If you’ve been around GNCC very long you’ll hear the term, “GNCC Racin’ Nation” pretty frequent. I’m not 100% sure who said it first, but I’m giving credit to my Co-Announcer, Rodney Tomblin. I’ll consult with our GNCC Historians, Jared Bolton and Hollywood (David Cripe), for confirmation.
Regardless, there’s no doubt our “Nation” knows no borders. Over the years we’ve seen riders from all over the world. From the amateur level all the way up to the Pro level. This week’s featured rider, Liam Draper, who calls New Zealand home, has without a doubt established himself within the GNCC Racin’ Nation, but more than that, he’s established himself as part of our GNCC Family.
GNCCRacing.com: Liam, thanks for joining me today. I’d say the large majority of people reading are well aware of who you are. But, for those that may not, tell us a little bit about you.
Liam Draper: I’m originally from New Zealand and I came over here to the states at the start of the 2018 GNCC season to ride for the KR4 Husqvarna team. I rode for them for a season then I hooked up with the guys at Tely Energy Racing. I’ve pretty much been racing my entire life. I wanted to take a shot at making a living racing and that opportunity really isn’t there back home. So GNCC is where it’s at.
Backing up to your childhood. What got you on a dirtbike to begin with? Your dad raced too, right?
Yeah, my mom and dad actually met through racing. He raced quite a bit, actually raced six days and things like that. He raced his whole life, so since he rode, I rode. I think I got my first bike when I was three. Funny story actually, I was just talking to someone about school and parties, things like that. I never went to a single school party or event, all I wanted to do was ride my dirtbike.
So no prom for Liam!?
Yeah, I had zero interest in drinking or anything like that. I just wanted to ride my dirtbike.
Alright, fast forward to you making the decision to race GNCC’s here in the states. How old were you when you made that decision?
I think I was 20 or 21. I met the KR4 people and stayed with them for a couple days in their camper. Then I bought a sprinter van. My dad came out and we framed it out with a bed inside. I lived in that for about two months down in South Carolina. That’s when I happened to meet Stew Baylor at a GNCC. He asked me to go riding with him, which was awesome. I’d always looked up to him, so to get to ride with him was pretty incredible. While I was out there riding with him, he asked me where I was staying. I pointed at the sprinter van and said, “you’re looking at it.” He told me I was nuts, then we went to his place for dinner. That’s when dinner turned into living with him for two years.
That kind of makes you the first unofficial adopted child of Jade and Stew Baylor, right?
Yeah, pretty much! Stew and Jade are great. I think there’s always someone at their place, I think they enjoy having people with them at the house. I’ve had so many opportunities with Stew. He’s helped my tremendously over the last few years. From getting on with Tely to getting setup with different sponsors. He sure is awesome!
Tell us about the progress you’ve made as a rider since racing GNCC. It’s a big feat for a rider to compete in the Pro-Am classes, let alone coming from another country and jumping right into the mix.
When I first got here, I had no clue what to expect. You see how fast they are on RacerTV, but nothing does it justice like being at the race with these guys. My first race in the XC2 I believe I got 10th. It was 2019 when I finally got my first XC2 win and I got two or three podiums too. Then last year I got a couple podiums. So I’ve been chipping away at it and making steady progress. This year has been going alright. I’ve got a couple holeshots but still looking for that complete race. My fitness is there, and I know I’m good for all three hours. Starts have been so crucial this season. If you’re not up front with the pack early you’re stuck by yourself which isn’t a good position to be in. When you’re with the front pack you’re able to key off of each other and see lines you may not have seen when walking the track.
You were training this morning, and you’re headed out to Indiana early. Where’d you train at today and where are you headed to train prior to the Hoosier GNCC?
I trained up here in Waynesburg PA at the Tely place with Layne Michael, Ty Ely and Shawn Remington. It’s really nice out there, there’s a moto track and a little woods loop. And the Coastal property isn’t too far from here. So there’s plenty of placing to ride out here, which is great. For the Hoosier GNCC, I’m heading out to SSR, Steven Squire’s place to get some training in. I went there with Stew back in 2019. I’m really looking forward to riding there, it’s been awhile, his place looks pretty awesome.
What are your goals for your racing career moving forward? Win a championship and head back home? Make the states your new home? What’s the plan?
That’s probably the question I get asked the most. I don’t know if I really have an answer for that, on how long I’ll stay here. Obviously, I want to win a championship, that’s the main goal. But it’s difficult sometimes, I haven’t seen my mom and dad for a little more than a year and a half now. That makes me miss home. But I’m very lucky to have my girlfriend Nikki, she’s got a big family, which is like my family. It’s nice to come home to a house and have family around. And Todd (Ely) is like family too. It makes things easier that’s for sure.
Let’s say you’ve got spare time, you’re not at the track racing or training. What’s Liam Draper doing?
I actually like driving machines, jump on the skid steer or bulldozer and make trails. Play a little golf. Love getting out in the fresh air, pack the cooler with who-knows-what. But yeah, it’s nice to put the boots away once in awhile and have some fun.
Alright, related question, you snag a win, how do you celebrate?
Oh, head down to the local bar. Todd actually owns his own bar and restaurant which is nice. We actually went there after my first win. I actually had my uncle here in town for my first win which was nice celebrating with him. Normally after a race I put the hammer down and get home as fast as possible.
Last one, who would you like to thank?
TJ’s Cycle, KTM, JPD Suspension, Tely Energy Racing, Troy Lee Designs, TLD Moto, Dunlop Motorcycle Tires, Seat Concepts, Acerbis, IMS Products, Twin Air, Motorex, Mid America Rep Services, Sidi, ProX Racing Parts, Hinson Racing, Pro Taper, Kari Resources, Senge Graphics, XC Gear, Todd Ely, FMF, Motion Pro, Kiwi Rider Magazine, Oakley, Eline Accessories, Mojo Motorsport, Enduro Engineering, Hammer Nutrition, TM Design Works, BIKESPORTNZ, Pod Active, Ryan Miller, Allen Gravitt, Woody Bramlett, Nikki, Rory Mead and Steve Hatch.