The RSD-promoted hooligans raced at Daytona and Austin the same day the GNC were in town, and last year Harley-Davidson and The Speed Merchant promoted a race at the South Dakota Black Hills Half-Mile GNC race. From my perspective at least, the hooligans are bringing more people into racing, more sponsors, more spectator interest. The hooligans raced right in the city centre of Austin on a temporary track during MotoGP weekend. What an amazing advert for participation motorcycle sport.
Also, this is Indian's first toe in the flat track water, the advance party that will be followed, Indian promise, by a full factory team. That means there will be at least two more pro riders earning a living in a year or so's time. How is that a bad thing? Perhaps these critics just don't know how modern marketing works. It has to be more sophisticated than a pretty girl in a tight top, or a shout out to the local Chevy dealer between the races. Marketing is crucial to the success of any product - and pro racing is a product.
Flat track had been in decline for 25 years or more, before recent small shoots of recovery, yet anyone who tries something new is shouted down from some quarter. I guess that's human nature. One critic of the hooligans complained that it was disgusting that these 'clowns on street bikes' were taking the place in the GNC schedule that could be occupied by a vintage class. But how would that attract new sponsors? Old guys on vintage bikes? I'm all for vintage racing, I shouldn't even have to say that, and it's important to the history and the current amateur scene, but it's not bringing in more money or more interest to the pro side of the sport. Flat track needs new, loud voices - Roland Sands and his company has one.
Racing street bikes on dirt tracks is nothing new. There was a single outlaw heat race at the very first dirt track race I ever went to, the Skip van Leeuwen-promoted Del Mar Short Track (the weekend of the Wrenchhead Mile, back in 2000), but social media and marketing savvy people are helping this latest push make b-i-g waves.
Superprestigio, hooligans, X Games, Rossi's Ranch, Dirt Quake, Hell on Wheels, Slidetober, The One Pro, Flat Track Frida at Mama Tried - these are all great things for flat track. I regularly speak to racing promoters and amateur racers. I know many people that have competed in a motorcycle race for the very first time at Dirt Quake and have gone on to buy framers and DTX bikes, joined local clubs and gone racing, some have even started promoting their own races. These amateur races show what is possible in the formerly intimidating world of motorcycle racing.
On another point, I've been racing flat track since 2006. I don't have to explain to anyone what flat track is, like I used to back then. Everyone knows what the sport is now. The same cannot be said of, for instance, grasstrack or enduro. I don't believe new riders have a clue what those sports are.
If you don't know, the hooligan class is for 750cc and up street bikes with stock frames. Sportsters are relatively cheap in the US, so they've become the default bike, though Roland has built a fleet of slick 2016 Indian Scout 80s (that are featured in Sideburn 24).
Some guys in the USA are really going to town on their bikes, but many are sticking to the basics, 19in wheels and DT tyres, longer rear shocks, wide bars, mid-mount foot controls, new pipe and air filter, remove as much weight as possible. This is what I've been doing to a 1991 Sportster that I'm hoping to debut at the very first round of the Harley-Davidson-sponsored DTRA Hooligan series at the MCN Festival this weekend. Come along! Former World Superbike champion Colin Edwards is racing in the Transatlantic and so, I'm told, is AMA pro Mikey Martin.
Here is a serious comment - if you don't like hooligan racing, or what it's doing to AMA Pro Racing, suggest an alternative way for the sport to grow. I'd love to hear it. Start the discussion. G