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Youngster Tom Drane has moved from Aussie dirt track to road racing and American flat track and has adapted well to the different styles.

Many Aussie kids dream of winning big in sport and the few that make it do so through more than just luck. It takes skill, dedication and a need to meet self-set goals that drives them to keep on trying until they hit the top. A very good living can be made racing motor bikes if you’re good enough, and the top of the tree would be racing overseas for a big name team in motocross or road racing. Many of the top Aussie road racers who succeeded on the international stage had their beginnings on dirt bikes and it’s a pretty safe bet just about any top Aussie road racer from the past 30 years had a solid run of success racing on the dirt. Tom Drane is another who looks to be on a similar path having started from the young age of two and a half on a JR50 which he was still riding when he started competing in Nippers at four years old.

By the age of seven he was racing dirt track on a Kawasaki KX60 and a Honda CRF80 with his first ever race being at a Temora MCC meeting. He showed promise right from the start and by the age of eight he’d collected his first two Australian Championships in the 65cc 7-9years and 80 mod 7-10 years in Kempsey, NSW. Just to add icing to the cake he also won two NSW State Titles the same year.

From that he has gone on to amass a total to date, of 18 Australian Junior Championships and 21 Junior State Championships, one Senior Australian Championship and two Senior State Championships. Born in 2006 Tom comes from the town of Forbes in NSW, probably best known for the bushranger Ben Hall but it may soon have another famous son to boast of.

The only way to improve in racing is to move to where there is more competition and with that in mind Tom went to the USA in 2018 and competed at the AMA Flat Track Grand Nationals where he won three AMA Championships in the 65cc and 85cc Classes and  was also awarded Youth Rider of the Year. He returned to the US in 2019, this time riding a 250 and at that stage he was unable to compete on a 250 in Australia as he was only 12. He scored two seconds and a third at the AMA Flat Track Grand Nationals sharing the podium with Kody Kopp and Chase Saathoff.

While still competing in Dirt Track Tom was also pursuing a road racing career at the same time. He debuted in the Oceania Junior Cup in 2019 for 150cc machinery, finishing third in his first year and second in 2020 before moving to the R3 Cup, a one make series on Yamaha 300’s in 2021. Tom was selected to compete in the Asia Talent Cup in 2021 run by Moto GP finishing 12th with an 8th place being his best result. The Asia Talent Cup is also a one make series using Honda 250’s and in 2022 Tom moved up to riding 600’s.

Tom Drake rates his highlight moments so far as winning the 2022 Dash for Cash at Lima in the American Flat Track, finishing second in his first main event and again winning the Dash for Cash in Springfield all in the same year. Those results set him up for his racing this year winning the Sacramento Mile on his first attempt. He then went on to win the Du Quoin Mile by a mere 0.011 seconds from Chase Saathoff in a close fought battle with Trent Lowe third and fellow Aussie Max Whale finishing fourth.

At the time of writing Tom has finished 2nd in the Lima Half mile, 7th at West Virginia Half Mile, 3rd at Orange County Half Mile, he won the Bridgeport Half Mile, ran 2nd in the Peoria TT and Black Hills Half Mile, and 5th in the Castle Rock TT, 2nd at the Springfield Mile and 1st at Springfield Mile II finishing the year in second place overall.

Tom Drane was asked to join Estenson Yamaha Monster Energy team as a full time team mate to JD Beach, Dallas Daniels, and Trevor Brunner for the 2023 American Flat Track season. He saw that as a big learning curve as he has always raced on a KTM. However, he adapted straight away and felt comfortable instantly on the Yamaha.

ADB asked the seventeen year old how he saw 2023 unfolding for him and this is what he had to say.

“My aim this year is to win as many AFT races as possible and finish high in the championship. It has been a learning experience adapting to the tracks in the USA as they are completely different to what we have back home. The set-up of the bikes and the tyres is different too. I am enjoying the experience and I thrive on learning each race. I feel I will adapt quickly and am heading in the right direction”.

We also asked Tom how the American Flat Track bikes differ from what is used in Dirt Track racing here in Godzone country.

“In Australia we just use motocross bikes, but in the US the bikes have different frames, lowered suspension and 19” wheels front and back. The tracks vary in length too, some are smaller than the usual Aussie track and of course the half mile and mile circuits are longer. My favourite tracks so far are Springfield and Sacramento. Then they have the Twins class as well where you’ll see the Harleys and Indians competing.”

Tom is certainly adapting as at the time of writing he has won the Singles Challenge at the Sacramento Mile on his first attempt plus he picked up fastest qualifier for pole position. Go you good thing!

For the full feature, check out issue #533 of ADB.