Red Bull KTM Jumps Into American Flat Track Series With Full Factory Team
Having become a dominant force in off-road, AMA Supercross, and Pro Motocross, as well as making inroads into roadracing at the highest level—MotoGP—Red Bull KTM will now jump into the American Flat Track series with a full-on factory effort featuring defending 450cc Singles-class champion Dan Bromley and Shayna Texter, the winningest rider in class history with 15 victories and the first female to win a national.
To herald the announcement, KTM invited journalists to Perris Raceway’s dirt oval short track in Perris, California, to meet the team members and take a spin on bikes similar to those the team will employ.
One of the oldest and most uniquely American forms of racing, the series has enjoyed renewed enthusiasm over the past two years with simplified class structure and more brands represented, though most are on a privateer level. In fact, Bromley started the 2018 season as one of those privateers, but as he progressed through the season, he earned more and more support from KTM. Winning the championship made him a shoe-in for a seat on the factory team when KTM decided to take the plunge.
Third in both 2017 and last year’s championship, Texter makes a mostly lateral move from her Husqvarna-supported effort. Chris Fillmore—himself an excellent Supermoto and roadracer who owns a couple of records at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb—will serve as team manager.
“Obviously, Dan won the championship and he won it on a KTM, so he was very deserving of this ride going forward,” Fillmore shares. “There was a point in time that we looked at one rider, two riders [for the team] and ultimately we thought the decision was best to bring two to get feedback from two different riders and really help speed up the growth of the program.”
While Bromley won a short track, a mile, and two TTs last year—confirming his versatility—Texter at just 5 feet tall and 95 pounds—has historically excelled on the half-mile and mile ovals, TTs being her admitted weak point. To combat that, she’s taken advantage of KTM’s relationship with noted trainer Aldon Baker in Florida.
“I’ve been going there twice a week for the last few weeks, working with Aldon, just trying to get better physically and mentally,” she says. “He has me on a gym program and a riding program. Now he’s starting to look over my diet a little bit.” It’s the first time she’s followed such a structured regimen, and she notes, “It’s pretty new to flat track, as a matter of fact. There’s probably only a handful of guys who are on an actual fitness program of any sort.”
She continues, “I’ve been doing some motocross and TTs. TT races have been my weak point in my program and that’s our main focus—trying to get more comfortable jumping and front braking and cornering [left and right], all stuff that carries over from motocross to flat track and vice-versa.” Naturally, she sees some of Baker’s MX riders like Marvin Musquin and Cooper Webb on a fairly regular basis and adds, “During the week when I’m there, they’re there doing their work and it’s motivational to know you’re surrounded by guys who all want the same end result, and that’s to win races and championships.”
Probably of most interest to regular Dirt Rider readers are the bikes themselves. While they start as 2019 450 SX-F Factory Editions as recently reviewed here, the WP suspension is lowered significantly, wide 19-inch wheelsets are employed front and rear, the front brake is removed (it’s part of the rules, though front brakes are allowed for TT races with their left and right turns and jumps), and the engine receives special parts developed at the factory in Austria.
“If you go to a mile [yes, an oval 1 mile around—measured less than 2 feet off the pole—with speeds over 90 mph in the turns and close to 120 down the straights], it’s nice to have a massaged motor,” Fillmore says. “We run the [Akrapovič] down pipes for a little bit more top-end and overall horsepower. Obviously, [we’ve got] some special things in the engine that give us a little more power.” But, he insists, “There’s some trick parts on there and some trick things in the engine, but overall, everything’s pretty obtainable.”
Asked if the incredibly strong yet durable works 450 Rally donated any of its “special” parts, Fillmore answers, “That’s an interesting [question] there. I think we looked at the platform from it because those guys are wide open all the time and they’re going top speed all the time, so there is a crossover there. I think more from a development side, we looked at what works for those guys, but a complete crossover, I’m not so sure.”
With the quartet of 450 SX-F Factory Editions prepared quickly for attending journalists to spin laps on, Fillmore touched on the possibility of a dirt track-specific model: “I’m not too sure. KTM’s always got something in development. I think this is a year that we’re going to kind of see what the sport turns up and what the interest is. If we feel that it’s right, I don’t see why we wouldn’t make a flat-track-specific motorcycle. We’ve done it with supermoto bikes in the past.”
And what about the possibility of jumping into the premier Twins class at some point? “Obviously, we would like to look at the possibilities because we think we have a bike that we think is extremely competitive and could win races [in the 790 Duke], but we’re starting here and we’re going to take one step at a time,” Fillmore replies. “Anything can happen. We’re interested. This is kind of a learning and growing year for us.”
But at this point, there’s only a one-year commitment, so the team’s existence in 2020 apparently hinges on this year’s results.