Australian KTM Motocross Racing Team rider Caleb Ward made a lifelong dream a reality when he rode last weekend’s final round of the MX2 World Motocross Championships at Glen Helen in the United States, but that’s not to say there wasn’t a fair share of hurdles along the way.
“Obviously it was a steep learning curve,” said Ward, who is also a familiar face in New Zealand.
“So much different to anything I’ve done before. This was my first time in a country that wasn’t Australia or New Zealand.”
The Australian MX2 No.2 joined the TLD KTM Team racing in the MX2 category on a support-level KTM250SX-F.
“All the guys were pretty friendly and it was a good experience to be around another team and work with some different people. Their team was a lot different to ours.
“I wasn’t on their full team bike set-up. I’m very grateful that they gave me a bike to ride, but my bike at home would have been a lot better for me because it’s got all my parts on it.”
Ward got the visit off on the wrong foot – quite literally – when he injured himself during his first day’s riding at Pala Raceway.
“I hurt myself on the first day, riding at Pala. There was a massive triple and I’d hit it like 15 times but then I came up one time and cased pretty bad and sprained my ankle, so I didn’t get to ride much all week, just visited the doctor trying to get it right to ride for the weekend.”
Fit in time for the weekend, the 19-year-old North Queenslander took his place on the high-profile team and on the highest stage in motocross.
“The atmosphere was pretty crazy, it’s a lot different to what you see on TV. Seeing all of the factory team rigs is pretty cool and there’s a lot of fans and stuff. You don’t realise the size of the hills watching on TV either – in person, they are a lot bigger and steeper!
“I met all the TLD riders and Joel Smets and lot of other different people, almost too many to remember, and Brett Metcalfe came over to say “G’day” and give a little bit of advice too, which was cool.”
Ward admits he struggled with nerves going into Saturday’s qualifying.
“Qualifying hadn’t gone so well, but in Sunday’s warmup I went out and felt a lot better.”
In the first moto Ward got himself off to a reasonable start and found himself not far outside the top ten.
“I was in 13th on the second lap and I was feeling pretty good. Darian Sanayei made a bit of a mistake and I was going to run into him so I grabbed a handful of front brake, but it was sort of muddy so I tucked the front and went down and I think dropped down to 18th.
“I managed to get back to 15th and passed Prado Garcia on the second last lap – I feel like if I hadn’t have crashed I would have been pretty close to a top 10 finish.”
A winner of nine races and four rounds in the recently concluded Australian championship, Ward again started mid-pack in Moto 2, and upon spotting a pileup in progress moved to drive up the inside.
“I came down the hill and there was a pileup in the corner, so I was pinning it around the inside,” said Ward.
“When one of the riders who was in the pileup just pinned it out basically right into me. I knew that my back wheel had hit something, but I didn’t see it. Then something locked my back wheel up and I came to a stop and fell over. And when I turned around and looked, his leg had gotten sucked into my back wheel. It was wedged down on the swing arm, facing the wrong way! I was trying to pick my bike up and I wasn’t really sure whether to help get him out or not so I ended up waiting for one of the track crew/medics to come over.
“They got it out for him but I lost about 40 seconds or something so I took off pretty much last. Then about three laps later my rear axle actually broke on a landing from a jump – maybe coming together with the other dude might have cracked it or something like that -so that was the end of my race.”
“It was a great trip to be a part of,” said Ward, “it was also good to see everybody that races the GPs, and watching the 450 guys like Eli Tomac and Antonio Cairoli was really awesome. Just to see their style of riding was really cool.”With one intense and relatively foreign experience out the way, Ward has very quickly found himself lined up for another as he builds towards this weekend’s Australian Supercross championship opener which kicks off at Jimboomba in Queensland.
Ward will race in the SX2 category, complete a factory KTM Motocross Racing team line-up which includes 450 riders Jesse Dobson and American Kyle Peters, who will stand in for the injured Kirk Gibbs.
Despite his immense talent with a throttle, Ward has very little experience in the night-time sport.
Last year’s Aussie series opener was his first one ever, and he withdrew from the second round with a concussion which saw him sidelined for the rest of the series.
Photo by Julian Wilson
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