ICYMI | Catching Up with Liam O’Farrell | Atlas Brace

Presented by Atlas Brace
Catching Up with South African native, Liam O’Farrell. | Bigwave photo

I remember getting to know Liam O’Farrell while I was driving around in a 1989 Buick Electra Estate Wagon broadcasting the Canadian MX Nationals live over Pirate Radio for MX Forum. I remember we went for a run together at Ryan Millar‘s farm in Manitoba. Liam is a friendly, hard-working rider who has the respect of his competitors and the industry.

He’s also the rider who can still run consistently inside the top 10 in this very tough field of 450 riders, much to the chagrin of many of his much younger rivals.

Here’s a look at his 2020 Canadian Motocross season:

We always joked that, late in a race, if you were starting to tire the last guy you wanted to look over your shoulder to see was Liam. He was not going to be slowing down in the latter stages of a moto. He would just keep marching forward until the checkered flag waved and smile as he rode passed other riders.

We got in touch with Liam at his home in Brantford, Ontario, to catch up with him.

Here’s what Liam had to say when we got in touch with him this week. | Bigwave photo

Direct Motocross: Hello, Liam. You’ve been a fixture on the Canadian scene for a long time now, but I bet there are younger readers out there who don’t know your story. Could you sum up your coming here from South Africa? Why did you originally come here and what made you stay?

Liam O’Farrell: Since I was young it had been a dream to go race overseas.  The original goal was to go race in Europe but I was unable to get anything going there and to do it on my own would be too expensive. An opportunity came up in Canada with the help of some expats, the Momberg’s. They had moved to Canada and their son raced. They had also helped Kerim (Fitz-Gerald) the year before (2007). They helped hook me up with a test ride with Andy White when he was still at KTM. The ride went well and Andy helped me out with a bike and support from Orange Motorsports. 

Liam on the big #8 at Gopher Dunes. | Bigwave photo

What did you think of the Canadian MX scene that first year?

The first year was an eye opener for me.  Racing in South Africa,  we would have 15-20 guys racing pro and most of us would ride both classes, otherwise there wouldn’t be enough riders and hardly anyone camped at the tracks. Going to a local ANQ and seeing hundreds of motorhomes and qualifiers for Junior classes,  it was just mind blowing.  Even the payout was 3 or 4 times anything I was getting at our local races.  I also found the people very friendly and helpful, even to somebody that no one really knew. 

I don’t think I’ve ever asked you how you got your start riding motocross as a kid. How did all this start for you?

My dad got me a bike when I was 5. He used to race Enduro before I was born and his love for bikes and racing got passed on to me.

Liam at Whispering Pines in Kamloops, BC back in 2009. | Bigwave photo

What was your first race number and why did you choose it?

Wow, this is going back almost 30 years.  I had to ask my parents to dig through some of photo albums.  My first number was 42 and I don’t think there was a reason for that number. 

But I don’t believe there isn’t a story about why he chose 42 as his first number. | Bigwave 2009 photo

There’s no way that’s true. Haha What has been your best season to date and why?

In South Africa my best season was 2007 when I won both the 250 and 450 championship.  In Canada it’s tough to choose. 2009 traveling the whole series with my countryman Kerim was an awesome year. We both ended the year off with some good results and it was a fun year all round. 2014 on the 250 2-stroke was a memorable year as well. I only did the East coast but I got to drive out with Pam and got my first and only overall podium.  

Liam’s 2009 travel rig. It rained that year at River Glade… | Bigwave photo

You are a full-time working man. Can you tells where you work and what it is that you do from Monday to Friday?

I work for Priority Mechanical. That’s who I have been racing for the last 3 years and they are currently sponsoring the AMO provincial series. I am a gas tech and air conditioning mechanic. I work 7-5 most days, mainly in residential new construction installing AC’s, gas lines, fireplaces and furnaces. 

Everyone is always amazed at how solid you are still…for someone of your advanced age. Lol. What’s your secret? How do you keep fit and ready to race?

Haha, nice way to tell me I’m getting old. I still try keep up my training during the week to be able to hang with some of these youngsters for 30 minutes. My job is also pretty physical with all the lifting so I think that’s what keeps me solid. 

#26 Liam leaving a trail of destruction behind him at Ulverton in 2014. | Bigwave photo

You were 8th overall in the MX portion last summer and always seemed to be in a dogfight. Looking back, how do you feel about your performances?

Well, I never thought I’d get to race a full series again. There was a group of us that always seemed to find each other on the track and it kept it exciting. I never felt like I had an easy race except the third moto at Gopher,  I was all alone trying to hang on to the bike.  I was really happy with how my year went.  8th felt really good considering everything going on in my life now. 

Is there a race that stands out for you from last year?

Second weekend at Sand Del Lee I went down on the start and made my way back to 9th.

What did you get up to over this past winter?

I tried to learn how to skate. I figured if I really want to be Canadian I need to know how to skate and play hockey. I may have to stick to dirt bikes…

The 202 season race that stands out for Liam is Sand Del Lee #2 where he came back to 9th after crashing in the first turn. | Bigwave photo

What are your racing plans for this season?

I’ll be racing all the AMO Provincials and the plan is to do the full Jetwerx MX series, but I won’t be racing Supercross. 

When is the last time you were in Africa? What do you miss most about it?

I haven’t been back to visit for 4 years.  My parents were supposed to come visit last summer and meet my son but COVID stopped that.  I obviously miss my family and friends that I grew up with, but I also miss not having to deal with winter weather. 

It looks like we’ll be seeing Liam again in 2021 as he plans to race the full MX Nationals series again. | Bigwave photo

Thanks, Liam. Let’s get out for a cycle sometime soon. Good luck this summer. Is there anyone you’d like to thank?

Yeah, we should go for a mountain bike ride at Turkey Point soon.  I’d like to thank Priority Mechanical, FXR, Apex Cycle, KTM Canada, Dialed MX, Scott Sports, Mica Sport Canada, MD Distributions, Forma Boots, and MP1 Suspension.