Into top gear

After the pandemic put Tom Drane’s racing career on hold for half of last year, he’s planning to take things up a notch in 2021 and take on the world… By Rob Johnson

Before the start of 2020, Tom Drane’s racing career was going from strength to strength. The previous year he had raced 42 weekends out of 52. He had started the year competing in the Australian Superbike Series, and in the Oceania Junior Cup. “He only got in one round at Phillip Island and then everything got shut down,” his mum, Lisa, explains.

The family had also booked a return to Ohio in the US for Tom to compete in the AMA Flat Track Grand Nationals. He had finished second overall there in 2019 and had a plan to defend his championship.

“His younger brother Sam was going over as well to compete again,” says Lisa. “We would have been over there for a month, and that was going to be in June last year.”

But when you’re as focused on racing as Tom is, it’ll take more than a global pandemic to shut down your dream.

“He hated not being able to get onto a bike,” she recalls. “But he knew what he wanted to do, so he just made sure that he trained at home. He’s a very outside kind of kid—there’s no locking him up inside playing video games or anything like that.

“He was out on his bike, just trying to do the best he could knowing that he had to be fit and ready to go as soon as they gave him the okay to keep going. “His training at home was literally jogging, riding a pushbike, and we’ve got a track out the front of our house, so he could do some dirt-track racing.”

THE WORLD AWAITS

Tom went seven months without racing. Finally, towards the end of November, the second and third rounds of the Oceania Junior Cup were run, finishing off the competition that had started before the lockdowns. He ended up winning the round placing him second overall in the championship—pretty impressive given he’d not been on a track for more than half the year.

All things going to plan, then, 2021 will be an even bigger year for him. This year Tom tuns 15. He was selected to compete for Australia in the Asia Talent Cup in Qatar on 17 March.

“He’ll be there for a full month. Matt, his dad, will go with him as the crew for him. There are only three kids from Australia that have been selected. So he’s got a lot of training ahead of him.” After Qatar, he will be racing in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Japan, between September and November.

“He’s also competing in the Australian Superbike Series in the 300 YMI Supersport, and the Y3 Cup as well,” says Lisa. “So he’s got a lot of racing to be done. The local meets will take him from The Bend in South Australia to Phillip Island in Victoria, to Morgan Park in Queensland.”

DRIVING FORCE

Tom’s goals for the year involve working his way towards the top of all these competitions. “He obviously wants to do his best in the Asia Talent Cup, and get up to the pointy end of that, and also with the 300 series in the Australian Superbikes,” says Lisa. “He’s the kind of kid that if he sets his mind to something, he’ll just keep on working towards it until he gets it. Even though he’s the age he is, he’s just got that drive about him. If he knows getting up at six o’clock every morning to go running, swimming, and riding is going to help him, he’ll be up.

“His passion is motor sport, obviously. He’s been riding a bike since he was two and a half. He started racing when he was four in dirt track. Between the age of four and now, he’s won 15 Australian dirt-track championships, 20 state championships, and he’s also won three American championships as well.

“He swapped over to road racing, because he wants to eventually move onto MotoGP like Marc Marquez or Valentino Rossi. I think that’s every kid’s dream, but he’s just got to focus on what he’s doing and keep working towards it.”

STRIVING TO BE THE BEST

While the situation with the pandemic is still uncertain (even as vaccination programs are rolled out across the world), Lisa isn’t too concerned with the amount of travel they have lined up.

“He’s young, fit, healthy, the vaccine’s rolling out soon and he’ll be eligible to get that because he’s an athlete travelling overseas,” she says. “I’m probably more nervous about Matt and Tom being locked down in quarantine together for two weeks in a motel room, because I think they’ll drive each other nuts.”

One thing that helps is sponsorship—and Tom has a new sponsor on board this year in the form of CSS supplier ICCONS.

“We have been following with interest the progress of Team Drane,” says ICCONS managing director Philip Rose. “Initially, because it is always great to see young people punching well above their weight in elite sports but more recently because Tom clearly has demonstrated that he is on a mission to be the best he can be and has a relentless desire to be at the peak of his craft! Traits which are hard to find amongst our youth let alone the wider community. When speaking with Tom’s dad, you can clearly hear that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree and these guys have that dogged, persistent desire to be successful as a family and a business. When we heard that there was an opportunity to sponsor Tom’s pursuits, it was a no-brainer for the team at ICCONS. We too as a company are striving to be the best in our specialist field as opposed to trying to be everything to everyone.

This is now the challenge for Tom as he must choose road racing versus dirt racing and hone his skills to that speciality. We look forward to supporting Tom as his career develops and thank CSS for making this opportunity available.”

Lisa adds, “Road racing is extremely expensive. You can have a lot of talent, but you need a good backing behind you to be able to get places. So for CSS and ICCONS to be able to help us out, he wants to be able to make them proud of him and show his worth as to why they are sponsoring him.”