Jeff Ward interview - MXILL Feature
Interview Friday 14th September 2012 By Eric Johnson
Recently, I ran into Ward and asked him to talk about his memories of competing in the Motocross of Nations. A great supporter of the event, he was more than happy to provide answers to the far too many questions I asked.
MXill: Jeff, there are countless questions I can ask you about you and your career in motor racing, but I’m going to stay specific to the Motocross des Nations, I mean the Motocross of Nations…
Jeff Ward: Yeah, that’s cool.
MXill: As far as the U.S. and our somewhat contemporary ascendency in the great event go, you’re the most successful and accomplished rider of all-time. Damn, you were on seven winning U.S. teams, right?
Ward: Yeah, seven times. So it’s a record I still hold - the only one probably [laughter].
MXill: Do you think it’s still the most important motocross race in the world?
Ward: I think it’s the most pressure, for sure. The most important? The Supercross championship in America is the biggest trophy you can get. As a motocross rider – feeling-wise - it’s the only race where we race as a nation and it’s a big pressure situation more than anything.
MXill: Damon Bradshaw recently told me that the pressure at the Motocross of Nations was pretty much intolerable for him. He explained that tension of sitting around all weekend with his stomach churning made him almost not even want to be there…
Ward: [Laughs] Yeah, it wasn’t that bad for me. At that point (Vimmerby, Sweden in 1990) he hadn’t won any championship, though really and he wasn’t used to winning championships. I felt that way my first National Championship (the 1984 125cc National Championship). It was like anxiety or, "What if something goes wrong?" You worry more about the bad stuff than actually how good you’ve been riding all year. So after the first one, the pressure is off and you just do your job. I felt like more going over there. I knew the pressure. I had it many times in motocross winning championships. It just came more naturally for me than for younger guys like Bradshaw. And for the guys going over right now, they’ve never been there; it has to be that way for them. But [Ryan] Dungey has won some championships – and has had some taken away – and has had some taken away with screw-ups, so he’s been there. So he’s got a real good chance. The other two guys are going to feel it.
MXill: You always went to the Motocross of nations when you were asked, correct?
Ward: The only time I didn’t go was in 1986 (Maggiora, Italy) when they wanted me to ride a 125. We [Kawasaki] didn’t have a rider in the 125 class that year so we didn’t have a really good bike. I hadn’t ridden one in two years. I didn’t have the best year in 1986. I won races and could have got championships, but had bad luck. I just kind of turned it down because I was going to be the weak link.
Read the rest of this interview in our FREE Motocross e-magazine Motocross Illustrated. See below.