We spoke to Liam MacDonald in a two-part interview ahead of his move from Malaysia to MotoAmerica.
Liam MacDonald is a 21-year-old Kiwi who has made the decision to move from Malaysia to America to race in the MotoAmerica championship in the newly expanded Pure Attitude Racing Team who have dramatically expanded their team from one rider to four riders for the 2021 MotoAmerica season, the team will field riders in the Supersport and Twins Cup classes. Their 2021 rider line up is as follows:
TwinsCup – Trevor Standish
Twins Cup – Liam MacDonald
Supersport – Austin Miller
Supersport – Nate Minster
We were given the opportunity to speak to Liam MacDonald who started racing at 16 years old and very quickly established himself as a fast rider.
You will be moving to the other side of the world this year to race for the Pure Attitude Racing Team in the MotoAmerica Twins Cup Championship, what is it about the MotoAmerica championship which drew you in?
The MotoAmerica championship is one of the big ones, every country has a national series but their national series is internationally recognised. The states are massive so for me to race there and never see the same track twice was very interesting, I raced in many countries in 2019 and I still doubled over tracks, the national series here [Malaysia] we just have the one track.
I met with Michael Hill in Australia in 2019 and we basically joined forces and I was advised that MotoAmerica was the best place to go right now. They have the groundwork, they have the facilities. It’s not just rocking up into the top class or bust you know, they have all the progression classes, they have sponsors. I can’t get sponsors here, not with my ethnicity, not in my country, not with my citizenship, I am not the face countries want here.
If they do take me on it’s always the feeling of having the population go “why are you taking the guy who’s not from here instead of one of these kids who are Malaysian.” So for me to go to somewhere where I have more opportunity, more of a base and resources with people around me was always very enticing. I was looking forward to riding the 1000cc more, improving that and going into Superstock or something because I am chasing the feeling from the Suzuki from that one round in 2019, I got a taste and I want some more.
Because it’s just myself and my father we have to use the resources we have. Michael Hill thinks the twins cup with the Pure Attitude Racing Team who have expanded their team for 2021 is a good place to go into to learn the tracks, it’s low pressure, it’s a tight championship. I am pretty OK with that as once again it’s a new bike, I get to start from scratch again and control the leap, I get a hard reset and the chance to start learning again. You can think of the twins cup as a ‘step back’ from Supersport but sometimes you have got to take one step back to take two steps forwards. The level and opportunity is much higher. I don’t like the term ‘step back’ as it makes it sound like there isn’t a level of talent in the smaller classes, the fact that doing well here can take me higher again and again and again is incredibly enticing.
You can really build through the ranks in MotoAmerica, you don’t have to come in as this well established big name with the sponsors and millions of dollars, you can come in with 20 grand and build your way up the same way I did here in Malaysia. It’s that on a bigger scale.
How did the opportunity to race in the states come about?
From Malaysia there is a list of series’ which are the next step, Australia Superbikes is one of them, Asia Road Racing also which I tried and it didn’t go my way, British Superbikes, CIV, CEV and MotoAmerica, maybe the German IDM cup also. Michael [Hill] has his connections and knows the people and the places, because Michael works in MotoAmerica he knew the ins and outs of it and felt like MotoAmerica was a good place for me to move to.
There are always these little caveats with championships, if I was going to Australia the factory support would be less or non-existent, I wouldn’t have the money to go to the CEV or the groundwork behind me to excel there. But in the states he [Michael Hill] and I both felt like it was the best overall package, they have the places to train, to stay and wide-open spaces which mean you’re not confined to one area at a time. They have all these tracks to learn, MotoAmerica always felt like the fullest package.
What are your expectations for this season?
So there are my expectations and my ambitions, my expectations are based upon the mentality of never being good enough in racing, telling me to manage my expectations because I don’t know what the championship is like, I don’t know how fast I am going to be or the other riders are going to be, everything is new.
My ambitions are top 10 finishes at least but as I said I am not built for top 10’s, I am built for top 5’s, top 3’s, top 1’s so my expectations are at least finishing.
Where I want to take it from there is to the stars.
Liam riding the GSXR-1000 at the Sepang International Circuit.
What are you most looking forward to about racing in the USA?
I am looking forward to the tracks, to the people, the opportunity, and the challenge. Even if I don’t do fantastically it can still give me a lot of opportunities, it’s an internationally televised event and it’s massive, bringing in massive numbers 100-fold anything I’ve ever experienced before. A massive opportunity.
I am looking forward to the new bike and the challenge of getting up to speed as fast as possible, outside of just it being purely MotoAmerica, I am looking forward to riding again and pushing the limit of what’s possible physically and also within myself and my own limits, I want to do what hasn’t been done. Of course, everything has already been done but it hasn’t been done and it’s never been done for me so pushing what hasn’t been done.
What track are you most looking forward to riding and why?
So, I was looking forward to the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) but I believe the COTA track has been cancelled, it’s the track you see with F1, touring cars, IndyCar, MotoGP it’s that massive track people associate with America. To be honest, I don’t know a lot of the tracks there, if any, the only reason I know Road Atlanta now is and the layout is because I have been doing a lot of laps in simulator games trying to learn it.
The only track on the calendar at a glance that I know is Laguna Seca, so it’s a bit of a cop-out to say Laguna Seca as it’s the only one I know but also I am looking forward to it as I am terrified of it! I remember watching an interview with Jonathan Rea and Chaz Davies in WSBK and they were talking about what it’s like to race there and when World champion’s and top 4 front runners in the world are saying that the track is terrifying with a deadpan face. Explaining how you go into turn 1 over the crest, gripping the bike, shutting your eyes and holding on for dear life sounds terrifying! But it sounds so interesting and fun!
What are your goals for the next 5 years? Do you see yourself staying in the USA and working your way into the Superbike class?
I really want to just keep going, that’s my 5-year plan, my 10-year plan my 100-year plan, I don’t know where I’ll be, I don’t know where I want to be as everything is always changing, the times are changing, motivations and passions are changing but I want to keep going. I don’t need to make it to MotoGP, I will never make it there as there are kids out there with my age in experience and I am just this kid from the middle of nowhere who couldn’t even stand up a bike in 2016, there’s a massive divide.
I am very much to terms with the divide but my goal is to keep going, always keep pushing myself and to continue riding, to keep doing something. Maybe in 5 years I am not racing anymore, maybe I work in a team or I am a consultant or I am doing training as a rider coach, or I am the 4-time MotoAmerica Superbike champion, maybe I am in World Superbikes like Garrett Gerloff.
There is no telling you where it can go or where it will go but the drive is just to keep going wherever it goes, the sky is the limit but it keeps ongoing.
Off track how do you keep yourself fit and in race condition, do you have any favoured training methods?
Like I said before I don’t enjoy it, with gyms and things like that being very hard to access we have our own little set up here at home, like I said before I will lie down to do some crunches and just not get back up. I went into the other room the other week and I ended up just lying down on the floor rolling a dumbbell on the floor sat on my phone, I am not kidding.
I guess you could say a preferred training method for me is someone to push me, at least some accountability. Any time I would train in 2019 with my coaches, half the time they wouldn’t do anything, they’d say “let’s do 10 reps” and I’d end up doing 15 or 20 because I felt good and wanted to keep going. Mostly they were there to push me.
If it’s just me on my own I can justify going tomorrow and not today, but if I have someone waiting on me to push me then I push myself 10-fold. I will have people in the states and we will be in the gym every day just because that’s what they love doing. Because both of us have incredibly competitive spirits we will either end up killing ourselves doing it or we will excel immensely so having someone to push me really helps, it doesn’t matter if I am running or cycling having someone there is really helpful.
I do like my cycling and mountain biking but I haven’t ridden my road bike in months and months as I haven’t had someone there to help me, just riding around at 2 am alone doesn’t motivate me, no one to talk to. There’s nothing to stop me from thinking to myself ‘right I am at 20km, I can just stop here I don’t need to do 30/40/60km’ but having someone there to push me further is what I like about training.
Do you ever see yourself racing in Europe one day?
I do yeah, I could see myself racing anywhere where there are races and there’s nothing to stop me from racing in Europe apart from opportunities and resources because if opportunities and resources didn’t matter I think everyone would be everywhere, if I could justify it financially and physically I’d be in MotoAmerica then fly off to do the CEV then the CIV, then hit BSB on the way back. I’d be doing a pinball across the world going to every race if I could.
I could see myself racing anywhere if I am given the time and opportunities to be able to do so.
EMR – Thank you very much for talking to us it is appreciated.
LMD – No problem at all, I appreciate talking to you and the opportunity to be able to talk to you.