This past Saturday, MotoAmerica broke new ground by showcasing a field of 13 hopped-up 600 lb. V-twin baggers going head-to-head on one of the racing world’s most iconic and technical tracks, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. The inaugural “King of the Baggers” was presented by MotoAmerica in partnership with aftermarket parts juggernaut Drag Specialties and without a doubt, captivated the attention of millions of motorcyclists who might otherwise not pay much attention to road racing.
Without a doubt, the event exceeded MotoAmerica’s wildest expectations, with clear-cut proof point being the fact that the King of the Baggers post-race recap video received more than 2 million views. To put that in perspective, MotoAmerica’s three superbike highlight videos from the weekend received a combined total of 13,000 views.
Clearly the folks at MotoAmerica have stumbled on to something powerful.
Now the story of the event and its impact is one thing. But equally dramatic and provocative is the story of the race itself – a race that saw two modified Indian Challengers facing a small army of 11 modified Harley Davidson Road Glides and Street Glides. The classic Indian vs Harley rivalry – the American version of David vs Goliath – playing out on as dramatic a stage as there ever was…the very domain of heavyweight v-twin baggers that Harley has dominated for decades. And just as the biblical legend played out, David earned a resounding victory over Goliath as Tyler O’Hara, piloting the S&S Indian Challenger, dramatically hunted down Hayden Gillim on the Vance Hines Harley Davidson, overtaking him with a dramatic pass in the famed corkscrew, while NorCal local Frankie Garcia finished third on his Roland Sands Design Indian Challenger to put the two Indians atop two of the three podium spots.
A few additional notes here below that make the story of this famed American V-twin rivalry playing out at Laguna Seca even juicier:
The “Challenger Challenge” on Another Level
In 2020, Indian Motorcycle implemented “the Challenger Challenge” a marketing platform pitting its new performance bagger against Harley’s category-leading Road Glide and daring consumers, die-hard HD loyalists included, to test ride the two bikes back to back. A series of humorous videos played this Challenge out in a series of head-to-head road tests led by Indian spokesman Carey Hart and his sidekick Brian “Big B” Mahoney. It’s only fitting that King of the Baggers provided the most dramatic of settings for this Challenger Challenge to assume an entirely different competitive format, only for the Challenger to take the ultimate prize – the title of King of the Baggers.
Tyler’s Dramatic Comeback
After jumping out to an early lead, halfway through the 8-lap race, Tyler O’Hara lost control in turn two, running his Challenger off the track into the dirt, and falling into third place. From there, O’Hara began the patient, methodical process of slowly but surely bridging the cap, passing Garcie and overtaking Gillim, appropriately making his pass in the Corkscrew.
Frankie’s Dramatic Comeback
On Friday after the final qualifying session, Garcie was practicing launches, and launch he did, dropping the clutch and looping the 600 pound Roland Sands Design Indian Challenger. In a stroke of what seemed divine intervention, the predominant weight-bearing portion of the bike missed Garcia’s upper body, with the handlebars coming down squarely across his thighs. Garcia could barely walk after the accident, and purposefully woke up every hour, on the hour, to keep his legs from locking up during the night. It’s a wonder he could walk on race day, let along pilot the Challenger. Instead, not only did he race, but he put it on the podium taking third place easily on a bike featuring an unmodified stock Challenger motor, with only a racing clutch added for the event.
From Dirt Ovals to Laguna Seca – Indian’s Dominance Continues
Four years ago, Indian made its return to American Flat Track racing to rekindle the historic rivalry with Harley Davidson, only to dominate the series from the very start, capturing four consecutive Grand National Championships and four consecutive Manufacturer’s Championships. The Indian FTR750 flat tracker has become the undisputed King of the Oval and the most prominent and highly utilized bike in the paddock. Now, moving from flat trackers to 600-lb performance baggers, Indian expands on its success with its Indian Challenger earning the title of undisputed King.
More Bagger Racing in 2021? More Indian Challengers?
It’s rumored that MotoAmerica may roll out three of these bagger races in 2021. Will we see more teams choosing the Indian Challenger as their weapon of choice? It’s probably safe to assume that more than two of them may show up on the grid.