After over six decades of dormancy, Indian Motorcycles is returning to racing, and it chose the 2016 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally as the backdrop for the unveiling of its brand-new flat-track machine: the FTR750.
The FTR750 will compete in the next season of AMA Pro Flat Track racing, which means that yes, it will be squaring off against highly competitive bikes from Kawasaki and Yamaha, and maybe even a Ducati here and there. But the real target has to be that other big American motorcycle company. You know, the one in Milwaukee.
We rode a brand-new Indian Springfield out to Sturgis, and we’ll be scooting home on an Indian Roadmaster (more on that to follow), which is how we wound up on hand for the big reveal at the biker campground/holy site that is the Buffalo Chip.
In addition to the brand-new bike, we were treated to an appearance by racers Bobby Hill and Bill Tuman. Hill and Tuman are the two surviving members of the so-called Indian Wrecking Crew who, along with the late Ernie Beckman, raced Indians up until the company went kaput (for the first time) in 1953. At the debut, the bike wore Tuman’s No. 51 to honor his winning the Grand National Championship on an Indian just before the company went under — his presence was a nice way to bring Indian racing history full circle and hopefully lend some good luck to the new effort.
After the sheet came off, Tuman revved the bike a few times for the audience. It sounded suitably nasty. And that was that.
We’ll have to wait until next season to see what the FTR750 can do on the dirt, but here’s what we know about the steel-framed, carbon-fiber-bodied bike’s guts: Externally, its 53-degree dual-overhead cam V-twin looks vaguely like the 45-degree motor on the Indian Scout (and the bike does wear the Scout name badge). But it almost goes without saying that the motor is totally different inside; it’s constructed in Switzerland by Polaris subsidiary Swissauto.
Power is said to be around 110 horses. Not bad for a bike that, as-built, reportedly weighs under the racing series’ 300-pound minimum weight. Indian says it expects to get around 30 hours of reliable operation out of the motor without the need for substantial work. Obviously not acceptable for the street, but just fine for a race machine.
Development time for the bike, and its clean-sheet motor, was, remarkably, under one year; it seems that Indian is serious about this effort, even going so far as snagging Harley guy Jared Mees as a test rider. Whom Mees will race for in 2017 remains to be seen.
Adding Indian to the AMA Flat Track lineup can only make an already-interesting series better; competition improves the breed, or at least breeds rabid fans. Either way, Indians battling Harley-Davidsons on the dirt once more should be good for race-watchers — and, hopefully, the re-re-re-resurrected, revitalized Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Co.