MPG / DAILY BREAD / JANUARY 4, 2017 Words / Lake Kilpatrick
Native New Zealander Dylan Walsh’s racing career had humble beginnings; he started racing motocross in his home country at the age of 7 years old and continued to rack up national titles at a young age, proving to himself and his competitors that he was ready for the next step. He decided to make the move across the world to one of the top training facilities in the country (MTF) and has been on the daily grind there ever since. The Kiwi has really made a name for himself over the past couple of years, showcasing blinding speed and silky style every time he hits the track. He has scored multiple podium finishes across the national scene since coming to the United States, as well as moto victories at Loretta Lynn’s and Mini-O’s to name a few. He put himself in the spotlight at the 2016 Monster Energy Cup where he snagged 3rd in the second moto, earning himself 4th overall in the Amateur All Star class. He was on course to take a couple of titles at Mini-O’s, but a bike malfunction sent him flying over a triple and he suffered a broken collarbone. We caught up with Dylan before the Monster Energy Cup to talk about moving across the world to chase his dream, how he got into the sport, and the challenges that an international rider must overcome to make it in the States.
What’s your first memory on a motorcycle and how’d you get into the sport? I was...I think two years old and my Dad got me my first push bike. He never put training wheels on it and I picked it up pretty fast, so he was pumped about that. I was real into the whole push bike thing and then I turned six, and he got me a CRF 50. I lived in the city at that time, so my first memory on one of those was riding around a paddock where like a house was getting built, just messing around then.
What was the amateur scene like down in New Zealand? It’s not really big in New Zealand. There’s a couple of fast kids in each class, but it doesn’t have the depth that America does. And I feel like the New Zealand people go fast on New Zealand tracks.
What are the big differences in the tracks over there? Our tracks are more natural terrain and all in the hills. We have some man-made tracks and then we have a lot of tracks on a farm, once a year, pigged out type of deal.
So, what was your first experience like coming to the U.S. and racing? Uhmmm, first experience was the last Gold Cup at Gatorback in 2014. I couldn’t believe how many people there were. I ended up getting sick, so I didn’t end up racing, so it was Mini-O’s in 2014…
What were you sick with? I just got the flu. I couldn’t get used to the food in America, I was feeling rough.
Was that your first time on a plane doing heavy international traveling? I’ve flown to Australia to race a few times, but it was different flying from New Zealand to America. First flight: three hours from NZ To Australia. And then just under seventeen hours from Australia to Dallas. And then another three hours from Dallas to Tallahassee. But, the thing I remember most was stepping off the plane in Tallahassee and the humidity and heat just hit me; I’ve never felt nothing like that before. It was hot.
And the time change, jet lag, and what not probably played a party too, eh? Yeah, it was all messed up. So, Mini-O’s in 2014...I remember rolling in and seeing like three paddocks full of RV’s and trailers; I couldn’t believe it. I was super nervous to race, but I kind of knew what the speed was since I was training at MTF. There’s a lot of fast kids here. So, I knew where the speed was, so that was good. We got there, were leading a couple of motos, but got way too excited about winning a race in America, ended up crashing and this and that, but it was a good experience.
So, you sent it pretty much then… Haha, yeah. I tried, I tried sending it. I think I was leading one and then I got a flat tire. I pulled a holeshot in one of the mains in outdoors and lead the whole thing, and crashed two turns to go ‘cause of a lapper. It was one of those weeks, but it was a good learning curve.
How did you end up getting hooked up with MTF? Everyone all over the world knows of MTF, because it’s such a professional facility. Awhhh, since I was little, man...so little...I’ve always wanted to go to MTF. Like, when I was 12 I had a letter written to Mum asking if she could send me to MTF, so I could train for Loretta Lynn’s. And then four years later, I’m here doing it. My Dad started talking to Colleen (Millsaps) around the same time she came to New Zealand to do her first camp. It was quite close to my house, so me and my Dad would do that. And uh, we did that and I got along with Colleen and little Brian.
That’s sick. And so then you moved over to MTF, trained for a while, and went down to Mini-O’s… Yeah, my Dad flew with me over here to get me a camper and some bikes, and after the first week he left and it’s just been me ever since.
How old were you when you made the move from New Zealand? Uhh, sixteen.
So, you mentioned that MTF has a worldwide reputation as one of the premier training facilities and it was one of your lifelong dreams to be a part of their program - what was the feeling like after your Dad got on the plane back to NZ and you finally got settled in? Awwhhhh, I couldn’t believe it. It was definitely a dream come true, but I knew I had a lot of work to put in. It was just the start, but I’ve loved it here ever since then.
So, now that you’ve just turned eighteen, that brings us to the current visa issues. Your situation is a little bit peculiar, because you actually have an english passport… My parents are from England. I was born in England, and I lived there for like three years, then I moved to New Zealand.
Did you travel back and forth between the two frequently when you were younger? No, the first time I went back to England since I was three was probably the month before Loretta’s.
So, you ended up having to apply for an extension on your visa. What kind of ridiculous hoops are you having to jump through and how do you deal with this? It sucks, to be honest. Everytime I come through, they pull me aside and ask me a million questions - if I’m racing pro, if I’m making money, if it’s a job. They don’t think my parents could afford me living over here, it’s just a constant battle really. It wasn’t too bad until the last time I came. I guess they think it’s suspicious that a kid is traveling back and forth on his own so much that they start to question it.
So, they think you’re over here raking in dough when in reality your Dad came over here with you and bought you bikes and a camper, your parents are continually putting up money to support you, you’re spending your own money, etc… They think I’m making a ton of money over here, but really I ain’t making no money. I’m just spending a whole lot of money over here trying to live the dream.
Colleen Millsaps’ has a lot of experience dealing with visa issues considering the amount of international talent that comes through MTF. How has she been able to help? Yeah, she’s a big help. She’s a real big help, but there’s really not much I can do until I go pro and I have a team contract. They can file for a work visa for me and that would allow me to stay as long as I want. They don’t question it. The visa that I’m on - it all depends on what side of the bed the person wakes up on who stamps my visa. They have a choice of giving me one week, six months, or what not; it all depends on how their feeling about it.
So, flying back into America after spending some time out of the country has to be a nervous time for you… Awwhhh, yeah. I get nervous every time I’m getting close to the American airport. Just because the flights are so expensive, and for me to get there and them to turn me around for a reason that’s not even true, it would just suck really. You’ve just got to have as much paperwork as you can proving what you’re doing over here - that you’re not making money, that my parents are putting money into my account, and what not.
What’s the most that you can do besides applying for extensions until you’re able to secure a professional contract? The most can you do is provide bank statements that my parents are giving me money, a letter from MTF that I’m coming here to train, and race amateur motocross. Pretty much just that...and hope you have a good person when you come in.
Appreciate your time, man. Any sponsors you’d like to thank? MTF, Bell Helmets, Seven, Scott Goggles, Alpinestars, EBR, Nihilo, Cfx, FMF, Dunlop, DWR, Mgx, Hinson