Indian Motorcycle’s Proud Return to Flat Track Racing

The revived brand has come out of the gate swinging with new gusto.

Indian Motorcycle Flat Track
Indian Motorcycle's 2017 Flat Track factory team riders: Bryan Smith, Brad Baker and Jared MeesPhoto: Indian Motorcycle

The Indian Motorcycle company has made quite a stir recently in the world of Competitive Flat Track racing, first debuting their newly constructed FTR 750, and then announcing that this year would see a fleet of these machines piloted by none other than Jared Mees, Bryan Smith and Brad Baker. With three consecutive overall wins and at least two riders on the podium in every race so far, we sat down with Indian Motorcycle Product Director Gary Gray to talk about the company's thoughts so far on the bike, the team, and the great American rivalry.

Motorcyclist Magazine: With three consecutive wins so far, one might say the season's been pretty strong for you guys, so congratulations! Was there any hesitation going into the season from your team?

Gary Gray: You know, when you're out of a sport for 50-something years, everyone else has been at it and has all the development data. We had a development phase in front of us, but until we were able to run a few races, there's some things that we couldn't test enough. I wouldn't call our outlook pessimistic, but realistic.

Indian Motorcycle Flat Track
Indian Motorcycles has made the podium in every round of the 2017 American Flat Track season so far.Photo: Indian Motorcycle

MM: Have there been any substantial tweaks made to the FTR750 engine since the season has officially started?

GG: Believe it or not, we've actually since turned power down on that engine. Of course, the 'FTR' stands for Flat Track racing, but we joke that it stands for feel, traction and reliability. A lot of last year was de-tuning and giving the riders more feel and traction. We change cams in the engine based on which track we're running as well as some gear ratios, but all in all it's the same basic engine we began with.

MM: What's the feedback been like from your team riders so far? Have they been comfortable with where the bike sits currently, or have you had to make any drastic changes for them?

GG: Jared's had more time on the bike than anyone, being that he was the main test rider and developer, he's very comfortable with it. The first race, you could tell Brad and Bryan were a little nervous due to the lack of time on the bike, but Bryan was really comfortable at Charlotte. Brad was out there swapping with Bryan as well, and making me nervous! The whole team still has to get used to the bike, but they're obviously pretty well comfortable. There's always 40 other people out there every race who want what you want, so we have to continuously pursue ways to stay ahead.

Indian Motorcycle Flat Track
The Indian Factory Flat Track race team in full force.Photo: Indian Motorcycle

MM: It's definitely great to see them out there having fun with the bike, and it's so great that people can watch the team progress as a whole as the season goes on. What's your take on how your team views the rivalry between Indian and Harley-Davidson?

GG: You know, I think the rivalry is a great thing for the sport, and it's part of the reason why we decided to get back in to this sport. Indian motorcycles was founded by racers, and it's interesting to double back on that now that we've established ourselves with a manufacturing footprint and distribution. Not just for our brand, but for the whole sport. We're trying to give back to the whole community, and the rivalry between Indian and Harley-Davidson is one of the greatest in the sport. We just want to get more people out to the track, and this is a great place for both brands to go head to head and create something that accomplishes that. American flat track is doing the right thing. In the past it didn't make too much sense to us in terms of a reasonable investment, but we saw that American Flat Track has been making a ton of positive changes, and we wanted to stand behind that.

Indian Motorcycle Flat Track
Surprisingly, the Indian Motorcycle team have had to dial back the power on their FTR750 engine.Photo: Indian Motorcycle

MM: We've noticed more and more involvement from your brand in the grassroots "Hooligan" racing, which is a great thing to see. That's obviously a very popular segment currently, and with all the modified Scouts we've seen, is there any chance that we might soon see a street-oriented flat track model?

GG: Like you said, the grassroots movement is strong right now, so we made a big push to help with that. We've publicly stated that we don't want to be known just for our cruisers and baggers, and I think we could build just about any bike as long as we can make it make sense for the brand, and we can deliver a good bike for our consumers. I can't give out specifics, but you'll see different bikes from us in the future.