Hard to believe, but we're now half way through the 2018 AMA Flat Track season. Nine rounds gone, nine to go - and defending champion and Red Torpedo's USA brand ambassador Jared Mees is leading the Championship by 59 points ahead of Henry Wiles in second and Mees's Indian Motorcycles team mate Brad Baker in third.
Jared Mees's 2017 Season
Mees totally blitzed last season's AMA Flat Track Championship taking 17 podium finishes from 18 starts. He racked up 10 wins, six 2nd place finishes and one 3rd. And for those counting - he didn't make the start at the Lima Half Mile. He also nailed a dirt bike grand slam: that's a TT, short track, half mile and mile win to complete one of the best seasons witnessed in AMA Flat Track. It was so utterly dominant that he had secured the Championship by the Williams Grove Half Mile - with two rounds still to go.
Jared Mees, Indian FTR750 at Red Mile, Lexington, Kentucky
Before the 2018 season got underway, the pundits began to consider how it might pan out. Could "The Jammer" repeat a similar level of performance in AMA Flat Track in 2018? Would Harley Davidson bounce back and give Indian a run for their money? Could Mees's "Wrecking Crew" team mates Brad Baker and Bryan Smith up their games and push for the title? And what about other riders like Jeff Carver, Kenny Coolbeth, Briar Bauman and Henry Wiles - could any of them get into the mix and run at the sharp end?
The "Hate to Lose" 'Killer Instinct'
Like all elite sportsmen / women, Jared Mees is out to win. Nothing unusual there. World class athletes, irrespective of their sport, aren't there to make up the numbers. They're out to be the best they can possibly be, to beat the competition, to achieve PBs, to re-write the history books.....assuming they've got what it takes. At present, Jared Mees seems to be operating on a different planet compared to his fellow competitors. He's a massive talent as a racer. That's a given. But, fundamental though that is, there's a lot more to it all than just that. He's a winning machine - and he absolutely hates to lose.
The No 1 Bike - at the front
In interviews, Mees has to be about one of the most positive sounding athletes on the planet. It's not unusual for US athletes to be generally more comfortable at readily articulating a positive mental attitude and talking about success, achieving and winning. Michael Johnson, Ali and Kenny Roberts could hardly have been regarded as shrinking violets when it came to describing their strengths and articulating their goals. Normally, there never appears to be even a chink of doubt or a negative thought. But such was the nature of Mees's dominance last year that even he, with his unshakeable self confidence, still wondered whether he could ever repeat such a memorable year in 2018. In a pre-season interview he said:
"The scary thing for me is that I don't know if I can ever repeat such an historical, fun year. It's almost like - man, anything less than I did this (2017) year is going to be a little bit disappointing. But at the end of the day, we did it and not many riders and racers have ever done what we have done - and we'll try to go back next year and try to do the best we can and try to hit our marks." (Jared Mees)
So, how's he been doing at the half way point? Hitting his marks? Oh yeh. But he hasn't just hit them - he's obliterated them. He would have nailed a 2018 dirt bike grand slam at the very first opportunity on May 12 had it not been for the Atlanta disqualification for a contravention of tyre testing regulations. He won the first mile (Arizona) of the season and was already sitting with the necessary TT win (Daytona) and a half mile - well, actually, two half miles - Texas and Calistoga. And whilst he now can't better his 17 podiums of 2017 on account of what happened at Atlanta, he can equal it if he stays out of trouble and race fit.
Jared Mees: Winning Machine
It's his win rate that's way ahead of this point last year. Mees has won seven races from nine starts - a 78% win rate (and it could have been 8 from 9) - which is astonishing. Last year he had "only" won 4 races after 9 rounds - a 44% win rate.
Mees celebrates his win at the Calistoga Half Mile
"Some people say that winning isn't everything. I beg to differ - I think winning is everything in my opinion. We work very hard to win and to be at the level we are. The 2017 Championship was one to remember for me because it was my 5th Championship. But man - the way we dominated the season on the new Indian motorcycle was just phenomenal." (Jared Mees)
Although anything can happen during a season, Mees is currently 59 points ahead, looking in imperious form and stacking up consecutive wins. Furthermore, there's nobody consistently challenging him. Henry Wiles is lying in second place in the Championship with one 2nd, two 3rds, two 4ths, two 5ths and two 7th place finishes - so he's scoring consistently. But he's not winning.
The only guy that's taken a race from Mees is Jeff Carver - at the Springfield Mile by 0.819 seconds. Carver also ran him very close (0.114 secs) at the Calistoga Half Mile but Mees took it. Kenny Coolbeth "inherited" Atlanta round 2 having been moved up from second. But It's also the nature of some of Jared Mees's wins that's remarkable. He's just won his fourth mile of the season (Oklahoma) out of five mile races so far, by nearly 13 seconds! He also bagged Arizona, Sacramento and The Red Mile, Lexington, Kentucky.
A familiar sight in the world of flat track racing
In the next flat track blog we'll take a closer look at the first nine races, analyse some of the other riders' performances against Mees's and examine how the other manufacturers have been fairing against the might of the Indian Scout FTR 750. (Basically, not that well!)
Next race: Lima Half Mile, June 30, 2018
📷 Dave Hoenig (Flat Track Fotos)