European counterpart has now been eliminated. I sure thought the idea was cool, even if 50 year old bikes aren’t totally my gig. I think the legends can bring some older audience members in, but we still need fresh blood in flattrack.
Let’s do this again, let’s do it on modern bikes, and let’s do it with young, rabid, hungry and talented racers. Let’s see a real FIGHT. That’s certainly club that I would be TALKING about.