hall of fame
Indian Motorcycle FTR750 Prototype
After three seasons of AMA Grand National competition, the Indian Motorcycle FTR750 has categorically changed American Flat Track.
In the hands of Jared Mees, Bryan Smith and Briar Bauman, in particular but not exclusively, the FTR750 has dominated AFT’s premier Twins class. Mees, alone, has won 28 main events and two titles.
Creating the prototype displayed at the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame was an achievement of its own, explained Gary Gray, vice president racing, technology and service for Indian Motorcycle.
“In September of 2015, Steve Menneto, president of motorcycles at Polaris Industries, announced we were going flat-track racing within the next one to two years,” Gray said. “It was like John F. Kennedy saying we were going to land on the moon. You have to deliver.”
Gray and his team began work in October. “We needed the engine first,” he said. “So, we laid out the specifications, what we wanted in terms of rpm range, horsepower, torque, inertia.
“A V-twin is very American and important to the brand. Everything else was performance driven: no starter, super small clutch, shifter on the right side.”
When the time came to package the 88 x 61.5mm V-twin with its overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and liquid cooling and making a claimed 109 horsepower at 10,000 rpm, Indian Motorcycle turned to partner S&S Cycle, and AMA Hall of Famer Jeff Cole of C&J Racing Frames.
“We got design tips from Jeff—rake, trail, wheelbase, weight distribution,” Gray said. “He gave us a pretty intense design review. A lot of questions were asked, from tube diameters to bearing types and output sprocket location.
“Jeff said, ‘Look, you can use the engine as a stressed member, but a cradle design is a lot simpler. It’s easier to move foot pegs around, and there’s less stress on the engine.”
The overall appearance of the FTR750 is traditional, like many of the machines that populated the AFT starting grid at the time.
“We didn’t want to design something that looked like a spaceship,” Gray said. “To build something really strange or foreign was certainly possible, but you might have more development time.
“Mostly, we were concerned riders would be afraid to stake their careers on something so new and crazy.”
The engineering team spent a year attending AFT events and watching race footage.
“If you can build a bike that will get through a corner like a Harley-Davidson and accelerate down the straightaway like a Kawasaki,” Gray concluded, “it’s going to be pretty hard to beat no matter where you go.”
In September 2016, one year after the project began, 2000 AMA Grand National Champion Joe Kopp debuted the FTR750 at the Santa Rosa Mile.
Gray studied the 18-round 2017 AFT schedule and figured Indian could manage one win and five podiums.
“I guess I was wrong on how good the bike would come out of the gate,” he said, chuckling. “And it’s got so much development left in it.”