Friday, March 17, 2017

The first TTwins race in ages

I watched the first AFT race of the season with extra interest, since it was also the first TT or short track race under the new 'all twins, all the time' rules for the Expert class.

I should say that I watched it on FansChoice, not from the 'stands. There were some signal dropouts, and resolution issues but on balance I don't feel the quality of the coverage detracted from my experience.
As much air as anyone got all night. The jump was just a few yards down the track from a gnarly little stop-n-go chicane. My guess is that track designers were told, "Don't turn the first TT race for twins into a tragedy". If so, they were successful, but it didn't look a real National, either. AMA Pro Racing photo.

Was that a Chris Carr track? Here's why I'm not going to hold it against him: I am pretty sure that the Speedway and AMA Pro ordered him to lay out a conservative TT track, in order to minimize the risk of a serious incident in the first 'return of the twins' race. (Memories of last year/California are still too fresh.) I understand that concern but maybe the erstwhile Prince of Peoria was a little too cautious. I read a few fan comments on Facebook to the effect of, "I thought there was supposed to be a jump". I don't think the racers were too keen it, either, although an Indian 1-2 finish in the Expert Main is an OK outcome from a marketing perspective.

I wondered whether, given the layout, the Experts were slower on twins than they would have been on singles. My first instinct was to think they would've gone faster on the old bikes, but since there's never been a previous race on this track, it was hard to quantify that feeling.

Still, I tried.

The top ten Expert finishers had fastest laps ranging from Mees' 29.7 to Shoemaker's 30.7. The average of the top ten finishers' fastest laps worked out to a hair under 30.3 seconds.

In the Pro class, the average of the top ten finishers' fastest laps worked out to a little under 30.7, for a difference of 0.4 seconds.

That does not sound like a big difference, but when you compare it to last years' singles-vs-singles Expert-vs-Pro times on short tracks and TTs, it suggests that the Experts were measurably but imperceptibly faster on twins.

I think it's pretty safe to say that we'll be able to see the difference in Peoria.

Shout out to Ferran Cardus, of Spain, for a hard-fought top ten result in the Pro final! One bright spot for Cardus' mentor, Brad Baker, who had an unlucky night for himself. Baker posted that he hoped he hadn't concussed himself -- I'm not sure if it's possible to be knocked out cold and wake up wondering how you got there and not be concussed too, but I believe AMA Pro Racing instituted baseline testing this year, for the purposes of determining when/if it's safe to put racers back on track after they've 'rung their bell'.