It’s been over 60 years since the race track rivalry between America’s two biggest motorcycle manufacturers ended when Indian shut down in 1953. But now an all-new Indian is taking the fight back to the track, with a purpose built engine designed by MotoGP and F1 engineers! Check it out here, and see why Indian will be a force to be reckoned with in their long-awaited return to flat track this year.
Funded by parent company Polaris, Indian spared no expense developing the all-new FTR750, purpose-built from the ground up for flat track racing.
In the motorcycle racing world, no sport is more American than flat track. It’s been around decades longer than Motocross, drag, or road racing; and while the century-old sport is long past its heyday, it has persisted on, gradually becoming known more for being the source of champions in other racing series’ such as MotoGP than for being famous in its own right.
But that is changing as flat track has experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years, driven by a new generation of fans now discovering the thoroughly American sport. One of the legendary rivalries in flat track during its heyday was that between the two great American motorcycle manufacturers, Harley-Davidson and Indian, which ended abruptly when Indian went out of business in 1953.
One interesting part of the FTR750’s design is the frame, made with excess room for the compact engine, which allows it to be moved around in the bike to change balance and optimize performance.
But that century-old rivalry is about to be revived. Since Indian was resurrected by Polaris in 2014, the powersports giant has gone full force getting the Indian name back into the forefront of the American motorcycle market – and one of the most important places for them to do that is on the same oval tracks where they once went head to head with the great Motor Company from Milwaukee. The significance of this return is not lost on Indian, and they have sparred no expense preparing to “come heavy” in their big return to flat track after a 63-year hiatus, facing off against their great nemesis Harley-Davidson once again.
Sparing No Expense
When Polaris/Indian decided to make the jump back into flat track racing, it was quickly determined that they would go all out and use every resource at their disposal to develop a world-class race bike from the ground up. Development of that bike centered around the new engine, a task that was sourced to SwissAuto, a prestigious race engine developer in Bergdorf, Switzerland that Polaris acquired in 2010.
SwissAuto has decades of experience in the fields of F1 and MotoGP racing (their claim to fame was their success with V-4 engines in the 500cc two-stroke era) so they were a perfect resource to tap into to develop the first new Indian racing engine in over 60 years.
Flat track race bikes in the premier Twins class can have engines up to 750cc, must weigh a minimum of 300 pounds, and have no front brakes, using primarily the traction from the tire (AMA flat track uses a spec tire, the Dunlop DT3) to control speed. Because of this, flat track engines tend to have broad, flat torque curves, allowing riders to constantly manipulate speed and traction with precise throttle control.
At the heart of the FTR750 is this awesome 4-valve, liquid-cooled, 109hp V-twin engine, fully conceived and developed in only one year. (Photo credit: CycleWorld.com)
Incredibly, SwissAuto was able to go from inception to a finished race engine in only a year. The result is this potent overhead cam, 4-valve, liquid-cooled V-twin engine with a very high 14:1 compression ratio that cranks out 109hp at 10K rpm (a lot for flat track, where 90+ hp is the norm.) The engine is light – its target weight was 115 pounds, and this one came out to only 106 – and narrow, with a v-angle of only 53 degrees, making for a very compact overall package.
The completed race bike, dubbed the FTR 750 (FTR stands for “feel, traction, and reliability”) cradles the new engine in a unique steel frame which allows the compact engine to be moved around within it, modifying the balance of the bike to optimize performance. A sleek all carbon fiber body completes the package.
In addition to the full prototype engine, the FTR750 sports a unique stainless steel frame and a full carbon fiber body.
Indian vs. The World
The all-new FTR750 will be making its highly anticipated debut this weekend, September 25, at the Santa Rosa Mile Flat Track Event. It will be the first time in 63 years that Indian squares off against its old rival, Harley-Davidson on the race track, which also has something new up its sleeve – its first all-new bike in 44 years, the XGR750, a liquid-cooled flat track race bike based on the Street 750. It will be racing alongside, and eventually replacing, the legendary air cooled XR750, the winningest bike in series history.
The FTR750 will have some competition; Harley-Davidson, the most dominant name in flat track, also just debuted an all-new race bike, the XGR750, with a liquid-cooled engine based on the Street 750.
In addition, the field will be full of contenders from other brands, such as Kawasakis with potent 650R-based engines, Yamahas running new FZ-07 based parallel twins, and even the occasional Ducati, such as the Scrambler being raced by MotoGP star Troy Bayliss.
In a field of tough, well established contenders like these, Indian, despite their long heritage of flat track racing, will still have to start from scratch as it restarts its racing program with the new FTR750. But in a sport that is characterized by tradition and simplicity, for Polaris to invest so much time, money, and engineering expertise into this new project has already gotten everyone talking this season. No matter what their results on the track, other race teams are paying close attention to what Indian does with their racing program, and their efforts are having an uplifting effect on the sport overall.
As technical editor Kevin Cameron at Cycle World said best, Polaris is “provoking the establishment, doing the sport as a whole a great service.” As flat track racing finds its way back into the spotlight, the resurgence of the Indian vs. Harley-Davidson rivalry couldn’t have come at a better time!
What do you think about the FTR750 and big moves Polaris/Indian is making in their return to flat track racing?