Battle of the Machines: 2021 Manufacturer Shakedown
With one race weekend down and a dozen to go, the 2021 Progressive American Flat Track season has already seen four different manufacturers secure at least one race victory.
Indian Motorcycle upped its active Mission SuperTwins pres. by S&S Cycle win streak to 25, KTM doubled courtesy of Shayna Texter-Bauman, and Yamaha and Harley-Davidson split the honors in AFT Production Twins pres. by Vance & Hines.
Last season, seven different manufacturers won in all. Looking ahead, it is plausible -- perhaps even probable -- that nine will before this season is out.
Let’s break it down:
As mentioned above, Indian, KTM, Yamaha and Harley-Davidson are already on the board.
Chad Cose notching a win on his Harley-Davidson XG750R at the Volusia Half-Mile I.
Of special note (and as covered here last week) is the fact that Yamaha is well positioned to score at least one win in all three classes in 2021 -- maybe even sweep the festivities at its home round next time out at the Yamaha Atlanta Super TT.
It’s also worth mentioning that KTM was shut out in 2020 despite the best efforts of Texter-Bauman, Morgen Mischler, et al., and are now two for two in ‘21.
Sure Things (Right)?
Honda boasts nearly half the AFT Singles field and has some serious heavy hitters in its corner, including the likes of Henry Wiles, Trevor Brunner, Ryan Wells, Michael Inderbitzen, Tanner Dean, Cole Zabala, Kody Kopp. It’s difficult to imagine Honda getting shut out.
No. 17 Henry Wiles on his factory-powered Honda.
While less pronounced, it’s a somewhat similar story for Kawasaki. The loss of Max Whale to KTM certainly hurts on the AFT Singles side of things, but Kawasaki still has sheer numbers going for it in AFT Production Twins. It’s not just quantity either -- there’s race-winning quality in the form of Ryan Varnes. It’s not entirely inconceivable that Cory Texter, Dan Bromley, Chad Cose, and Dalton Gauthier could gobble up all the wins between them, but Varnes has been good for a couple wins each of the last two seasons and should be again in ‘21. Even if he were to shift focus and jump up to Mission SuperTwins, someone like Danny Eslick or Jerimiah Duffy might still be able to steal a race somewhere along the line.
Danny Eslick one of the few powering forward on what was once the traditional Twin platform of flat track.
Here’s Where It Gets Interesting...
Royal Enfield, Suzuki, and Husqvarna are all in pretty much the exact same boat.
Lewis and his Royal Enfield machine at Volusia Half-Mile.
All three have proven race-winning machines (Johnny Lewis won on the Royal Enfield Twins FT on the same night Chad Cose did so aboard the WBR Suzuki RM-Z450 last season at DAYTONA, while Husqvarna’s FC450 was the primary tool of Gauthier’s ‘19 AFT Singles title run).
The 2020 race-winning Wally Brown Racing Suzuki, now piloted by Trent Lowe.
Brandon Kitchen, on one of only two Husqvarnas entered in 2021, is primed to take it to the podium with a 2020 win in his pocket.
To boot, all three have highly capable riders at the controls of those machines (the aforementioned Lewis, Trent Lowe, who’s primed for a breakthrough race win, and Brandon Kitchen, who won last year’s Indy Mile I).
The collective potential pitfall is that their respective hopes rely largely on the heroics of a single rider. Any misfortune, such as nagging injury, could essentially eliminate any one of them from victory contention.