Caleb Ward Interview
By Todd Jarratt – Images by Jeff Crow
Up until 2013 not many people within Australia had ever heard of the name Caleb Ward. Over the last two years though, this young Atherton boy has quickly become a huge name within Australian motocross, and many believe he will be our next big “Aussie export”. Todd Jarratt caught up with the 18-year-old recently after his dominant return to the MX Nationals at Murray Bridge just two weeks ago!
Todd Jarratt: I remember back in 2012, I was commentating the Junior Australian Titles, and had a chat to Richard Evans the day prior to racing, about his thoughts on who would do well in the 13-u15 years classes. He made it clear to me that you were the guy to beat. I honestly doubted him, as I hadn’t ever seen you up front at a Junior National before, but as usual Richie was right! You only dropped one final win that week to riders like Dobson, Todd, Evans, Carter and Rykers, and that was due to a huge crash!
Caleb Ward: Yeah 2012 was kind of like my break out year. Living so far north in Atherton as a kid it was always a long way to travel down to the races and while most of those guys took their junior racing pretty seriously, I just had fun with it and didn’t really get into it properly until 2012. I always rode a lot, like a lot back home, but I never really got into the training side of it, and while that was the case I was always a bit behind that lead group. It wasn’t until I got up onto the 125 and 250 that I really started to train and take things seriously, which I guess is also when things started to click and my results improved.
TJ: Then after the 2012 Junior Aussie’s you dropped off the face of the planet for around 12 months, and we didn’t see you at any big events again until the final two rounds of the MX Nationals, where you actually finished on the podium in the MXD class at Coolum!
Caleb Ward: Yeah, I went to step up into the senior classes early in 2013 as soon as I turned 16 and had planned to race the whole second half of the MX Nationals series. Then at the QLD titles I broke my wrist and that basically ruined the plans. I was on the bike one week after the wrist injury and decided to race Toowoomba and Coolum. I was pretty sick, and also really nervous for the Toowoomba round so I didn’t do too well there, but then we headed to Coolum shortly after and I had another week or so on the bike before that and felt a lot better. I ended up third there, which was pretty good considering the circumstances and I think a few people noticed me at that stage.
TJ: Then on to last year, stepping up to the MX2 Class you won seven races and managed three dominant round wins, which cemented you as the most winning rider of the season.
Caleb Ward: Yeah last year was pretty good. I struggled really badly at the beginning of the year with the nerves hey! I was only 17, so the youngest rider in the field and I had been reading about the guys I was racing against in magazines for years and looked up to them, so that, as well as not knowing where I sat in the field was pretty unsettling. In the first three rounds I got good starts but the nerves got to me, and I just made small mistakes that set me back. Then at Murray Bridge, in the second moto I ended up getting the holeshot and had a pretty decent lead. Then Dad was on the pit board just telling me to ride smart, so I backed it off a bit and made sure I was going to finish in a decent position rather than on my head. Just after that, Arbon and Clout got past me, but I was riding their speed and didn’t seem to be pushing that much. So that was really the turning point in the season where the nerves started to fall away and I knew I could run up front and win!
TJ: And soon after the winning started!
Caleb Ward: Yeah absolutely, the next round was Western Australia and I went out and won the opening two moto’s then just rode smart in the last race to do enough to get the overall! From then on it was pretty good, I won two of three moto’s at Conondale and won all three moto’s at Coolum. After Wanneroo the only round I really struggled at was Raymond Terrace, I lacked a bit of consistency here and there due to bad starts, but other than that I was pretty happy with how the season went.
TJ: Talking about those wins at Conondale it was actually kind of strange and unexpected. Everyone anticipated that you would be strong at Wanneroo because you’re known as a sand specialist, but to go to the most hard packed track of the year at Conondale and decimate your competition, that surprised a lot of people.
Caleb Ward: Yeah although I seem to do well in the sand, it’s actually more so just the fast and open tracks that I enjoy. I would say American and even some European tracks would suit me far better than here in Australia, because the tracks here are really tight and slow, whereas I like to flow and carry a lot of speed – which is hard to do on the tracks we have to race here.
TJ: So in saying that, knowing that you’re weakness therefore is the tight and technical tracks I gather you would do a lot of practice on that type of terrain these days?
Caleb Ward: Yeah absolutely! I spent part of my pre season riding down in NSW at places like Appin and Raymond Terrace because that’s where I struggled last year. I think I got a lot better, and I think my speed now on those types of tracks would be the same if not better than the fastest guys in Australia. Obviously Horsham didn’t show that, but that was more because of bad starts and a bike issue. Then at Appin, I got caught up early in the first moto and injured my knee.
TJ: So what actually happened with your knee, it wasn’t really made known to the public because I’m guessing you were trying to keep it fairly well under wraps?
Caleb Ward: I got it caught in a rut and ended up tearing my ACL and damaging my MCL actually – so it was fairly serious. It actually turns out that I have been racing and training without an ACL in my other knee since 2013, so I’ve kind of just learnt to deal with that, and I guess I’ll just do the same with this one now. It doesn’t affect me while I’m riding or training, so just maybe one day in the future I’ll get it sorted, but for now I’m solely focused on racing!
TJ: So what did you get up to in the five weeks between Appin and Murray Bridge then?
Caleb Ward: The first two and a half weeks I was literally stuck on the couch. I probably watched close to one hundred movies, and it was pretty depressing actually. While everyone was out racing and training, I was stuck at home resting the knee. Then after the passive rest period I got into some active stuff, mainly core and upper body work and then gradually got back onto the cycle so I didn’t lose too much cardio fitness. Then about a week or so before Murray Bridge I was back on the bike and able to put in some moto’s so I wasn’t completely under prepared for round four.
TJ: Now moving onto Coolum – a sand track, a place where you have won junior nationals and last year were unbeaten at the final round. The confidence has to be sitting pretty high at the moment heading into this weekend!
Caleb Ward: Yes and no actually, I just try to treat it as any other round. Obviously, I’ve had a fair bit of success there before, but I just want to get good, consistent starts in both races and then just try to do my own thing without worrying about anyone else. That’s what I did last year and it seemed to work.
TJ: You have openly said that you are now out of the title hunt, so what does that do to your goals and mindset for the remainder of the season?
Caleb Ward: Yeah, I basically just want to win as much as I can and prove that I should’ve been there for the title. I would also like to race the Motocross of Nations. I know it’s a big deal, but I feel like winning the most moto’s last year and that kind of thing shows that I can at least go fast! I’m unsure of how that process works, but I guess if I just do my best to win as much as possible then I’d be in good stead in terms of the domestic MX2 riders!
TJ: So then, if you’re looking at events like the Motocross of Nations, where do we see Caleb Ward next year and in the next few years?
Caleb Ward: I really want to get overseas hey! My goal at the start of 2015 was to get the MX2 title and then either step up to MX1 or go overseas. Obviously, with the injury the title is out of reach now, so I’ve got to rethink the situation but there is a lot of racing yet to go so things may still work out. I just know overall I want to get overseas in the next year or two, it will take a lot of work to even get considered, but I know I’m up for it!
TJ: Well thank you very much for your time Caleb, we will see you this weekend at Round 5 of the MX Nationals at Coolum!
Caleb Ward: No worries at all, thanks for the chat!
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2015 MX Nationals standings after round 4
MX1: 1. Kirk Gibbs 274, 2. Luke Styke 235, 3. Adam Monea 227, 4. Kade Mosig 227, 5. Lawson Bopping 213, 6. Dylan Long 192, 7. Jesse Dobson 188, 8. Daniel Reardon 184, 9. Cody Cooper 177, 10. Kale Makeham 152
MX2: 1. Luke Clout 243, 2. Takeshi Katsuya 227, 3. Jay Wilson 227, 4. Jed Beaton 202, 5. Wade Hunter 198, 6. Luke Arbon 179, 7. Geran Stapleton 157, 8. Hamish Harwood 156, 9. Riley Graham 154, 10. Nathan Crawford 153
MXD – 1. Wilson Todd 197, 2. Connor Tierney 189, 3. Jesse Madden 187, 4. Wayde Carter 174, 5. Jayden Rykers 171, 6. Bailey Coxon 165, 7. Jonte Reynders 149, 8. Jordan Hill 135, 9. Lachlan Davis 135, 10. Zak Small 132
MX Nationals 2015 – Round Five – Coolum – May 31
Coolum Pines Motocross Track is prepped and ready to host round five of the 2015 MX Nationals this weekend, with racing on Sunday set to be nothing short of action packed.
The soft sandy conditions of Coolum will provide the final stage before the 2015 Australian Motocross Series heads into a five week break, allowing riders to recharge, recuperate and put in further training before kicking off the final five rounds.
Series Promoter Kevin Williams shared that the first four rounds of this year’s championship have exceeded all expectations, and is eager to see what Coolum has in store this weekend.
“Coolum has always been a favorite destination of the MX Nationals, and we’re very excited to be visiting the venue twice this year,” he said.
“Last round we saw some championship leaders have tough rounds, and we also saw new faces on the podium, so this weekend is going to be very important to a lot of championship contenders.
“So far this year, racing has definitely been action packed, and with championships on the line, Coolum locals can definitely expect to see exciting racing this weekend.”
Williams also praised the venue’s preparation for round five, and says riders will be in for a real treat when they hit the track on Sunday.
“The track at Coolum is without a doubt ready to race on,” he said.
“Mick brown, and his team as always have done a great job in preparing the track for a National event, and riders, spectators and teams will once again see Coolum in perfect racing condition this weekend.
“We are currently in discussions with the club about making further exciting changes to the track for the final round in August, so we encourage people to get out to there this weekend, because when we head back later in the year things will certainly be different!”
Round five of the MX Nationals will kick off at Coolum Pines MX Track this Sunday May 31, with bikes on track from 8:30am.
MX Nationals 2015 Calendar
- Rd1 Horsham, VIC 29 March
- Rd2 Appin, NSW 12 April
- Rd3 Broadford, VIC 26 April
- Rd4 Murray Bridge, SA 17 May
- Rd5 Coolum, QLD 31 May
- Rd6 Raymond Terrace, NSW 5 July
- Rd7 Shepparton, VIC 19 July
- Rd8 Nowra, NSW 2 August
- Rd9 Toowoomba, QLD 23 August
- Rd10 Coolum, QLD 30 August
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Suzuki Preview Coolum MX Nationals
Team Motul Suzuki’s Matt Moss is set to return to racing this weekend as the 2015 MX Nationals hits the half way point in Coolum, Queensland this Sunday the 31st of May.
This weekends race marks the first of two events at the black sand based track that has been a happy hunting ground for Moss in recent years after he wrapped up both the 2013 and 2014 MX1 championships for Suzuki at the Coolum Pines venue.
For Moss this weekends sole focus is getting back up to race pace after being sidelined at Appin on the 12th of April, where he was involved in a first turn crash that forced him to take some time away from riding.
After throwing a leg over his bike for the first time in over a month two weeks ago, Moss has worked hard with his team, dialling in his Suzuki RM-Z 450 and is looking forward to mixing it up with the nations top riders this weekend.
“The body is feeling good and I have spent the past couple of weeks working with the team on the race bike and getting more comfortable.” Moss commented.
“I am looking forward to getting back out on track at Coolum and seeing where we are at and mixing it up with the boys.
“We will be aiming to do the best we can on Sunday, then use the mid season break to continuing working hard heading into the second half of the season.” Moss added.
For team-mate Kale Makeham, the opening six motos of his rookie MX1 career saw him continuously improve from race to race with the 21 year old Victorian posting a top five moto result and a trip to the Go-Pro Superpole during the opening three rounds of 2015.
Things were continuing on the same path at round four held at Murray Bridge until a crash late in the opening moto of the day left Makeham dazed and with a slight concussion, forcing him out of the remainder of the days racing.
With two weeks to recover Makeham is 100% fit and ready for this weekends event and has his eyes set on once again reaching new milestones in the premier class of Motocross racing in Australia.
“I took a few days off after hitting my head at Murray Bridge, then headed up to Newcastle to ride with the team.” Makeham explained.
“I have been out riding a fair bit and my mechanic has been swinging off the lap board every time I have been on track which has been a big help.
“Heading into this weekend I want to be inside the top five. I want to use what we have learned so far this season and have another solid round and continue pushing forward.” Makeham concluded.
KTM Preview Coolum MX Nationals
KTM motocross racing team rider Kirk Gibbs will look to continue tightening the screws on this year’s MX1 championship as the Monster Energy MX Nationals series continues at Coolum on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast this weekend.
In some ways it’s a second consecutive home around for the Queensland-based South Australian, and Gibbs hopes to further increase the 39-point lead he currently holds, before the series takes its 5-week winter break.
The demanding black sand circuit is a stern test of fitness, creativity and line selection ability for competitors, and the KTM 450 SXF rider proved able to master the combination when he finished equal first on points at Coolum round last year.
Current number two in the championship, Gibbs’ KTM Motocross Racing Team mate Luke Styke will also relish the upcoming round, partly because he craves the softer surfaces, and partly as a chance to make good for a disappointing showing at Murray Bridge a fortnight ago.
The outstanding premier class rookie was crestfallen at failing to meet his own high expectations when he finished sixth in South Australia, and will revert to a low pressure approach this time around.
The pair will also have a fresh new look for the weekend, with factory team gear sponsor Lusty Industries having air-freighted out the first samples of the brand-new 2016 TLD gear for them to wear in Queensland.
Rob Twyerould, KTM Motocross Racing Team Manager – “It would be great to have a successful weekend, but we will just treat it as another round as we’ve been doing for the last four rounds. The boys had a good solid couple of weeks since Murray Bridge, with a bit more testing with Luke and hopefully that will set him up better, and both boys are quite familiar with that track and will go there feeling pretty comfortable. I think it will be a great round, and hopefully it will be a successful one.”
Kirk Gibbs – “Coolum is going to be really good, it’s going to be tough like always, but I feel like I’ve done some good prep and we have a good setting for there. We did a day’s testing two weeks back and I’m just looking forward to it. Hopefully it gets rough, the rougher the better. For me I just want to keep chipping away at that championship lead, if I can take wins that’s good, but if I can beat the closest championship contenders that’s probably the biggest goal for me. Like always though I just want to ride my best and I feel like if I am I’ll be doing that anyway.”
Luke Styke – “My mind wasn’t in the right spot at Murray Bridge. At the first three rounds where the tracks didn’t suit me as well, I had no expectations and did really well. So I’m going to go back to something like that in this round, I’ll just go in completely relaxed about it and just let it come to me, hopefully pull off some good starts and get on the podium again. I haven’t raced at Coolum for two years but we’ve been up doing a bit of testing so I’m pretty familiar with the track.”
In MX2 Racing: Plenty of eyes will be on KTM Factory Support rider Caleb Ward, who dominated the field last time out at Murray Bridge, will be racing his ‘home’ track at Coolum, and is known for his sand riding prowess. Fellow KTM factory support rider Hamish Harwood is still the highest placed orange rider in the championship, despite soldiering on with a fractured heel in the last round. Though he’ll still carry the injury this weekend, Harwood used last year’s Coolum finale to leapfrog into second in the MX2 championship, and few will discount the gritty New Zealander on Sunday.
Caleb Ward – “I want to win consistently and try to prove that I’m the fastest guy out there so hopefully I can keep the wins going. Good starts are probably the key to everything, I know my speed is pretty good, and I’m working on the body being back at 100%. Coolum is pretty high on my list of favourite tracks – I’ve won an Australian junior title there and won all three MX2 races there last year, and just being up the road from where I’m living now will make things more comfortable too; I can sleep in my own bed the night before and that sort of thing. It should be good.”
Hamish Harwood – “Murray Bridge was terrible for me, I cased in those rollers in practice and fractured my heel and basically struggled with it all day. It’s only a slight fracture, and I’ve ridden the last few days so it’s not too bad, I just basically can’t put any pressure on the heel or dab it on the ground. Apart from that I’ve got a few good days riding in, so we’ll bounce back at Coolum and try to get some results.”
In MXD racing, KTM Factory Support racer Wayde Carter is hoping his recent experience testing at Alice Springs with KTM’s desert racing team will help him to take the next step into the top three of the U19 championship. Right behind Carter, in fifth place in the championship, fellow KTM rider Jayden Rykers will be keen to continue the form he showed by finishing second in South Australia.
Wayde Carter – “I’m pretty confident coming into this round. I like riding in the sand and the whoops and I was up testing at Finke a couple of weeks ago with the KTM desert racing boys, so I’ve had some good sand conditioning and I’m ready to get out and get amongst it with the boys. I’d love to break inside the top three this weekend, last round there were some boys mixing up the points at the top end so that was good, so hopefully I can make something of this weekend and get in there. That would be great.”