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In the First Ever King of Bagger Competition at a Moto America Road Race in Laguna Seca

By Bandit with photos from S&S

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The box stock Indian Challenger.
The box stock Indian Challenger.

This is a gear-grinding, shock stretching, chassis flexing, pushrod pounding (in the case of the Challenger, tappet tapping) first in many respects. No one ever expected baggers to battle it out in an official AMA, MotoAmerica road race scenario on an historic championship road racetrack. But it’s happening this year supported by industry leaders such as S&S, Barnett, Saddlemen and Drag Specialties.

Fourteen teams committed to racing in the inaugural King of the Baggers event at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Bikernet is going to watch a couple of teams going forward, and today focused on the only Indian entry into this magnificent competition.

Indian launched a new model this year, the Challenger, proclaimed to be the ultimate American Bagger with a Fixed Fairing, Inverted Front End, the Most Powerful Motor in its class.

Designed for the most knowledgeable and discerning riders, Indian designers stopped at nothing to ensure that the Challenger out-classed its competition and delivered the highest performing, fully loaded bagger on the market.

It started with the all-new Indian PowerPlus engine, Indian’s first liquid-cooled large displacement motor (108 cubic-inch, 60-degree V-twin) that packs a best-in-class 122-horsepower and 128 ft-lbs. of torque. The new powertrain also features a six-speed transmission with true overdrive, assist clutch to reduce clutch effort, and hydraulic valve lash adjusters and camshaft chain tensioners for a low maintenance, reliable powerplant.

The PowerPlus’ overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder deliver incredible V-twin performance and power. Riders can customize the bike’s throttle mapping by selecting one of three ride modes, including Rain, Standard and Sport – resulting in one motorcycle with three distinct performance personalities. Each ride mode has been engineered with its own distinct traction control setting to align with each mode’s specific throttle mapping.

Indian chose to work with S&S in this race effort, and we spoke to David Zemla for the hot ticket modifications to the Challenger. “The Challenger drivetrain is really well sorted, so the mods we've done are fairly minimal.” S&S is also working with a number of the other Harley-based teams.

S&S opened the breathing with additional headwork and shifted the power band specifically for a road-race configuration with a new cam grind and stainless-steel exhaust. They are still working on the fuel injection body, injectors and mapping.

Indian Motorcycle’s state-of-the-art technology drove the PowerPlus to be the highest-performing American V-twin ever developed. The new engine’s name is a nod to Indian Motorcycle’s iconic history, paying homage to the Indian PowerPlus motorcycle produced from 1916 to 1924. Indian does and excellent styling job and the S&S team is working overtime to enhance the already stellar performance.

The team studied how they could lighten the chassis containing the Power Plus as an integral portion of the frame. They were able to relieve the Challenger of 200 pounds, partially with lighter FTR1200 forks and 17-inch billet aluminum wheels. “Billet race wheels helped, forks, emptied fairing, lots of bracketry, lighter exhaust are all part of the weight loss program,” David said. “It's more a collection of ounces than any one big weight hit.”

“We changed the rake and frame trail to enhance track handling,” David added. They added a chain final drive for gearing manipulation.

The challenger chassis is not rubber-mounted so the handling can be tight and crisp.

The stock Challenger comes with race-spec radially-mounted Brembo brakes providing superior stopping power, and new performance touring Metzeler Cruisetec tires offer supreme traction. Tires may change for the race. Challenger’s chassis-mounted fairing features an adjustable windscreen with nearly three inches of travel and adjustable air vents – delivering unprecedented rider protection from all elements. We will see if the S&S team alters the aerodynamics.

A true state-of-the-art bagger, the Limited and Dark Horse variants of Challenger are equipped with Indian Motorcycle’s intuitive Smart Lean Technology, keeping riders confidently grounded by utilizing a Bosch IMU to add cornering control to the dynamic traction control and ABS, as well as Drag Torque Control.

The PowerPlus adopts several design and performance features from the liquid-cooled 1,133 cc Indian Scout engine, including an overhead camshaft design utilizing four valves per cylinder. But comparisons end there. The PowerPlus was developed with a big-piston, big-torque mindset with an end game of maximum power delivery across the entire curve.

Indian Motorcycle PowerPlus Engine Specifications:
• Engine Displacement: 108 cubic inches (1,769 cc)
• Power: 122 hp at 5,500 RPM
• Torque: 128 ft-lbs. at 3,800 RPM
• Maximum Engine Speed: 6,500 RPM
• Architecture: 60-degree V-twin, liquid-cooled powerplant
• Crankcase: Unit design featuring a high capacity semi-dry sump oil system
• Timing System: Overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder
• Fuel System: Electronic fuel injection. 52mm dual bore throttle bodies
• Compression Ratio: 11:1
• Transmission: Six-speed with true overdrive, constant mesh
• Clutch: Assist clutch

We also dug into the background of this competition. “The real creator and ringleader is one of the Parts Unlimited guys named Rob Buydos,” said Don Emde, former Daytona 200 Champion and AMA Hall of Fame inductee. “He lives in Cleveland. Rob got it all started last November at Drag’s dealer/vendor ride that was based in Tucson and the idea grew. Paul Langley and some of the S&S guys were at one of these meetings, and that is where Paul made the commitment that S&S would participate.”

Preparing for extra ground clearance.
Preparing for extra ground clearance.

“This first King of the Baggers race at Laguna Seca is basically the model,” said Don. If it is received well, MotoAmerica is open to the idea of adding it to their series of road races for 2021. The over-all notion is to help Wayne Rainey and his MotoAmerica organization to broaden its focus from just being about metric racing to include a class for V-Twins.”

Fourteen teams have signed on the dotted line to compete in the King of the Baggers invitational event that will be part of the MotoAmerica Superbike Speedfest at Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. The event was postponed until October, with the grid now full for the exhibition race. The riders must be current or recently active professionals.

The list of invited teams set to participate follows:

Alloy Art – maker of custom motorcycle products
Barnett Tool & Engineering – clutches and cables
Bassani – motorcycle exhaust systems
Feuling Parts – performance products for Harleys
Legends Suspension – front and rear suspension products
MJK – innovators of aftermarket products
Roland Sands Design – bike builder, aftermarket parts and apparel Performance Machine – motorcycle brakes and wheels
Saddlemen – motorcycle seats and saddlebags
S&S – American motorcycle engines and parts
SLYFOX Performance – high-performance motorcycle parts
The Speed Merchant – custom motorcycle builder
Trask – maker of the motorcycle turbo kits
Vance & Hines – manufacturer of motorcycle exhaust and performance products

The teams will be announcing their riders in the coming weeks.

“In all my years of working in the motorcycle industry, I have never been to Laguna Seca,” said Brandon Holstein, owner/builder of The Speed Merchant. “So, I am beyond excited to be going for the first time.”

“This is for the fans and for the brands who love to build and ride – racing is part of Saddlemen’s heritage, and we’re honored to be on the starting grid with our moto family,” said David Echert of Saddlemen.

Hang on for more reports. This race also supports a new market in the V-Twin industry and Indian’s growth, the performance bagger. We are working on a feature around several stupid fast, ultra-high-performance baggers, many of which involve S&S components. Hang On!

Click for more action.
Click for more action.



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