Liam Draper Interview

New Zealander talks about racing in America.

Liam Draper got his start in trials, learning good technique before moving on to enduro racing.
Liam Draper got his start in trials, learning good technique before moving on to enduro racing.Shan Moore

Like Josh Strang, Tayla Jones, Mackenzie Tricker, and Rachel Archer, Liam Draper is one of the handful of riders from New Zealand or Australia to come to America to make their mark in one of the biggest off-road markets in the world. Coming from a trials background, Draper has risen to the top of the Pro2 division in the Kenda AMA National Enduro in just two years, having won the 2019 title with two rounds remaining on the schedule. We spoke to Draper at the penultimate round of the series in Oklahoma about his background, racing in America, and his training regimen.

When did you first come to the United States?

I came here last year in February.

What types of racing did you do in New Zealand?

I actually started in trials, but I did enduros and cross-country too, like GNCC-style stuff. They’re not as big back home. There aren’t as many riders as there are in the United States. The tracks aren’t as rough and [the races are] only two hours long. So it’s a little different coming over here and racing for three hours. In the enduros back home, our tests are only five to 10 minutes long, so it’s a big difference coming over here and doing six or seven tests a day at 20 minutes a test.

When you came over, did you have a deal lined up or did you just kind of plan on doing a privateer deal?

I had a little ride there with KR4 and got my bikes from them. I got support from them and moved on from there. This year I got a ride with the Tely Energy Racing team, so I got more support for this year.

Draper wrapped up this year’s Kenda AMA National Pro2 Championship with two races remaining on the schedule.
Draper wrapped up this year’s Kenda AMA National Pro2 Championship with two races remaining on the schedule.Shan Moore

You won the Pro2 championship in the National Enduro Series this year. Do you favor this type of format over a GNCC, or do you like both of them the same?

I kind of like long-distance races, but these National Enduros sure are fun. It’s a cool day. You come in after each test, grab a drink, and then go back out again.

What is it about your style that makes you good at National Enduro?

I like it technical, since I came from a trials background. I like it a little more technical than the faster stuff. I rode trials for six years, then I rode motocross for a few years, and then I went back into the woods racing.

How big was trials in New Zealand?

It’s small. The entire off-road sport is small in New Zealand. It’s tiny, but I just did trials for a few years to get that skill level, and then went off and did faster stuff.

Even though off-road is relatively small there, there are a lot of world champions who come out of New Zealand in all kinds of sports.

We’ve got a world champion in motocross, supercross, Formula 1, and Rally car. It’s just a small country and everyone helps each other out. Everyone gets along and supports the sports that people do.

You come here and you stay all season long and then you go back?

I’m on a two-year visa right now, so I don’t have to go back until the end of next year, but I’m going home for Christmas. I’m going home for two months this year, which will be nice. [I will] go home for the summer and do some riding. I’ve been home [for a total of] five weeks in the last two years, so I’m looking forward to going home.

Are you pretty much Americanized now?

Yeah. I lived with one of the Baylor brothers for a year and a half, so I got Americanized pretty quickly there.

For you, what’s the biggest difference between the United States and New Zealand?

Everything is just 10 times bigger. You go anywhere and things are just big—the interstates, the trucks, the vehicles; everything is just big. We only have four million people in New Zealand. I think most states in America have that [many people]. It’s cool. I love it. I’ve met some awesome people. I have an awesome time over here.

Living with Steward Baylor for the last year and a half is what Draper says has enabled him to become very fast in a short period of time.
Living with Steward Baylor for the last year and a half is what Draper says has enabled him to become very fast in a short period of time.Shan Moore

You’ve been really fast this year. What do you think has been the secret for your speed this year?

Just hanging out with fast guys. I lived with Steward Baylor for a year and a half; when you ride with someone at that speed every day, you pick up a lot. Then I ride with Kailub Russell and Thad Duvall and all those guys. I think just hanging out with those guys is the best thing you can do, really.

Tell us about your program. What do you do during the week? Do you have a certain schedule that you practice on?

I have a trainer who sends me a fitness program every week and I just go off of that and then do motos and hang out with all those guys. We go pedaling and things like that. It’s good.