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On March 16, American Flat Track (AFT) will unveil its re-envisioning of America's original extreme sport as the series kicks off the 2017 season with the inaugural Daytona TT. Most of the attention will be attracted to the sport's premier AFT Twins class - a continuation of the historic Grand National Championship - as it enters its 64th consecutive year of competition. Spain, however, will turn its eyes to the AFT Singles class as the two top riders from the inaugural Spanish Flat Track Championship – reigning Champion Ferrán Cardús and runner-up Franc Serra – will make their American Flat Track debut at the "World Center of Racing."
The Daytona TT will be held under the bright lights of Daytona International Speedway during Daytona's Bike Week, and will mark the first time the series has raced a TT track on twin-cylinder motorcycles in 20 years. It will also be the first time that factory efforts from Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle have competed head-to-head since 1953.
As part of AFT´s program to increase international awareness and support for the most American form of professional motorcycle racing, the organizers of the American Flat Track championship have invited Cardús and Serra, and provided them with competitive machines and support to go up against the best Flat Track riders in the world.
Many of the rules in the Spanish Flat Track Championship are modeled after the American Flat Track rulebook, but the Spaniards will have to battle jetlag while adapting to new motorcycles and crew members. To get up to speed quickly, the stars from Spain have aligned with two Grand National Champions for the event. Cardús has teamed up with Brad Baker, while Serra will ride the Honda CRF450F piloted by Jared Mees to a second-place finish at last year’s Peoria TT. The two AFT rivals, now part of the Indian Wrecking Crew, are each stepping up to mentor the top young Spaniards.
Baker has worked with Cardús since the American´s first appearance in Spain at the Superprestigio of Barcelona in December of 2014. The 2013 Grand National Champion has stepped up to help Cardús not just for Daytona, but the first three rounds of the Championship.
"I started working with Ferrán because I saw his potential. In the last couple of years, the Spanish riders have really improved," Baker said. "I am getting behind Cardús, pulling a team together for him and putting him on one of my bikes at Daytona, Georgia and Charlotte."
As for Cardús, it's a dream come true for the road racer turned flat tracker to go up against the sport’s best in American Flat Track.
"From the first time I saw Brad ride here, I realized just how much I had to learn," Cardús said. "For me it is a dream come true. It´s a big opportunity for me to evolve as a rider because here, there are a few fast riders but in AFT I know everyone will be tough to beat. It will be a big challenge to ride those opening rounds. I´ve been riding Flat Track only two years. The new National series gave me a chance to step up and ride on bigger tracks. Flat Track has come a long way in a short time and I hope it just keeps getting better."
While Mees hasn't built the same relationship as Baker and Cardús, the three-time Grand National Champion looks forward to helping Serra.
"The kid seems to have great talent," Mees said. "Also, I feel it's nice to give back as every time I went to Spain and raced the RPM Superprestigio I was treated first-class. I'm excited to have him ride my bike."
Serra is looking forward to the opportunity to make his debut in American Flat Track so he can raise his level in Flat Track to try and take home the Spanish No. 1 plate in 2017.
"I am very happy to have been invited to Daytona and grateful to the promoters of AFT and of the Spanish Championship for making this happen,” Serra said. “I would also like to thank Bell Helmets for their support. I really didn't expect it. I´m not kidding myself about the level of racing that I´ll encounter in Daytona. I’ve been watching videos of last year’s races and studying the top guys. I’m going to learn and also to show, the best I can, the level of Spanish Flat Track. My goal is to give it all I’ve got, learn what I can, and then come back and fight for the Spanish number-one plate in 2017."
Similarly, both Championships look forward to the racing exchange program.
"American Flat Track enters a new era in 2017,” said Michael Lock, CEO of American Flat Track. “It seems fitting that we celebrate our very American heritage by extending invitations to compete to international riders who have fallen under the spell of our great sport."
Iana Petrova-Noyes, CEO of On Track Motorsports, promoters of the RFME Copa de Flat Track echoed the sentiment of seeing professional Flat Track grow on a national and international level: "We believe in the talent of our riders and the objective of our Championship is to see our riders succeed as true professionals,” said Petrova-Noyes. “For us, AFT is the MotoGP of Flat Track. Now, thanks to AFT, two of our best young flat trackers will have a unique chance to experience a U.S. National on the biggest stage in the world, Daytona. We call this adventure 'Operation Daytona.'"
3 years ago