Riding High

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Tom Drane is a rider the racing world is watching closely, as the teenager from rural NSW gets ready to launch his career into high gear in the year ahead.

By John Burfitt

 

It’s 10 years since Tom Drane first began competing on the motorcycle circuit, which is an impressive feat considering the champion rider hasn’t even turned 17 yet.

Drane was four when he first climbed onto a motorbike, but had to wait until he was seven before he could take part in competition rounds. Ever since, Drane has been cutting an impressive figure in racing circles, taking out 23 NSW titles and 16 national titles, including the prized Australian Super Bike Championship.

But in the last few years, Drane’s racing career has shifted into top gear, with the world taking notice of the young talent, who is partially sponsored by CSS and CSS Group Supplier ICCONS.

Drane has taken on the world’s best in the United States, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, including winning three American Motorcyclist Association Flat Track Grand National Championships by the age of 14.

In recent times, the game has significantly changed for the teenager from Forbes in central western NSW, after Drane’s impressive debut in August at the American Flat Track Lima Half-Mile in Ohio where he achieved the runner-up position and took the Dash for Cash honours.

Drane, who is known among the racing fraternity by his nickname ‘Bomber’, is now considered by international commentators as the young racer to watch. Drane describes what happened in the US as his greatest success.

“It was good to go to America and I did my best and was able to come second,” he says. “I was able to compete with the best riders, and get straight to the front and battle it out with them. I wasn’t too sure what was going to happen, but I was happy to get runner-up. That was pretty cool.”

In doing so, Drane, riding his KTM 450 SX-F, also snatched the Dash for Cash honours from the overall winner Kody Kopp, earning notice as the first rider to overtake Kopp in months.

“That was a real highlight to take that,” Drane says. “I had watched him all day, saw what he was doing and tried my best when we had to race each other to try to beat him.”

Competing at such a level also proved to be a game changer in terms of how Drane regards his own skills as he sets goals for his future in the races ahead.

“It helps your confidence heaps by just having that kind of experience, and coming out of it knowing I am just as good as everyone else and feeling like I can win in future,” he says.

“The most important thing I took from being over there with everyone was learning heaps about how everything is run and how very different it is to what we have here. In Australia we have different tyres, different programs and even the format of a race meeting is heaps different.”

As a result, Drane has made significant changes to his training, which is overseen by his father Matt, a former motorcycle racer in his own right. He often trains with his younger brother Sam, 11, who is also making his own mark, scoring impressive results at the AMA Flat Track Championship and the bLU cRU Oceania Junior Cup.

“You need to have a lot of endurance to be able to do the longer races, and I’ve had to learn to ride a different style because the wheels they have over there are not like the ones here when you can be a lot more aggressive on the track and still have a lot of grip,” he explains . “Over there, the way they race is a bit smoother and you have to really think about what you’re going to do and not just try to make it happen straight away because that doesn’t work. Learning that has helped my riding heaps.”

The plan for this year is to return to the US to compete across the full season, having signed with Estenson Racing to be a part of the new Yamaha Monster Energy team.

“We have done it hard in the past as we had to take a lot of our own equipment with us and often we didn’t even have the tools we needed, but we made it work,” Drane says. “Being part of this new team will make it easier and allow us to focus on the race.”

Since leaving school last year, all his training and competition racing are being fitted in around Drane’s new commitment as an apprentice boilermaker.

“It’s a family business and I’m working with dad, but I am learning heaps,” he says. “Mum and dad want me to have a trade under my belt in case racing doesn’t work out in the future, so I always have a skill. I would hate to find myself later having to start from scratch all over again in life.”

Not that racing will be taking a back seat anytime soon. Whether it’s competing on racing tracks overseas, or riding for fun on the family property, Drane admits racing will always be a part of his life.

“It’s always been fun and just one of my favourite things to do,” he says. “Being on a bike is where I find I am always happy, so it’s something I will keep doing.”