The name Hayden Mellross to Australian fans usually conjures up two memorable moments, neither of them pretty. One is the heart break of losing the Australian SX2 Supercross Championship when his bike stopped on the final lap, at the final round of the championship in Sydney, while leading and causing a DNF that saw defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. The other is his monumental crash in the 2016 AMA SX where both he and his bike went hurdling over a berm and onto an infield fence causing riders and teams to scatter as the carnage flashed before their eyes.But Mellross is more than that and in his seventh year since turning pro, he has packed an awful lot in. Not long after winning the Australian junior Motocross Championship in 2011, Mellross went to the US and started riding and training at the Millsaps Training Facility in Georgia. As he speed grew in the US, he started to get assistance from support teams and was climbing the US ladder one wrung at a time.
Then in 2014, he returned to Australia for a full season but by 2015, he was back in the US working with former pro and factory racer, Tim Ferry, as his coach and mentor. His improvement was obvious, and he was again in favour with US teams picking up rides for the 250cc Supercross series. In between the US stints he would come home at the end of the US season and contest the Australian Supercross Championship.
But for 2019, he elected to stay put in Australia and experienced possibly his best season yet. He was a front runner in the MX1 MX Nationals and led the championship on multiple occasions, he proved he could ride a range of surfaces and conditions and established himself as a genuine MX1 contender. All was rosy until a fall at the Moree round of the MX Nats were his knee twisted in a simple front end washout and with the instant jolt of pain shoot through his body, Mellross knew exactly what happened.
Still, he toughed it out at the final round at Coolum just a week later to secure third in the MX1 championship and that resilience, combined with his new found speed, caught the eye of the CDR Yamaha Monster Energy Team owner, Craig Dack.
Mellross checked himself in for surgery on the knee but was comforted in the fact that he had a CDR Yamaha Monster Energy Team contract in his pocket and that when the 2020 season rolls around, he would be part of the most successful team in the pits.
He was cleared to ride in February and working tirelessly to be ready for the start of the MX Nationals on April 4. But the Covid -19 virus soon put and end to that, but the delayed start gives the 24 year old, Young resident time to gel with his new team and his YZ450F and come out all guns blazing when the MX Nationals gets under way.
Back on the bike a while now, how is it coming along?
It’s going really well. I’m now 10 weeks since I have been cleared to ride and I gave my knee the full six months recovery and it feels really strong. My fitness has come back quickly, and I felt comfortable on the bike straight away. My speed was the last thing to come but with some bike time, it has returned and while not as fast as I want to be, everything is on track and I’m enjoying getting back to full strength and speed.
You did a race at Wonthaggi not long after you got back on. What does a race like that do you for?
On paper, Wonthaggi looked awful, but when we dissected what happened over the weekend, it was a very positive weekend for both me and the team. On the Saturday, there wasn’t a lap where I didn’t have arm pump or wasn’t hurting but with each race we were able to make improvements, both within myself and the bike and I left there confident with what we had achieved.
Race one and I was miles out of the lead, by the end of the weekend, I was challenging for the lead and looking for places to pass and that really changes your mind set. You go from a defensive rider just trying to log laps, to an attacking rider wanting to get to the front and go faster.
From there, we did a King of MX race at Lakes here in New South Wales and it was another step forward. My starts were good, my fitness was strong, and my speed was consistent. There I was racing guys like Aaron Tanti and I was able to win each race and keep improving.
We also did a test day with the team at Horsham and while I wasn’t right on Kirk’s time, I was pretty close and considering where I was just a month prior to that, I have come along way and feel it had been a lead up for me heading towards round one.
You have raced Yamaha’s a several times throughout your career, but not the YZ450F. How is the bike and how are you developing with the CDR Yamaha Monster Energy Team?
I have actually spent a lot of time on the YZ450F. With the team support I had in the US for the final few years, I had a 450 to ride and train on during the week so I have logged a lot of laps on the 450, but they were slightly different to the current bike.
When I jumped on the CDR bike, I made some small adjustments to the handlebars, the seat height and a few minor things and I think my comment to Craig was on the day, “this is the easiest bike to ride I have ever had.” Since then, we have barely changed a thing and I’m really happy with the package we have.
Career wise, your decision to come back to Australia and race our domestic championships looks to be the right one, was there a reason why you didn’t stay in the US after being there so long?
My time in the US was predominately self-funded and I guess it got to the point where I had to make some tough decisions and ensure I set myself up in life and achieved some goals I have. I’m at an age where I need to make the most of what is a short career in racing, so the best thing for me was to come home and race in Australia. I loved my time in the US and it was an amazing experience but for me, this is my time to make the most of what I have.
Then signing with CDR Yamaha this year was easy. It was a simple process that advanced quickly with Craig as we both had the same goals and vision. My contract was done, and I couldn’t be happier to be on the most successful 450 team in Australia.
Your speed in motocross in 2019 surprised plenty of people. You hadn’t really set the world on fire in terms of MX but last year you were right in championship contention from round one. Was there something that inspired this mx revival?
A couple of things stand out for me here regarding that question. Firstly, I’m pretty big for a 250 as I’m around 80kgs without gear so it’s always a struggle to race a smaller bike when you give away so much weight to some of your rivals.
The other is, when I analyse my 2019 season, I don’t think it was speed that was my strongest asset, it was consistency. Up until I did my knee, the worst I had finished in a moto was fourth. The worst I had finished in a round, was fourth. So, the reason I was able to be in the points contention was consistency and my fitness to be in it every race, on every track, until Moree.
For 2020, I know that I have consistency so know we are working on building my speed. I know they don’t have Superpole this year, but I was only ever in one of those and when you consider how many points a rider can gain or lose by winning a few of them, then speed becomes a handy tool. It’s something I’m still working on and hope it shows in this years’ championship.
How did the relationship with Tim Ferry begin and does he still offer any assistance or advice to you?
The Ferry’s are a well-known motocross family in the US and they basically took my under their wing when I was living over there. They treated me so well and Tim has a huge amount of knowledge that he still provides me with today.
Even regarding my knee surgery, Tim and I had come up with a 10 week program that took me through the moment I got on the bike to the opening round at Horsham. They are great people and awesome to have in my corner.
This years’ MX Nationals will have some back to back rounds on the same weekend and the return of traditional 30 minute races, does that change the way you prepare for it?
As I mentioned earlier, I think my fitness and consistency is a strength of mine so the return to two, thirty minute motos is something I like and in favour of. I love a good, challenging 30 minute race and it can be a huge factor in a race.
I’m probably not a fan of the back to back days. Australia is the only place in the world that does it and its places a huge demand not just on the riders but also the mechanics and the teams. My worst fear is the injury rate late in the second day as fatigue sets in and I hope that doesn’t occur. The level in Australian racing is high and the speed is improving so I hope injuries stay low and we can continue to grow our series. It’s the same for everyone, but these are my concerns.
The 2020 MX1 class looks to be as good as its been in a while with several riders capable of winning races and rounds. Yourself, Kirk, Todd, Dean, Brett Metcalfe and possibly Luke Clout appear to be the obvious contenders, what’s it going to take to beat five seasoned veterans like that?
For me, I like to dissect my opponents and work out their strengths and weakness verse mine so I have a better understanding of them and what makes them tick. I did the same last year and I was able to work out a plan that saw me lead the championship. All those guys are great riders, and all have their own strong points. I need to capitalise on the things that makes me a good rider or at the tracks that favour me and do well in those situations then when things aren’t in my favour, find a way to minimise the damage and keep myself in contention. I think it will be an awesome championship and I can’t wait to get started.