As the American Flat Track series has been revamped and revitalized for 2017, the dominant storyline emerging has been the rekindled rivalry between Harley-Davidson and Indian: two American icons swinging it out in a bar-banging, dirt-throwing brawl in dirt ovals across the States. On the outskirts of this story is an even more American one. It’s the story of an underdog racing an unexpected machine with the help of family and friends driven by the love of sport and the thrill of competition.
For fans of dirt-track racing, Lloyd Brothers Motorsports, co-owned by brothers Michael and David Lloyd, based out of Atlanta, Georgia, is a familiar name. Outside of the world of dirt ovals and hot shoes, Lloyd Brothers is best known for campaigning a machine typically associated with winding roads and dragging knees: Ducati.
Lloyd Brothers Motorsports has successfully campaigned a Ducati two-valve, air-cooled 1100 since 2010, but at this year’s Springfield Mile on May 28, the team took the wraps off its new Bologna bullet powered by a liquid-cooled 937cc Hypermotard 939.
Owner David Lloyd explains the switch from the air-cooled 1100. “We used to be able to go up to 1250cc with air- and oil-cooled motors, and this past winter they lowered that to 999cc and that kind of ruled out those motors. The air-cooled [at that size] is fine for half-miles but just wouldn’t be competitive on the mile, so we were able to get some help from Ducati North America, secure some 939 engines, and build a motorcycle around those.”
“The [new] motor is essentially stock,” says Lloyd. Built by Mark Sutton at Ducshop in Marietta, Georgia, it has a heavier flywheel and looser main bearings on the bottom end. The starter motor has been removed and sixth gear ditched. The stock ride-by-wire throttle bodies were also removed because their electronic operation and large size aren’t legal in American Flat Track. Legendary dirt-track racer Hank Scott helped develop intake tracts to accommodate legal-sized 44mm throttle bodies from an old Ducati 748.
“We think the power delivery of the motor works out well for flat track,” remarks Lloyd. “Packaging in the frame is a little bit difficult since it’s a 90-degree twin instead of something closer together, so that definitely has some packaging constraints, which is why the radiator is on the side of the motor.”
The motor is also rotated in the frame, tilting the front cylinder more upward to get the proper clearance for 19-inch wheels and improve weight distribution.
Lloyd further explains, “Weight distribution is important, but it’s pretty critical where the countershaft sprocket lies in relation to the crank and the swingarm pivot.” The pivot can be adjusted depending on the track and the type of chain pull they want the motorcycle to have.
Lloyd designed the frame and Bryan Fuller at Fuller Moto in Atlanta handled the fabrication. The frame is quite similar to what they ran on the old air-cooled bikes but slightly modified to fit around the new motor.
Talk about trial by fire, the bike’s first shakedown laps were actually at this year’s Springfield Mile.
The bike had never even done a lap before JR Addison, in his second year in the Expert Class, took a run at it come race weekend. He failed to qualify for the main, but the team learned a lot going into the next round at Lexington where Johnny Lewis hopped on board. Lewis finished sixth and ninth, respectively, in Qualifying 1 and 2. He finished ninth in the main event, even after slipping off the groove three times.
It’s impressive that the bike has been immediately competitive, but all the more so considering it’s been achieved on a shoestring budget. Indian’s FTR750 Scout was designed and built from the ground up for the express purpose of going racing (or more precisely, to beat Harley). The Lloyd Brothers Ducati wasn’t built with an entire factory’s resources behind it. Heck, Ducati didn’t even build the powerplant to be a racer to begin with. This speaks volumes about the quality of the motor for sure, but even more about the professionalism and dedication of Lloyd Brothers Motorsports. These guys know a thing or two when it comes to making Ducs fly.
“We’ve been doing this long enough now,” Lloyd says, “that we won’t go if we can’t do it right. I see a lot of guys who show up at the racetrack and things aren’t even close to right, but they do whatever they can do to get there. But if we can’t go and have everything properly prepared and have the right rider and challenge for a top 10 every single weekend, it’s not worth it.”
Dirt-track racing embodies an oft-romanticized picture of racing representative of a bygone era when even factory racers slept trackside in their vans, and fans strolled the paddock and shook hands with their favorite racer. These days, the series features world-class talent and teams and is run by consummate professionals. And even though the factory racers aren’t sleeping in their vans anymore, the purity of form is undiluted. That means it’s accessible for fans to get into the sport. It also provides an alluring arena for privateers who, with the right team and machinery, can test their courage, talent, and dedication against the best in the world.
Alluring as that prospect is, it’s also an extreme challenge, but one that Lloyd Brothers Motorsports is up for.
“Here you’ve got a distributor-supported privateer team that’s running a box-stock engine with a couple of guys working on the bike going up against a one-off custom piece from the whole Indian factory. It’s a David and Goliath story.”
With the financial resources to do only a handful of races this year, we may not get the chance to see the Ducati’s full potential. It only takes one stone, however, to slay a giant.