Features 18 Apr 2024

Conversation: Liam Owens

Australian teenager taking on EMX250 class in this year.

After dipping his toes in the European racing scene last year, 16-year-old Liam Owens has moved to Germany to race the EMX250 championship with the newly-formed Cat Moto Bauerschmidt Husqvarna team. While he recovers from a shoulder injury, MotoOnline caught up with him for this Conversation.

Image: Supplied.

People might’ve noticed you’re not on the ProMX start-gate this year, Liam. Give us a bit of a run-down of what you’re up to…

I’m racing GPs in the EMX250 class, and in the eight-round ADAC MX Masters Championship in Germany where I go up against some of the world championship guys. I’m living in Germany and riding for Cat Moto Bauerschmidt Husqvarna – they’re a new team to the EMX250 circuit – and they’ve been great so far. A lot of our training is in done in the Netherlands as there’re more tracks and we’re based pretty close to the border.

Last year did two rounds as a fill-in rider with the Bud Racing team. How much of a role did that play in you becoming based in Europe full-time in 2024?

Yeah, around the middle of last year Bud Racing contacted us to race a couple of GPs in Spain and Portugal. I learnt a lot and I think I got noticed because my speed was good in qualifying and I put in some good motos. I really wanted to return to Europe this year, so we chased rides, did a few tests for different teams in October, then the team I’m with gave me a good offer. I’m only 16, so it made a lot of sense to sign with them, as it’s a more family-type arrangement; we all live together and I can go with the team in the car and don’t have to find my own way to the track. I just need to worry about racing dirt bikes fast, which is always the goal.

Image: Supplied.

Being 16 and living away from home must be a bit of a learning curve.

Definitely. Even getting groceries and stuff, I can’t drive, so I need to cycle everywhere and figure everything out. The living side and not having my parents around is taking the most to get used to, but I’m not living alone – my team-mates live with me at the workshop.

I saw on social media that you’ve picked up a shoulder injury recently. What happened and how long are you out for?

I dislocated my shoulder last week, but I’m working hard to be back in a few weeks’ time. All the tracks in the Netherlands are lifted above the ground because of the water, and I tucked the front and fell head-first into a ditch on the side of the track. It was pretty disappointing, as I was really looking forward to racing Portugal in three weeks’ time, and I’m also missing the first two ADAC rounds. At this stage I’ll only be back on the bike the day before Agueda, so I’m not sure it makes sense to rush back. We’re doing everything we can each day to get it back into shape, but there’s no point going out there if you’re not feeling strong enough. After Portugal there’s a two-week break and I’ll most likely start riding then, then come back for the French GP at Saint-Jean-d’Angely. I’m also going to miss two of the eight ADAC rounds, unfortunately.

How many races had you ticked off before you got injured?

I did pre-season races at Lommel and Lierop which were pretty wild with their deep sand, then the Frankenbach Wintercross. That was probably the coolest experience I’ve had so far – it’s a huge event and the track was cool as it weaved through the trees. It had a double-stacked start, but I was on the front row, luckily, as I’d qualified second. The biggest concern was to get through the first turn without crashing and getting run over, then I finished second overall behind my team-mate, Nico Greutmann. We also had the Spanish GP, which I didn’t execute how I wanted to; the speed was good, but I had a few nerves. Now that they’re out of the way, we should be good for the coming rounds.

Image: Supplied.

What’s the state of the EMX250 class at the moment?

I see the EMX250 class as the waiting room to get into the MXGPs. They’re all professional and are all desperate to get good results to give themselves a chance of getting picked up by the GP teams. And the speed’s crazy: I qualified 21st in Spain, and if I’d gone one second quicker, I would’ve been around eighth. It’s always important to get good starts, but when everyone is so close, it’s even more important. As for the MXGP class, you think they look fast on TV and social media, but when you see it first-hand, you really understand what it takes. Us EMX250 guys probably get the worst of the track conditions on Sundays, too. We have one race on Saturday, then on Sunday we’re the first guys out, practically the guinea pigs to get the water off the track before the MXGP classes have their free practice and races. Everything’s always caked in mud after our second race.

Has it always been a dream of yours to race in Europe?

Definitely. I used to love watching the MXGP season wrap-up DVDs you could buy from Supercheap Auto, I love the whole scene and how the tracks are all in different locations. About three or four years ago, Todd Waters and I sat down and made a plan to race the Junior Lites, then move up to MX3, then maybe go to Europe for a month to meet some people and do some riding, then the next year hopefully pick up a ride. The whole plan has worked perfectly to this point. The team and I are treating 2024 is a learning year, so hopefully I can prove myself and I can stay here racing into the future.