In two days, the flames of an over 100-year-old rivalry will be stoked once again as Indian Motorcycle Co and Harley-Davidson square off at the Daytona TT. Ever since Indian announced its return to flat track racing, a palpable buzz has surrounded the 2017 American Flat Track season. Eyebrows raised even more when Indian’s FTR750 made a strong showing in its initial outing at the Santa Rosa Mile as the bike proved competitive right out of the gate. Indian wasted no time showing it meant business when it resurrected its Wrecking Crew and enlisted the services of three of the fastest, baddest flat trackers around for the new team. Among them was four-time Grand National Champion and 2016 X Games Gold Medalist Jared Mees who not only will race for the team but has been instrumental in developing the FTR750 as a test rider.
We had a chance to chat with Mees ahead of Thursday’s race in Daytona to talk about his new team and motorcycle.
After breaking a collarbone during testing during the off-season, an injury that prevented him from competing in MotoGP champion Marc Marquez’s Superprestigio event, we asked Mees if he’s full strength heading into the season. He reassured us he’s healed up completely and even traveled to Australia back in January to compete in the Troy Bayliss Classic where he picked up the win.
“I am fully healthy. I feel like I am prepared as best as I can be, probably better than ever. I spent a lot of the winter here in Florida and did a lot of motocross training and a lot of training on the bicycle and made sure I was fit because the ol’ Indian FTR’s got a lot of power.”
After winning several titles on Harley’s XR750, we were curious why Mees rolled the dice and signed on with Indian.
“I actually kind of rolled the dice early. I actually gave my contract up in 2016 to be a test rider for the Indian Motorcycle Company. I guess what it came down to is I see a lot of drive and a lot of strength from the Indian Motorcycle guys and started talking to them back in January and February of 2016. During Florida basically this time a year ago, I spoke with Reid, and speaking to Reid one-on-one and hearing how ambitious they were about coming back to flat track and how they wanted to win, to hear their drive was huge. So right after Florida I flew up and hung out with those guys and spoke to them a little more in-depth and put together a program for me to be a test rider. I saw a lot of strength on the Indian side to become a part of their program and become a part of their family.
“I’m very happy with the decision I made because I was able to get a lot of time on the motorcycle and really see if it was and is going to be a player. And I’ll be honest with you. At my point and time in my career, being 30-years-old and launching championships back-to-back, I wasn’t really looking to be in a position to where I couldn’t go to the race track and win. Being able to go out there and test the waters in 2016 and then when it came time to go OK, we want you to be one of the racers do you want to be one it was like heck yeah let’s get it done and over with, where do I sign. The way it played out and the way it went last year for me was like picture perfect and it was an honor to be the test rider for it.”
When asked about the new schedule for this year, with new tracks, more TTs, and the switch to Twins for the GNC1 class for all races, Mees said he’s excited about how well-balanced the schedule is and how being such a strong rider on Twins should work in his favor. On that note, we were curious about how the FTR750 would fare on a TT.
“Nobody knew really what to expect with jumping them but when I first tested it I was pretty blown away by how good the motorcycle jumps. I got a great suspension guy and a great package so they definitely built the suspension according to the jumps and weight of the motorcycle.
“I feel like we can go back and test for another three or four weeks and probably gain some more but the thing is everybody’s in the same boat. It’s a new project, it’s a new forum of the Twins racing on the TTs, I feel like the Indian motorcycle is ahead of the game compared to most and we’re going to be prepared right.
“Everything else you pretty much check off the list is positive. It handles great, it seems to be very fast, accelerates good and if it’s too fast we have exhaust systems and maps and things like that, the motorcycle’s so tunable we can do whatever we want with it.
“The Indian’s very narrow or narrow feeling compared to what I’ve always run in the past. I feel like it’s going to be a pretty strong motorcycle everywhere. We’ll see come Thursday at the Daytona TT what’s the best package out there is but I’m pretty confident I’m on the best package.”
American Iron will be at the race Thursday night so be sure to check out our Facebook page for posts and updates. Until then, we leave you with Mees’ closing statement.
“I’ll be heavily surprised if one of the Indian’s doesn’t win the championship this year. I’m pretty pumped and excited. I feel like one of us three will be the champion for sure. Of course, more than anything, I hope it’s me.”