EYE OF THE TIGER:
This is only Thomas Wood’s third year racing on American soil and he’s already beginning to make a name for himself in the minibike ranks in the States. The Australian native made a home away from home at Millsaps Training Facility in Georgia, dedicating his life to his budding racing career. Wood has a certain ferocity and aggression in his riding style which perfectly suits his nickname: Tiger. He ended the season strongly in 2019 with a top-five finish in the 85cc (9-12) class at The Motoplayground Race at Ponca City as well as a handful of top-ten finishes at Mini Os in both supercross and motocross. Over the course of the off-season, Wood transitioned from Suzuki to KTM and he’s appeared to look rather comfortable on the new steed at the halfway point of the 2020 season. He performed well in both Mini Sr. 1 and 2 at the Daytona RCSX back in March, finishing in 5th place and 3rd place, respectively. Wood snagged a few more top ten finishes at Spring A Ding Ding against some stacked competition in the Mini Sr. classes and went back to MTF during the break from racing with an undeterred determination to keep getting better. He won both of his classes at the Loretta Lynn’s Super Regional at Three Palms and looks poised to mix it up at the front of the Mini Sr. classes this year at the Ranch. We reached out to Tiger to see what it’s been like to be back at the races and talk about what he’s got coming up.
What did you do during the few months that there was no racing happening with the coronavirus lockdown in effect?
I had just finished my practice laps at Freestone when we got the news that racing was canceled. We traveled back to MTF and then flew home to Australia to be with the family during the initial period of Coronavirus. We had to stay at home for two weeks when we arrived back and we took the opportunity to slow things down and worked on technical stuff.
Did you take some time off of riding when racing was initially canceled and postponed back in March?
Through March we rode at MTF, April through May I rode at home in Australia. Dad built a wicked SX track and extended the sand turn track so we could still ride most days. I’m a little lost when I’m not riding so I was very lucky to be able to ride it out!
What was your riding situation like the last couple of months during the quarantine at MTF?
MTF has adapted where they needed to to ensure we were still staying strong and riding as much as possible. They took workout sessions online so we could do them wherever we were, and maintained riding on the track in small numbers. We’re all still really careful with social distancing now.
What sort of hobbies do you have outside of motocross?
Outside of motocross, I love ripping my pit bike, hanging with my mates and having fun!
How did your weekend of racing go at The Motoplayground Race at Ponca City last year?
I rode really well at Ponca last year and felt I made progress to be able to close the gap with the top guys in my class. There are always a lot of fast racers at Ponca so you have to bring your A-game.
What do you think of the track layout at Ponca?
The track at Ponca is always awesome! The jumps are sweet, it’s a fast track and the dirt is going to be super tacky with deep ruts. Always love riding at Ponca.
What was the final race of the year like at Mini Os from your perspective?
I love Mini Os and the SX and MX format. The SX racing is so fun and I felt I rode that quite well. I had some room for improvement with my starts and felt I was riding too tense on the MX track. It gave me a lot to think about and work on coming back into the 2020 season.
What inspired the switch to KTM for the 2020 season?
I really enjoyed my year with the RM Army. After Mini Os, we explored other options and found the KTM to be the best bike for me going forward. It was a hard decision to move away from the team environment and their support, but ultimately I felt I would be a better racer on the KTM. I’d love the opportunity to be back on a team one day and I’ll continue to work hard to achieve that.
Take us through your weekend at the Daytona RCSX, coming away with a podium in the Mini Sr. 2 class.
Daytona RCSX was amazing. I love watching the pros the night before and the atmosphere is always electric. The track was awesome and I was having so much fun. I knew if I got good starts I would be able to run up front which I did. The split lane cost me a bit while I was getting used to it, but to end up on the podium at Daytona RCSX was super cool.
What was Spring A Ding Ding like for you back in March?
The track was awesome, rough, and sandy. I was riding well. It was a good opportunity to work on some bike set up in preparation for Freestone. Factory Connection were trackside and there to help us get our suspension where we wanted it to be. I felt confident and ready to move forward knowing I had everything right.
What’s your opinion on the intensity and depth of talent in the Mini Sr. classes this year?
I’ve been riding with the guys in this class for the last few years now. The intensity steps up each year and no-one drops off. Everyone keeps getting better. I think having this depth and intensity in our class will continue to push us all to be better racers…I’m ready to race them.
How did the Loretta’s Super Regionals go for you at Three Palms?
We hadn’t even been back in the US a week before I was lining up for my first race at Three Palms. I was pumped! I was ready to race, I wanted to punch my tickets. I rode really well and had a great first day, taking both motos in Mini Sr. 1 and 2. On Sunday, I backed it up with another two moto wins in each class for a solid 1st place in both classes overall.
What is your mindset like heading to the Ranch this year?
I’m ready to race! I believe if I can get good starts, I’ll be able to run up front. Now that I’ve been to Loretta’s a couple of times I know how the week goes, how rough the track gets, so my preparation is key. I’m working hard at MTF to make sure when I line up on that gate I know I’ll be good to go!
Have you given any thought to which classes you’ll be racing at the end of the season heading into 2021?
Our plan is to continue with the same classes as this year and add Supermini when we’re ready.