JEFF WARD: MAN OF MANY RACING TALENTS From the Indy 500 to AMA Supermoto in less than a week PICKERINGTON, Ohio (May 27, 2005) -- How's this for a week of racing? Defending AMA Supermoto Champion Jeff Ward will suit up Sunday, May 29, for the...
JEFF WARD: MAN OF MANY RACING TALENTS
From the Indy 500 to AMA Supermoto in less than a week
PICKERINGTON, Ohio (May 27, 2005) -- How's this for a week of racing? Defending AMA Supermoto Champion Jeff Ward will suit up Sunday, May 29, for the 89th annual Indianapolis 500. Six days later on June 4, he plans on putting on his riding gear and racing his Troy Lee Designs Honda at Road America's Briggs & Stratton Motorplex to open the 2005 AMA Supermoto Championship. Not bad for a guy who turns 44 this June.
Ward will be the number one rider among a host of the nation's best Supermoto racers converging on Elkhart Lake, Wis., for the series opener and doesn't see a problem making the transition from Indy Cars to AMA Supermoto in such a short time.
"I've been practicing on the bike here in Indy," said Ward, a Motorcycle Hall of Famer. "The new '05 Honda is better than last year. I got to test one before I came out to Indy and I went faster on the stock bike than I did on the '04 race bike. The handling on the new bike is improved so we should be pretty good."
Ward sees Red Bull KTM's Jurgen Kunzel and former teammate Doug Henry, who now rides for Graves Motorsports Yamaha, as his primary competition this year.
"It should be a good year," Ward says. "We're going to some new tracks like Road America, that are purpose built for Supermoto and are supposed to be pretty nice, and going back to some of the top tracks from last year. It's going to be a challenge to hold on to the title, but I feel like I've got the best team and I'm healthy and fit coming into the season, so I'm ready to go."
Ward won the title last year in spite of riding with nagging knee and ankle injuries much of the season.
This year will mark the first visit of the AMA Supermoto Championship to the Briggs & Stratton Motorplex. The track was one of the earliest Supermoto tracks built in America and has hosted regional competition for a number of seasons.
Ben Carlson learned to race Supermoto at the facility and feels he may have a slight edge over riders who haven't raced there, but with the additional elements brought in for an AMA championship event, he thinks it's less than most people would think.
"I've got two years of racing experience at Road America," said Carlson, who rides for the powerful HMC Racing/Generations of Sonoma KTM Supermoto team. "I think my experience there may give me a little bit of an advantage, but it's less and less the more I hear about the new elements being brought in for the AMA race. The dirt section and metal ramps will be something new that breaks the flow of the track I'm used to racing, so I'll have a lot to learn as well, I'm sure."
Yamaha is coming into AMA Supermoto in a big way with the Graves Motorsports team of Doug Henry and Mark Burkhart. Henry, 34, is a former AMA Motocross champion and led the AMA Supermoto Championship in wins last year with four and finished third in the final standings. Burkhart is one of the first true stars to come out of Supermoto racing and is finally getting a shot at riding for a factory-backed team after fielding his own squad the last two years.
Easily the hungriest rider coming into the 2005 season is Red Bull KTM's Jurgen Kunzel. The German rider, who's been a leading contender in the Supermoto World Championships, has come so close, but has yet to score a victory in AMA Supermoto's premier class. He scored five podium finishes and was runner up to Ward in last year's series, but Kunzel is looking to improve on that mark this year.
"For sure it was disappointing not to get a victory last year," said the 30-year-old Kunzel. "I have one goal this year and that is the championship and I would like to win a few races along the way. I have the experience now with American tracks and a strong team in KTM behind me. Everything is in place for me to have a good season. Now I just need a little luck on my side."
In addition to the premier Supermoto event, Briggs & Stratton Motorplex will also host the AMA Unlimited Supermoto class, the new Supermoto Lites class for 250cc machines and the Honda Red Riders Junior Supermoto Challenge. Brit Kurt Nicoll won the Unlimited Championship last year and new stars will emerge in both the new Lites class and the Junior Supermoto class for kids 12-15.
Road America will be packed with racing action from June 2-5 with the Suzuki Superbike Doubleheader going on the same weekend. For ticket information call 1-800-365-RACE or visit www.roadamerica.com.