In 2016, we saw flashes from the latest Australian to have a go at Monster Energy Supercross. At times he was fast in practice, but was unable to carry that speed into the main event. While Hayden Mellross might now have accomplished some of his goals last year, he has a lot to take away from his rookie season.
We caught up with Hayden as he prepares for the 250SX West Region Championship with his new teammate at 51FIFTY Energy Drink Yamaha Tyler Bowers, to see how he felt about last year, his time in Australia, and what he hopes to accomplish in his sophomore season.
Racer X: Let’s start with last season. How do you think your rookie supercross season went?
Hayden Mellross: The rookie season last year was good. It was a great learning curve, but I feel like the goals that I set for myself at the beginning of the year I didn’t reach them. I feel like there’s a huge amount of positives to take away from last year so I kind of overlooked not achieving my goals because of the positives I was able to take out of it. In the overall picture I feel like it was great. Some solid results, especially in my heat races, and I feel like in the big picture it was a good season.
When you look at the season as a whole, do you think that crash in Santa Clara hurt you a little bit?
Yeah definitely. I feel like I came into the season a little … not unprepared, but I had an issue with my body coming into the season so I wasn’t 100 percent fit. And then it took me a few weeks to get up to speed and to get back into fitness and whatnot. Then when Santa Clara came around it was going to be one of my best races. You know, my qualifying time and whatnot was probably one of the best I’ve qualified all year. Everything was clicking that day and I felt like it was going to be a great night and a great result, but unfortunately that little setback did I feel like hinder my overall result a little bit. But as we all know, injuries come with the sport so you just kind of got to embrace it and move forward.
How much supercross experience did you have coming into that season?
Coming into the season I had a little bit. Obviously, it was my first year in the American supercross scene. I had done one year in the 250 class in Australia in supercross. Our season is a little bit different, obviously not as full-on and the jumps aren’t as big and everything like that, but it still classified as supercross and it’s still a good learning curve. I never had a whole lot of racing experience, but had trained with Timmy [Ferry] for a good couple of months before the 2016 supercross season. My experience was minimal, but as a rider I felt stronger at supercross and I feel like it’s only going to be better for next year.
I know the Australian series is improving every year. Do you think their tracks are getting close to what we have over here in the U.S.?
Our supercross tracks in Australia are for sure improving. I don’t think they’re the standard that the American supercross tracks are at, but for Australia being so small and not as populated it’s kind of where we have to start and kind of be happy with at the moment until we can kind of grow our sport in Australia. You know the tracks are definitely getting better and have definitely taken more shape to the American style tracks but we still got a little ways to go at the moment, but with having the ability to go to Australia and race six rounds on tracks that are similar I think is huge for me and a huge pre-season training. You see a few other Americans going and taking part in it to get some pre-season racing under their belt.
What are some things that you feel like you needed to improve on this off-season and do you feel like you have improved on those things?
Some things that I kind of felt were just obviously my fitness, but that was something that I couldn’t really handle too much because I came in with a little injury last year. So fitness was a big thing that I had to work on and that’s something that I have worked on consistently since then and it’s better than ever right now coming into the 2017 season.
My speed and my qualifying was a little off. I’m not known as a guy to go out there and be able to hang it out and to lay down that one fast lap. So I kind of struggled with the qualifying and that was something that at each race last year that I did get better at and did kind of improve at so I’ve been working hard really trying to get a bit more raw speed so in qualifying I can put a good time down and start my night off well with a good heat race pick. Just a bit of qualifying times, fitness, and then when it comes down to it my consistency. That’s something that last year, being a rookie I kind of didn’t have that consistency through 15 laps. This year I feel like my consistency for 15 laps is really solid and I could do the same thing and hit the same rhythms for 15 laps straight.
Last time we talked you mentioned that your goal for last year was to make it inside the top-10. What are your goals for this year?
This year I feel like I’m a pretty solid rider with my fitness and my speed. Last year the goal was to get top-10 but this year I don’t see being top-10 as a goal for me anymore. I feel like I’ve improved enough as a rider and I have a lot of confidence that no matter what supercross race I’m in, east or west, I feel like I can go out there and get top-10. I don’t see that as a goal anymore. Quite frankly I feel like if I can start the season off solid, getting closer to that top-five is where I can see myself. Hopefully the season goes the way I plan it to go, and we make the steps in the right direction each week. I feel like if things go my way and I get a little bit of luck towards the end of the season, I can see myself up in the top-five.
So they are implementing the 15 plus one format in the 250 class this year. How do you feel about that and can you think of anything else you would like to see change?
I’ve always known growing up the traditional supercross to be 15 lap and 20 laps mains, that’s how it’s always been and how I’ve always known it to be. So for them to make a rule change like this, it is a little different because it’s nothing that I’m used to and I imagine a lot of people feel the same way about it. Whether it’s for the better or for the worse I’m not too sure, we’ll just have to wait and see how it goes. I feel like the more veteran riders and people that are a bit more experienced in the field are going to excel a little more in the longer motos being a few extra laps where some more rookie riders might tend to make a few more mistakes and the longer motos might kind of bite them on the backside a little bit towards three or four laps to go when they do get tired and fatigued a little bit because they’ve never been at that level.
So I feel like there’s a few pros and cons there and then obviously when it comes down to the racing, you know, towards to the end of the supercross season there’s always so many guys that are out injured, so you’ll always see whether it’s [Ken] Roczen and [Ryan] Dungey and [Eli] Tomac, them guys win and they can lap up to sixth or seventh position. That’s in a regular 20-lap main. You add an extra three or four laps and they’re gonna be lapping up to fifth or sixth. Quite frankly for a spectator that could get boring as well. You’re gonna lose track of where the leaders are at, where they’ve lapped up to and whatnot, so that’s also a disadvantage. There is pros and cons, but I guess they’re gonna have to do this season to figure out if it’s going to work or not. Then when 2018 rolls around is when you’re gonna find out if they’re gonna stay with it or not.
I just want to thank all of my sponsors, supporter, fans, family and coaches for all their hard work and determination into helping me get to this point in my career! It was becoming a perfect night for myself and I was doing everything right, I was running 2nd in my main event and it was well enough to deliver me my first ever championship but unfortunately a little bike issue which was out of everyone's control happened. This is the most heart breaking thing to ever happen to me but I just want everyone to know that I'll be back bigger and better in 2017!! #team45 #illbeback @dphmotorsport @yamahamotoraus @thormx_aus @gas_imports_aus_nz @spymx_au @akrapovic_official @maxima_aus @ridedunlop @cycra @ficeda_acc @unifilteraustralia @thecollectivefamily @sptools @krooztune @topline27 @etsracingfuelsaustralia @dedicatedrideco @marty_d23 @stevecramerproducts @dirtfreakjapan
Going back in time a little bit here. You went to Australia to compete in the SX2 championship. How did your time down there go?
My time in Australia was awesome. You know, I hadn’t spent too much time in Australia over the past two or three years so I was privileged enough to go home and spend some quality time with my family but along with that do some racing, which was great. I had a strong backbone in Australia with my team, DPH Motorsports. They were a great team and a great organization to be around and they made my time in Australia very enjoyable. We had some solid racing down there, got some really, really consistent results, a few wins, second and third positions. It was pretty much a summer too remember opposed to the incident I had at the last round with a mechanical failure that was kind of out of everyone’s control, but nothing you could do about it. [Mellross lost the Australian SX2 Championship when his bike failed at the last round. He said he only needed fourth or fifth place to clinch the championship.] Just kind of looked passed it and take all the positives from that season and build on them for next year.
With your parents living in Australia, was it nice for them to be able to come out to some of your races and have that support there this summer?
So growing up I always had my family take me to the races, mom and dad would drive to almost every round. So out here [in America] it’s a little different not having my family at all the rounds. I’m lucky enough that my mom is retired, so she kind of takes the pressure off me a little and tries to come to as many races as she can afford and that she can spare some time to come over, you know, with other being back home in Australia it’s hard but I want to say maybe 60 percent of my races my mom is at. Which for me is huge. I’d like my whole family there, but having my mom is a huge relief for me because it kind of makes me feel a little bit more comfortable and a little bit more at home so to speak.