When Delta Air Lines flight DL65 touched down in Orlando on January 18, GB Hare Scramble and UK Cross-Country champion Ryan Voase realised a childhood dream. When Delta Air Lines flight DL65 touched down in Orlando on January 18, GB Hare Scramble and UK Cross-Country champion Ryan Voase realised a childhood dream. Having made more trips to America’s Sunshine State than he can remember during the past 15 years, this was the trip he’d dreamed about ever since he was 12. Ryan had arrived in the US to race as a full-time professional on the Pro Circuit Monster Energy Kawasaki off-road team.
"As long as I can remember it’s been my dream to race in the States," admits Ryan. "I always wanted to make it as a motocross or supercross racer in the US when I was a schoolboy but when I got ill (Ryan had a lung tumour removed almost a decade ago] I knew I’d probably never get the chance. If someone told me then that one day I’d be earning a living in the US as a cross-country racer, well, I’d never have believed them."
But just two days after his 27th birthday – having only days earlier travelled to London to pick up his work permit and visa – that’s exactly what Voasey was doing. He was in the US at the start of his first season as a full-time US GNCC racer. He was excited, relieved, more than a little nervous but more than anything he was ready to race.
Ryan’s deal in the US was a last-minute one. Having longed for the opportunity to compete in just one US cross-country race during ’03 and ’04 the opportunity never presented itself so Ryan stayed home. Then almost out of the blue Kawasaki US called and asked if he’d like to ‘come over’ having heard that he’d won both the GB Hare Scramble Series and the UK Cross-Country Championship.
"I did a World Off Road Championship Series race, on the west coast, which was great," recalls Ryan. "I won my qualifying race and rode really well. I knew that a good result would probably get me a ride in the US so it was kinda my one chance to impress. I got fourth off the start, moved up to second but then I crashed and finished in sixth. Considering I turned up a few days before the race I was pretty happy with the result although I could have done better."
Not sure if he had done enough to secure a ride, as soon as he got home he contacted Kawasaki US and made sure they knew he was serious about wanting to race in the States. "It seemed as if something would happen initially which was great but it got to the point where I needed to put something together for the UK or I might miss out if nothing in the US came off."
Kawasaki eventually decided to sign former WORCS champion Nathan Woods but said that support was available if Ryan wanted to return for a couple of races. "To be honest I would have been happy with that," explains Ryan. "I was in the middle of building my own house so I would have been able to finish that while using ’06 to try and get a ride for ’07."
In late November Ryan got the call he’d hoped for. With Kawasaki US having set up a new GNCC team under the leadership of long-time Kawasaki rider Fred Andrews their options for riders were limited. It was Ryan’s big break.
"I guess Kawasaki were out of options in the US because it was late in the year," explains Voasey honestly. "When they asked me if I wanted to race I thought about it for a couple of seconds and said yes. It’s not the kind of opportunity you get every day – I knew I wanted to do it so there wasn’t too much to think about."
While Ryan is getting paid to race the US GNCC series he’s certainly not getting rich. "It’s not about the money," Ryan is quick to answer. "I am getting a salary but it basically just about pays for me to get to the races and live – the rest I have to find. The deal I have is great and the people that are supporting me have given me a great opportunity, a great bike and a great team."
After selling his van back home – and with the support of long term sponsor LPE – Ryan now has all he needs to go racing in the US. And having spent six years doing motocross GPs in Europe and earning just enough to get to the next race he’s grateful just to be in the US.
"I’m putting everything into racing in the US because it’s what I’ve wanted to do for so many years. If I’m not prepared to invest in himself then how can I expect others to invest in me.
"The team is great. We don’t have a huge truck like some of the other manufacturers but what we have is perfect. Freddy has taken me in and is a great guy to work for and there is a real laidback atmosphere in the team which is great. Everyone is in good spirits and I think it’s the best team for me to be in. It’s like what I’m used to. I know that Freddy wants to expand the team and I hope I can be a part of that."
The US GNCC championship certainly isn’t short of competitive, talented and experienced racers. And Ryan had raced against none of them before the opening round of the ’06 series – the Orange Crush GNCC.
While most riders – like reigning GNCC champion Juha Salminen – travel over from Europe to compete in at least one race before committing full-time to the 13-round series, Ryan arrived at the first round as green as grass to the whole US off-road scene.
"I met Freddy for the first time the day after I arrived in Florida," recalls Ryan. "I didn’t even know what he looked like until I met him that first time. I spent five weeks riding pretty much every day before the first round and my fitness was much better than at any time when I used to do the GPs."
But despite knowing that he’d done his homework and put in a serious amount of saddle time, Ryan was a big bundle of nerves at the first race.
"There’s was such a great atmosphere at the first race but I’ll be honest I was ***ting myself. Because the first race is part of Daytona Bike Week the places is swarming with industry people. I knew that I had worked hard and was really fit but the feeling of uncertainty was much stronger than my confidence. I didn’t know what the pace would be like from the start of the race, how aggressive I needed to be, whether I’d get a good start. There were so many unknowns. I was a bundle of nerves."
Words and photos by Jonty Edmunds
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