LONG BEACH, Calif. – Legendary motocross champion Jeff Ward will return to the streets of Long Beach after a 22-year absence on April 15.
Ward will drive the No. 7 Black Swan Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR sports car in the Pirelli World Challenge 50-minute sprint race during the 44th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach event.
Ward, 56, has one of the most impressive racing resumes ever seen in North American motorsports history, with seven AMA motocross titles, 56 AMA victories, two X Games Super Moto gold medals, one IndyCar race win (Texas Motor Speedway, 2002), second, third and fourth place finishes in the Indianapolis 500 and seats in three LBGP Indy Lights events (1993, 1995, 1996). Ward went back to motorcycle racing in 2004 and won the AMA Supermoto (dirt and pavement racing) in 2004 and 2006 in his 40s.
Most recently, Ward has competed in off-road trucks and Red Bull GRC Rallycross competition.
Few racers have as diverse a racing career and now the Newport Beach, Calif., competitor will make his GT sports car debut just a few miles from his home when practice opens next week at the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit near the Long Beach harbor.
“I’m very excited to take to the streets of Long Beach. Street racing is unlike anything else in motorsports,” said Ward. “And the nature of the Pirelli World Challenge and their sprint racing format means you have to be instantly on the pace and willing to race hard. It’s an opportunity I’ve really been looking forward to, and I couldn’t be more appreciative of everyone at Black Swan Racing and Porsche Motorsport North America for making the opportunity possible.”
Ward still has great memories of his Indy Lights races at Long Beach including battling the late Greg Moore in the 1995 event.
“I didn’t race many times at Long Beach but that 1995 race with Greg was very special,” said Jeff. “I was racing Greg for the lead and I went in very deep into turn one and couldn’t make the move. I slid way into the runoff area and missed a chance at winning there. But Greg was a super driver and I am so glad to have raced against him in my career. That turn one is such an iconic part of motorsports. I’m anxious to get back to run the track again.”
Black Swan Racing team principal Tim Pappas, a Pirelli World Challenge regular, was a dirt bike racer in his younger days and Ward was a hero to him. Tim is very excited to have Jeff join his racing team in this year’s PWC event at Long Beach.
“It’s great to return to action at Long Beach, especially being joined by a legend like Jeff Ward,” said Pappas, the Boston, Mass., driver who recently won his class at the 12 Hours of Bathurst in Australia. “I grew up as an avid dirt biker, and Jeff was always ‘the guy’ for any kid who looked up to motocross racing, so to have him join our group is something we’re all looking forward to. The event at Long Beach is unlike any other we go to, and we’re thrilled to add it to our global roster of events this year. While our 911 GT3 R program is a proven one, it’s great to finally put our Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR to work, and with a guy like Jeff behind the wheel we know it’s in good hands.”
Ward, now serving as an instructor/consultant for selected AMA Supercross riders, established himself as a legend in motorcycle racing before making the jump to Indy Lights in 1992. He then became a quick contender in that series as well as the IndyCar Series in the late 1990s.
“It’s funny that I jumped to the Indy Lights with no four-wheel racing experience,” said Ward. “But I was able to adapt pretty quickly. I hope I can do the same with the Porsche in Pirelli World Challenge. I was able to test a day at Willow Springs (Raceway) last week and learned about the car. I’m excited to get to Long Beach again.”