Photo by: Hoppenworld
These “Privateer Showcase” interviews presented by Race Tech Suspension at MotoXAddicts tell the stories of the guys in the trenches week in and week out just trying to chase their dream of racing professional Motocross and Supercross. While the riders at the front of the pack get the money, the T.V. time and the glory that goes with it, there’s a huge pack of kids just hoping to become regulars in the main events. We will talk to them and get their stories about trying to break through to that next level with little or no help.
This week’s “Privateer Showcase” features a privateer who traveled all the way from Australia to take on the American dream on his own dime. It’s one thing to be from here and chase the dream, but it’s a different animal when you leave the comfort of your home country with no factory ride and nothing promised to you when you arrive. You have your bags, your bike and the hope that your talent and desire to succeed will be enough when you get there.
For Hayden Mellross, his American career was supposed to start during the 2015 Monster Energy Supercross series, but injuries kept his dream on ice until the 2015 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship kicked off at the Hangtown National. At the opening round the #450 scored no points, but after getting acclimated to the way we do it here in the States, Hayden scored points in both motos at Glen Helen. Six rounds in now, Hayden has scored points in six of the twelve motos and even finished as high as thirteenth overall at the Tennessee National.
Because, like a lot of fans, we were wondering what Hayden’s story is, we decided to give him a call for this week’s “Privateer Showcase.” Check out the conversation we had with Hayden below.
Hayden, because you’re from Australia, a lot of people really don’t know much about you. I read somewhere that you started riding at 2 years old? How’d that happen first of all?
Yeah, it was around two. I could ride a motorcycle with training wheels before I could ride a bicycle. It’s just my whole family was kind of into the dirt bike riding and stuff like that. They all had bikes and all enjoyed it, so I started at a young age and got introduced to it that way. I didn’t start racing until I was like five or six, but I started riding on training wheels and pretty much fell in love with it from the moment I got on it.
What’s the amateur motocross stuff like over in Australia? Is there anything like Loretta’s over there that serves as a breeding ground?
We don’t honestly have too much amateur stuff. We have a lot of local races; pretty much all the local clubs have a five or six round series, and then from there, you probably go to a state title where each state probably has about three rounds. Depending on which state you live in, those series are considered pretty renowned titles. Also, we have the Australian National titles, which is just one per year, and I believe it’s a week long, similar to Loretta’s. Not a whole lot of amateur nationals. Still a decent amount of racing, just not many national level races.
Before heading here to the U.S., what were your accomplishments in professional Australian Nationals and Supercross?
Last year I raced the 450 class in the Australian Motocrosss series and finished 7th overall in the Championship. It wasn’t too bad, but I was kind of fighting a few things last year. I was definitely inexperienced, and I learned a lot along the way so it was kind of a big learning year in Motocross. In Supercross, I went back to the 250 bike because, before I raced Supercross in Australia, I had plans that I was returning here after the season was over.
You were solid on the 250 in the SX2 class back in Australia if I remember right. You finished the season in the top five, correct?
Yeah, I got two consecutive third place finishes at rounds 4 and 5, but I decided like one week before round 1 that I was going to do it. I was pretty unprepared, but come the last couple rounds, I was starting to get a lot better and a lot more confident with bike. I finished the series off with two third places. It was pretty solid from where I was a week into it. I missed out on third in the championship by one point, so that to me was a pretty good stepping stone. I was just using it to pretty much condition myself and to just stay calm before I came over to race in America.
What made you decide to pack your bags and head to America? I noticed before A1 you had a GoFundMe page going and were trying to get yourself a little help.
I was going to race in Australia because obviously my family is back home. I love being with my family and hanging out with them, but nothing really came of it. We thought if I’m going to be a privateer, I’m going to pay to go, pretty much pay to follow my dream. We decided we might as well do it in America. It might be a little bit more expensive, but the benefit is a whole lot more. You get to ride on some of the best tracks. We get to race against some of the best in the world and we might pay to ride, but the experience you can never take away. So we decided to do it over here just to give it a shot and see how it goes. I tried to save up as much as I could before I came over here, but a lot of it is backed my parents. They’re like every parent; they want what’s best for me. They just want to see me happy and to succeed. I love racing Motocross and I want to be in America for a very long time, so I decided to come over here and train as hard as I could and try to do the best I can. I want to get the results, not just for me, but for my family and everybody that’s behind me.
You didn’t race Supercross in 2015, though. What happened to that plan, and do you plan on racing Monster Energy Supercross in ’16?
Definitely. I would like to. I’m definitely planning on doing it next year for sure. It just obviously depends on how the funding goes, but so far, I want do that. I didn’t race Supercross this year just because I broke my leg twice, unfortunately, in December. I’d only been in America for roughly about three weeks and things were moving fast. I was training for Supercross and feeling quite good on the bike, but a little wire in my stator snapped in the motor and the bike shut off on the up ramp, so I pretty much ejected and broke my leg. It was really, really hard to wrap my head around that it wasn’t my fault, but we are riding a machine and you’re not perfect all the time.
I was off the bike for six to eight weeks and had the go ahead from the doctors and everybody else, so I started riding again. Then, same situation, I was three weeks into my training and I come out of a slick right hander, lost a bit of traction and just cased a triple into a rhythm section. I didn’t crash. I just cased it and rode off part of the track and rode straight back to the shed and parked the bike and pretty much knew exactly what was going on. So that was the Tuesday before Arlington, in Round 1 for the East Coast, so it was definitely a frustrating year, very challenging mentally, just trying to tell myself it’s not my fault and all this stuff.
Two broken legs is a tough pill to swallow after traveling all this way to race. I actually was wondering why you didn’t show up for Supercross. I know you, while it’s not a lot, you did get $1,500 towards the year from the GoFundMe you started online.
Yeah, I only got $1,500, but I did a little thing for the guys that did donate, and a bunch of family and friends donated. I did a little thing on the back of my helmet. If you look on my Instagram you can actually see the picture. For everybody that donated, they got their name printed out in a collage on the back of my race helmet. I didn’t make a whole lot, but what I did make entered me into a few events and that’s a start. I’m not going to complain about that. Every little bit in this sport counts. Whether it’s $100 to $10,000, every little bit can be put towards some different category.
No doubt. Now we’re six rounds into your first Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship campaign and you’re 24th in the 250MX championship. You’re surprising a lot of people with your speed, especially with your 13th overall at Muddy Creek. How would you rate your season so far?
I’m happy, but also I’m not happy. The first four rounds were very tough, coming back from injury and learning everything. The biggest thing about this year is going to be learning. I’m content with it, but at the same time, with getting thirteenth overall at Muddy Creek, I know I can do it. To back that up at High Point I had two big crashes in both motos. I mean stuff happens like that in the races, so I wasn’t too down, but I know top fifteen is where I am, and I’m quite confident that I can run that pace. It’s just obviously you need a lot to go your way. It’s not just riding well. You can’t be involved in any crashes or anything like that. I would like to finish the rest of the series out with a few more top fifteens. If not, I’d like to crack the top ten towards the last couple of rounds. That’s my ultimate goal, and if I can do that then I honestly think I can call the season a success.
Now that you’ve raced six races, how would you rate the speed here in America? Is it about what you expected?
The intensity is more, definitely. The speed is a lot faster. The hype about it was very high, but going into it, I was kind of, didn’t really put any expectations on it at round one because I thought let’s just go in and learn and learn the race and learn the speed everything like that and we can build from that. So definitely, up to round one, I was a bit shocked on how much the speed and that was compared to back home. Back home we have two or three guys that are really fast and that’s it. Here, I’m in the top twenty, and I’m battling for every single position I can get, so the intensity and the depth of the class is definitely really high.
I know you’re training with former top pro Tim Ferry. How did you meet Tim, and how’s that going?
It’s going great. I met Tim probably a year and a half ago. I was over here training and I met him and I trained with him for about two months before the Australian Motocross season started. It was in that two months I learned a lot and had so much fun just on the motorcycle. I went home, and for the eight, nine months I was in Australia, I’ve always wanted to come back and to keep training with him. Towards the end of the season in Australia we kind of lined it up and talked to him for a fair bit quite consistently and arranged this year to get on his program and try to make some stuff happen.
Timmy has a solid stable of guys he trains now too. Are you riding with Timmy’s other riders at the same time and kind of gauging yourself against them?
Yeah, definitely. Like today, we had Martin Davolos, RJ Hamphire and Eric Grondahl. That’s pretty much the 250 riders that we ride with. We have Kenny Roczen that rides here with us as well, and tomorrow, for example, we’re going to ride at Christophe Pourcel’s house. I’ve definitely got a great group of riders to learn off and to kind of just watch and pick up as much as I can. It’s a benefit in itself.
Last weekend at Budds Creek was a tough one with Mother Nature blasting the circuit. How did you like the mud last weekend?
It was interesting. In Moto 1, I was like fourteenth the majority of the race, and then I crashed going down one of the downhills, went back four positions and finished in eighteenth in Moto 1. It wasn’t terrible for Moto 1. Then in Moto 2, I was in a sixteenth position and my bike started just making this noise, and then all of a sudden she called it quits on me. I had to push my bike back to the pits. It could have been quite a positive weekend if I had finished Moto 2 inside the top 20 again. I could have maybe come out of seventeenth, eighteenth, position overall which would have been great. Unfortunately, they are a machine and when they take mud like that then they’re prone to blow up.
You’re obviously pretty much a full privateer, but you do get some help from week to week. Let’s give some love to the people and companies helping you get to the races in 2015?
Yes, for sure. Well, I definitely want to start with my mom and dad because they’re the backbone to my year here in America and definitely want to thank them a lot. Also, Storm Lake Honda, TiLube, Skullcandy and Buddy Brooks Racing—who’s also my mechanic and pretty much worked endlessly to get my motors ready and bike up to top notch for the weekend. Factory Connection, 6D, Alias, Scott Goggles and Dedicated Ride Co. They’re pretty much the ones I can name off the top off my head that have definitely kind of dug deep with me and given me as much as support as I could possibly ask for.
Well, thanks for talking to us, Hayden, and good luck next weekend at Red Bud. You’ll love Red Bud, one of the best tracks in the world and the best track in the U.S. in my opinion.
Looks like it. Everyone says it’s the best weekend too.
Yeah, if you’re into the parties and libations that is the place to be for the 4th of July weekend. (Laughs) But you’re unfortunately racing.
(laughs) Yeah, for sure. That’s all good. I appreciate the call. Thank you very much.