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ROUND AND ROUND: HOW AND WHY KTM GO AMERICAN FLAT TRACK RACING

Did you know the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team is looking to lead one of America’s oldest motorcycle sports? The two-rider crew is aiming for top honors in the ‘Singles’ class of American Flat Track, so we asked Team Manager Chris Fillmore about the project…

The 2021 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing American Flat Track team PC @EmeryM

34-year-old Chris Fillmore has plenty of experience of KTM orange on American racetracks. Whether it’s AMA Superbike glory with the KTM RC8, Supermoto garlands or setting records up Pikes Peak on a KTM DUKE, the former racer has earned plaudits for his skills and versatility. As Team Manager for Red Bull KTM’s newest competitive project in American Flat Track he had his work cut out to understand the throttle-heavy requirements of the discipline. After two seasons he was able to construct a line-up of promising Aussie youngster Max Whale (2020 Singles runner-up) and fast female Shayna Texter-Bauman, and has learned to flow with the intense (often) brake-less action as KTM attempt to have a similar impact to their offroad, motocross and supercross programs in the USA.

Whale and Texter on their KTM Factory Racing Flat Track machines PC @EmeryM

The Michigan-born California resident was able to get on the phone to talk beginnings, equipment and special guests…

On why KTM are now in the American Flat Track Singles class with a Red Bull-backed Factory team…

We’d seen American Flat Track grow over the last few years. We watched and listened to what was going on in 2017, and then in 2018 we decided we wanted to be involved. We recognized that the sport was followed by mainly a street bike audience, and we wanted to be there to promote our street bikes. In the end, the shape of the rulebook and the investment needed to enter the Twins class meant we ultimately took another path. It was encouraging to see the TV package growing, the fanbase growing, the other manufacturers getting on the track and the general shift of the sport going up. What we’ve realized now is that the Singles class is showing the most progression; almost all the manufacturers are there, the racing is always tight and this makes for a great spectating experience.

Max Whale gets his KTM 450 SX-F FACTORY EDITION flat track bike turned PC @EmeryM

On the KTM machinery on the track…

Our race bikes are the KTM 450 SX-F FACTORY EDITIONs, essentially they are motocross bikes with 19” wheels, lowered suspension and spec tires through Dunlop that have been around a long time. We have one tire, one tread with different compounds for four-five different track surfaces. You have clay tracks that turn into blue-groove, you have greasy clay tracks – kind of like Atlanta – and then you have ‘cushions’ which are more loamy. Dunlop had to make a tire that works on all of them. I remember going to a first test on clay track and we put a new tire and the guys were slower on newer rubber than a compound that was 100% worn out! Coming from road racing I assumed new tires were always the way to go, but little things like that remind you of how different Flat Track can be. Riders will look and touch a worn tire and say, ‘Yeah, that’s still OK,’ whereas I initially stood there and thought, ‘That needs to go in the trash!’ It’s an interesting education.

KTM’s Flat Track bike is a KTM 450 SX-F FACTORY EDITION with modifications PC @EmeryM

On how a rider makes an impact in Flat Track and the ratio of man-and-machine needed for success…

Racers are always looking for tenths of a second, but those guys are looking for hundredths, and to do that consistently. On average I would say the lap times are between 20-22 seconds for most of tracks and even the big miles are around 30 seconds. The most difficult part from a technical perspective is finding a course that stays consistent in order to know that you are actually making gains. The rider has to be very smart at that point in time to understand how the track is at the beginning of the day and then at the end of the day, grasp those changes and give that feedback so we don’t lose our way. There are very fine details that make the difference. In Flat Track you are always adjusting to surface change because you are always looking for that hundredth of a second.

Shayna Texter-Bauman is an incredible talent in American Flat Track PC @EmeryM

On whether Flat Track is like a middle ground between motocross and road racing…

In motocross the track changes so much, and lap by lap, so you never get time to really adjust consistently. The Flat Track guys only have two corners and if something is ill-handling in one of those two because a bump has developed, and they cannot alter their line – which is sometimes only two-foot wide – then there are less options compared to motocross where you can go inside or outside or wherever you want. Motocross is more about the rider compared to any other motorcycle sport. Flat Track is a good example of something in the middle of road racing and motocross, but I would say it leans more towards the road than moto if I had to pick one or the other.

Texter in action in Atlanta PC @ScottHunter

On fielding Shayna Texter-Bauman, her development and integration into the team…

Shayna is unbelievably talented. She’s a specialist, and on some tracks she’s unbeatable and won’t be denied; those tend to be clay half miles and also Lima, so cushions. But then there are other tracks where she struggles. I got to know her in 2018, and then when KTM and Red Bull wanted to start racing we thought it was better to have a two-rider team rather two individual teams, so we wanted to bring her onboard. Red Bull was also very keen and they did a couple of video projects last year. I think she has worked harder than she ever has for the TT and some of the other tracks. We’ll see if her work has paid off because the skillset is there, but it’s the muscle memory and the confidence that goes into an event that will really tell if she can excel across the board.

Whale racing in Volusia II PC @ScottHunter

On motocross and freestyle legend Travis Pastrana riding in Red Bull KTM colors at Atlanta Motor Speedway…

It was a very unique situation both for our team as well as American Flat Track to have somebody with his experience across the board coming to race. He is a true enthusiast of sports and an all-round good dude, so I was thrilled to be able to provide him with a motorcycle and watch him have a crack at it. Atlanta is pretty special with both pavement and dirt and Travis has a Supermoto background; I raced him when I was quite young. In terms of results I think his focus was in having a good time and beating his buddy Ryan Sipes rather than being on the box, and they ended up just one place apart from each other in the top 10. It was really cool to have him as part of the sport and his first try on a Pro Flat Track; it’s yet another activity ticked off on his CV list!

Freestyle legend Travis Pastrana raced at the AMA Flat Track round in Atlanta PC @ScottHunter


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