Well, it seems as though the silly season was extended this year. David Pingree's plans to race the premier class for Azteq Racing were dissolved when the team's investors pulled out and decided to liquidate all of the race bikes.
Without a ride, Pingree quickly contacted Troy Lee to see if something could be worked out. About the same time, Troy got some unfortunate news from Jeff Ward.
Ward, who has battled with traces of skin cancer since the age of 28, is once again in need of minor surgical procedures that will limit his participation in the 2008 season. The procedures involve removal of cancerous skin cells called lesions. These excisions provide the best cure for both early and high-risk disease.
Due to the delicate nature of the procedure, the affected areas need to remain free of dirt and sweat that could cause infection, and lead to a worsened condition. Ward says he could still ride, but he wouldn't have the time needed to train and prepare to the level he would like.
Pingree to replace Ward in 2008
Given the circumstances, Jeff Ward said to Troy "Let Ping race my bike." Of course, Pingree was elated that Ward would give up his ride for most of the season to allow David a shot at the premier title.
And Troy was happy to oblige.
"This is obviously not something we planned for," says Lee. "But we are all concerned for Jeff's well-being, and we support his decision to make his health top priority. It's an awesome gesture for Jeff to offer up his ride to David for the upcoming supermoto season. Ping wanted to ride a 450 anyway, so it kind of worked out."
Anderson and Pingree will now field the 450's in the premier class, while Troy Lee will participate in select races in the 2008 schedule aboard the team's 250.
"The past few months have been a bit of a roller coaster," said Pingree. "Of course I am bummed to hear about Wardy having those health problems but it means a lot that he suggested putting me on his bike. I've looked up to that guy since I was nine and it will be an honor to ride his bike this year. I feel like I'm back at home with the TLD crew. These guys have been like a family to me and I'm anxious to get focused on preparing for our first round in Seattle."
But don't think for a second that Wardy has lost his desire to compete on a motorcycle.
Troy says, "What's absolutely amazing about this whole thing is that in the same breath that Wardy told me he won't be able to race supermoto, he's asking me to have a motorcycle ready for X Games this August!"
The Legend Continues
Jeff's oldest son Brandon Ward, who absolutely dominated the mini race at Troy Lee's Duel at the Docks in Long Beach 2006, may keep the legend alive by racing select supermoto events this year on behalf of the team.
And so the #3x Ward jersey will continue to fly in some capacity, be it Jeff or Brandon, or both. But no matter which Wardy is on the track, the racing is sure to be fast and exciting for the fans.
Whether he races or not, Jeff Ward is happy to be involved with coaching and training top riders as they pursue their careers in professional racing. "It's given me a chance to give back to the sport," says Ward. "If anyone is interested in training, they can email me at email@example.com to sign up."
AMA Supermoto kicks off the 2008 season July 13 at Pacific Raceway in Seattle, WA. For more information visit www.amasupermoto.com.