The AFT Interview: Ryan Wells
After a solid rookie season in American Flat Track’s AFT Twins class in 2017, Ryan Wells turned heads with the recent announcement of his signing with Richie Morris Racing and his return to AFT Singles for 2018. We had a chance to talk to Wells about his 2017 season, his plans for next year, and why the 2016 Singles champion made the big move.
You had a good rookie effort in AFT Twins, winning 2017 Rookie of the Year honors. Looking back, did the season meet your expectations? How would you grade yourself?
I think I did fairly well, and better than a lot of people expected. I would have liked to have done better at a couple of races, and I made some rookie mistakes. In Twins you can’t do that; you have to be sharp and forceful at once, and any small mental lapses can hurt you a little. The top guys don’t make those mistakes very often, so I learned a lot there, and it’s all stuff I can fix. I would have liked to have gotten a couple more top-five finishes, and been more consistent, but overall I can’t really complain. I think I did pretty well compared to a lot of the rookies that have come through recently.
You’re moving back to AFT Singles next season. Can you explain a little about the decision?
Basically, after my rookie year in AFT Twins [in 2017], I thought I performed well enough to secure a Twins ride. But it didn’t happen. So at that point I was just looking at what would be the smartest option for me. I spoke with Richie and the RMR team and they let me know what they had in mind, and I told them about my plans. And it just sorta clicked. We’re looking at it as a side step, not a step back, because we all know there’s more than one route to get to the same goal at the end of the tunnel.
It’s really the smartest thing for me right now. It’ll generate good exposure, and I’ll be able to start building my name again and putting myself back on the map, hopefully going back to the Twins class at some point in the near future. I feel like I’m still young enough to where this decision is not too critical. I just definitely think there’s still room for me to grow and be a better rider in general.
A lot of what it came down to, really, was pride. I could have done a Twins thing, but with the level of competition in that class right now, it would have been tough to try to get to the top by yourself and not have the support of a good team behind you. Going back to Singles this year is only going to give me that sort of quality team again as I transition back into the Twins class.
Twins is the premier class, obviously, one just about everyone wants to be in. But has the restructuring of these classes in the championship made the Twins and Singles stand on their own?
Absolutely. People can say what they want about the Singles class, but it’s definitely not an easy category, or a minor one. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how many times you’ve ridden them. Singles is still a championship in the professional ranks. Some people don’t look at it that way yet, but I think it’s getting more respect, and I think a lot more people are seeing it as what it really is: a top-shelf class. So the restructuring definitely made it like there are basically two premier classes. Especially when you look at how legit the Singles class was this past season.
It’s definitely going to be tough in 2018 no matter what class you’re in. That’s my point. I felt that it was important to have a good team, so it was obvious to me that that’s the route I should take. It doesn’t matter which class it is; RMR is a very good team, and we’re going forward. I’m looking for longevity here, a good multi-year plan, and I think we have that.
Your goals for 2018?
I want to win races and win the championship. Obviously, everybody knows that I’ve already done it, but I’m not taking it lightly this year. I want to be even better than I was [in 2016], and I want to do better. I want to win that championship again. I know no singles rider has ever won it twice. I think it would be a cool accomplishment to win that thing twice.
Are you going to stay in Michigan?
That’s my plan. Right now I want to keep working out and training and riding with Bryan Smith. The nice thing is, with this team, even though we’re not in the same state, James Hart, who’s my main mechanic, is in Illinois – not too far away. I was there this past weekend looking at the bikes and talking up a game plan. It’s a close drive and there are a lot of people and racetracks right around in that area too, so it works out pretty well.