By: Casey Davis | @air_d617
Like most mechanics, Jamie Ellis got his start as a wrench after spending a number of years in the saddle racing dirt bikes as a kid, but found himself intrigued by the actual machines themselves; specifically the motors. Fast forward a few years and you’ll see that Ellis now owns a motor modifications company called Twisted Development that specializes in providing top-notch motor work for motocross racers. We sat down with Jamie recently to hear more about Twisted Development and to hear about how he got his start in the industry.
Jamie, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do over at Twisted Development.
My name is Jamie Ellis and I own Twisted Development. I grew up in Lake Charles, Louisiana and raced motocross throughout my childhood. I went off to college to work on airplanes and helicopters and I graduated with an Associates degree, as well as a certificate. Not long after I graduated, I went on the road with a former sponsor of mine that had worked on my motors and suspension when I was racing. Randall Harris at Pro Works Racing just started his own Supercross team and he said to me, “You just graduated, so you should come out one the road with us!” That was the entire 2005 season, and I did that with Jeff Dement. That’s essentially how I got my start in the industry.
For those that aren’t quite familiar with Twisted Development and what it is that you guys do, give us a rundown of the company.
Twisted development is a motor modifications company. The resources that we have as a company allow us to get into just about anything we want to get into when it comes to motors. A development company was the way that I wanted to set myself up because I knew there would be room for growth and evolution down that path. Twisted Development handles everything from 50cc motors to 450cc Supercross motors, as well as automobile development for trophy carts and other race cars of that nature. We actually won a championship last year in that particular series and we’re in the points lead again this year. We like to think of ourselves as a one-stop shop that’s capable of doing anything that you can think of including electronic work, piston design, and everything in between. From start to finish, we are probably one of the only companies that offer every type of part or service to the public. With that being said, we do not have a race spec for faster riders and a customer spec for the average joe that comes into the shop. Our customers come to us because they know we give – for lack of a better term – a custom experience to dial in their machine to their exact liking. We connect everybody with the same products and services no matter your skill or ability.
Prior to the creation of Twisted Development, though, you worked as a motor guy for Suzuki, right?
Yeah, exactly. After working as a full-time race mechanic for a number of years, I eventually moved into the Crew Chief position at Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki.
What made you make the eventual switch from Crew Chief to motor man and business owner?
I learned early on that there were very few, very successful motocross mechanics – such as Carlos Rivera and Mike Gosselear – who have each made a successful living as respected race mechanics. With that in my mind, I felt that my route was to find a specific trade. I really didn’t want to be on the road for the rest of my life and I didn’t want to to be a race mechanic forever. I wanted to be successful and happy with my career choice, so that’s why I decided to specialize in motor work. Motors naturally come easy to me, and I believe suspension entails a lot of theory, so sticking to engines was a no-brainer.
At what point in your life did you find yourself gravitating towards motors?
For me, it was the feeling of value that brought that interest to me towards motors. I really felt that the life of a race mechanic was a cutthroat, competitive environment with not a lot of stability. After so many years of having to renew your contract every year or two and having to constantly abide by certain deals can take a toll on someone. Again, stability is not at the forefront of a mechanic’s life but that doesn’t go for everyone! The choice to make the switch was easy for me because I knew that I still wanted to do something of value without some of the other stuff involved. For my career path, I wanted to be a specialist in motorcross, and to be a specialist you have to consistently accept the change and evolution of the sport. Progression is extremely important in every aspect of life, and I’m a firm believer that if you remain unchanged for too long you will go stir-crazy. I’m the kind of guy that needs that constant progression and it shows every year when we get new motors. I’ve always looked up to Mitch Payton at Pro Circuit because he had such an advantage over everyone else with a race oriented company because he was able to manufacturer parts for all makes and models, and I’ve always dreamed of that scenario for myself, which is where I am now. To see all of that come to life over the years has been really cool, and I can honestly say that the stuff that I’ve seen from one bike brand to the other has ultimately made Twisted Development a very well-rounded shop. As the engine builder at Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki, I built extremely good Suzuki RM-Z 250s and 450s, but I didn’t have the versatility that I have now. I will say that one of my biggest influences in Twisted was Brian Deegan. I owe a lot of respect to Brian because he took a chance on me giving me a part-time salary job working for him building motors for his kids. Without the money that I earned from working for Brian, I really wouldn’t have been able to stand on my own. It’s important to never forget those that help to you on your way to success.
When you eventually got to the startup of Twisted, how were you able to run it in the beginning?
In 2014, I was still the Crew Chief for Rockstar Energy Racing and we had just won the West Coast Supercross championship thanks to Jason Anderson. With KTM taking over all of the development in Austria, there wasn’t much room for me as a development guy or a freethinker to succeed. Myself and the team parted ways at the end of the 2014 racing season, and that’s when I began to build the company in my garage. John Duffy at Applied Racing has been like a business mentor of mine for sometime now, so whenever I run into a problem he’s always my go-to guy. John had a place where I could put my dyno, so I did the motor work in my garage, assembled the bikes and drove to John’s place to use my dyno. It was a unique situation, but I was still capable of tuning bikes to my liking, while still producing a reliable product. I wouldn’t be where I am and Twisted wouldn’t be what it is without those people that helped me.