Catching Up with…Tanner Ward

By Billy Rainford

Anyone who has followed Canadian amateur racing over the past few years has literally watched Tanner Ward grow up in front of their eyes. Always a front-runner, Tanner has been ear-marked for great things since first throwing a leg over a bike as a child. His strong performances over the years have attracted lots of manufacturer attention, but it is this latest interest and confidence in him from KTM Canada that is the most  compelling. Tanner recently signed with the Royal Distributing Fox KTM team to finish out his amateur racing career over the next two years. We caught up with the continent-trotting Tanner to get his thoughts on everything.


Tanner Ward recently signed to finish out his amateur racing career with KTM Canada. We caught up with the Woodstock, Ontario, phenom to see what it all means. – Bigwave photo

Direct Motocross: Hello, Tanner. We’ve heard some pretty cool news recently, but we’ll get to that in a minute. You’ve been really busy since racing ended outdoors in Ontario. Can you tell us what you’ve been up to?

Tanner Ward: Yeah, after the outdoors I started focusing on the Arenacross Tour. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to race the first two in London, ON but was able to be back for Sarnia Round 3-4. Then, after that I got the opportunity to head out west with the the Ax Tour crew. Kyle Thompson, Taylor Ciampichini, Austin Watling and I hopped in the Thompson’s motor home and made our way out to Penticton, B.C. for round 5-6. Two weeks after that we were in Calgary for round 7-8 and that to me was definitely my favourite round. I ended up winning 3 Canadian national Arenacross Tour West championships.

After the Canadian Ax Tour was over I did the first round of the American series in Bowling Green, KY, but after that I decided to take some time off and get ready to head down south in the new year.

You’ve been racing the 2-stroke KTM. How has that been compared to all the 4-strokes you’re battling?

I love my KTM 150SX. It’s has definitely made me more of an aggressive rider, especially in the arenacross trying to battle the 250F’s. To keep up with the 250s I just have to work a little bit harder, but in the long run it’s making me a better rider.

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Tanner has been living the moto dream this fall, working and racing all over North America. – Bigwave photo

You and your buddy, Austin Watling, had some of the most exciting battles of the AX Tour season. Can you take us through that? It looked pretty clean but also pretty intense. Friends off the track, too.

Those battles were, for sure, some of the best I’ve ever had. It was awesome knowing that he was going to put up a fight but definitely not take me out on purpose, so it made it better racing. In the Penticton night show, Austin and I had some fun and stuffed each other as well as were looking over at each other in the air; it was a lot of fun. The best part of it all is that when we come off the track we go back to being best buddies!

We saw you in Bowling Green but you weren’t able to race the Mini O’s. I know you love that event. Why weren’t you down there?

We were planning on going to Mini O’s this year but with limited time on the big bikes I felt like I wasn’t ready to go race a national, so we decided to just focus on the spring nationals coming up in March.

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His battles with buddy #424 Austin Watling had everyone lining the edges track whenever the gate dropped. – Bigwave photo

You got picked up for the new development program at KTM Canada. How did that come about? Did they contact you? What was involved in that?

Yeah, last year around this exact time we were contacted by KTM Canada. After a few phone calls and Claudie LaPointe‘s hard work, we had a deal by Christmas Day.

Now you’ve signed on to a deal that will see you finish out your amateur career with them. How will this work? 

We just finished signing a two-year deal. So this upcoming year (2016) I will be racing Schoolboy 1 , Schoolboy 2 and Junior. In 2017, I’ll be racing Intermediate. I couldn’t be more thankful for the KTM Canada race team for having me on board to finish out my amateur career.

Where are you right now and what are your winter training/racing plans?

Today, I’m actually at the local practice track testing out my new 250 SXF in this nice December weather. My plan is to head to south with the FrankFit Canada crew in January and train with them all winter. My first big race of the season will be the Daytona Amateur National. Following that will be Freestone in Texas, then we’ll come back to Canada and do the qualifiers for Walton.

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There will be some disappointed riders when Tanner lines up to compete in the Junior classes next summer. – Bigwave photo

I know there will be a lot of upset Junior riders next spring when you show up with red numbers! Are you happy to be taking your time moving up through the ranks?

Yeah, I’m glad we’re not rushing it. After talking it over with the KTM team we decided it’s definitely the smarter choice for me as a rider to develop on a big bike before I turn Pro in 2 years.

What classes will you use which bike in? 

I’ll be racing Schoolboy 1 on a KTM 125SX, Schoolboy 2 and Junior on a KTM 250SXF. Yes, we just got the four-stroke so I’m excited to see what I can do on it!


Tanner putting in some seat time on the new KTM 4-stroke in Ontario. – Duncan Macleod photo supplied by Tanner Ward

What’s your next event?

My plan is to race the Arenacross Tour in the new year.

OK, thanks for chatting with us today. Good luck and who would you like to thank?

Thank you for this, and I’d like to the all my 2015 sponsors: KTM Canada, Fox Head Canada, Royal Distributing, FMF, Dunlop, Motorex, and Orange Brigade. Thank you KTM Canada for letting me continue my journey for 2016 and 2017. I’d also like to thank everyone at FrankFit Canada, MX Schools, Jetwerx, Mobuis, Tech Care Development, Oakley, and most of all my family! Thank you, everyone.