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MXP Chatter With Tanner Ward Presented By Canadian Kawasaki Motors Inc.

As Tanner Ward mentions below, this is a busy time of the year for our top pro riders, as in the next few weeks, all will be down south training for the 2024 Triple Crown Series. Even though they’ve been training in the gym for countless hours, getting their bodies fit and ready, nothing takes the place of riding, so the first few weeks down south are always a challenge. However, with milder-than-normal temperatures here in Southern Ontario, Tanner was able to get a head start on getting acquainted with his all-new 2024 WLTN Kawasaki KX450 yesterday at Gopher Dunes. With a new chassis, new engine, and many other new features, the 2024 KX450 has been redesigned from the ground up, and Tanner cannot wait to travel down south and begin his 2024 season preparation. We caught up with TW84 to see how things have been going and what riding at Gopher Dunes in early February was like.

Hey Tanner, how are you doing?

Good, really good, thank you! Kind of a grind time for all of us Canadian Pro guys right now, so just packing up to head south to start putting this brand-new Kawasaki through the paces!

Exciting, the Kawasaki 450 is a brand new generation bike. What is that going to be like?

Well, I got my first ride on Thursday. WLTN Kawasaki has been going full out, the guys have been working on getting the bike put together and sourcing parts for it. Steve Simms brought down a stock 450 to Gopher that he has been dyno running and playing with. Needless to say, I was like a kid on Christmas morning on Thursday knowing not only was I going to ride, but riding this new bike that everyone says is awesome!

And…..

It was awesome. We rode Gopher Dunes, and the track was actually rough by the end of the day. Right away, the bike felt more planted in the front end. Which I wasn’t fully expecting as it is set for Steve right now who is testing a few parts. The older generation Kawasaki is a great bike, Kawasaki’s are always really good all-round bikes, but for me, I felt immediately comfortable with the way it handled. It did what I hoped it would do. The power really has a ton of grunt and just builds power. It is actually very deceptive, it doesn’t have that hard hit that makes you think something is happening. It just keeps pulling. It has been a very long time since I felt like this day one. Not to mention a new bike, not set up for me, at Gopher Dunes in February and I had a blast!

With the mild temperatures this week Tanner was able to spin some laps at Gopher Dunes on his new 2024 KX450. Photo by Brandon Rodwell

That has got to make you feel good knowing you are in a good spot?

Absolutely. Winter is long, and I haven’t been off the Kawasaki for that long, but at the same time, it feels long. And some of those days you ask yourself the what ifs, and to know I am in a good place is great. I actually did a 30-minute moto at the end of the day and felt pretty good.

So, like the other moto snowbirds… when do you head south?

Next week I will be enjoying warmer weather! We are going to do one more day at least at Gopher Dunes on the bike before going south. Walton, and especially Steve, wants me to be as comfortable as possible when I leave. That’s a big plus, usually, I am gone sooner, but Simms has built a bike very close to what I will be racing to go south. What we may lose in time on the front we are gaining big time on the back end.

Tanner met up with his new Team Manager Steve Simms yesterday for a little February test session. Photo by Brandon Rodwell

What has Steve Simms been like so far? He is new to the team.

I mean, he is definitely a hard worker. He sends texts from the shop, pictures of the bikes. dyno maps, stuff at all hours. I think what I am learning is he is more yes/no than Brett and Melody, he doesn’t give “grey” answers. But he is all in. I have no doubt about anyone on this team wanting the best, Mitch (Godkin). Jadon (Brown), Cale (Callan), everyone, wants to compete and Steve has that too. He has won with riders before, he has won championships because he will do what it takes.

New Kawasaki, Simms is new, but there are a lot of changes with WLTN Kawasaki.

For sure, and hats off to them at Walton. Brett (Lee) and I talked about how 2023 really made us learn stuff quickly. No, it didn’t go perfectly, but a lot of good things happened. And the team has reacted to what they saw as weakness, where to improve and are making moves.

Like suspension, I really like SSS and have so much respect for Colton (Facciotti), but the team saw some opportunities. I used TCD Suspension as an amateur, and I have known Tim there for a long time. Simms has experience working with and on TCD – the change opens up the options we didn’t have last year. TCD has worked on many Kawasaki’s already in 2024, so they have a great base for us.

Our gear switching to OGs is another move that may seem significant but has been easy. Brandie and Kyle Snelgrove have been building OGs steadily. I have known Kyle forever so it feels really good to be working with them. It feels pretty natural to pull the OGs jersey on.

So to answer your question, yes, a lot of changes but they are thought out and positive.

After a winter of hard training in the gym, Tanner is ready to head south and begin riding! Photo by Brandon Rodwell

Each year, you get asked what are you looking to get done in 2024?

Compete for the championship. I see myself as one of the guys, and down the stretch in 2023 and 2022 I showed everyone I can be. We always say on the team we want to turn into Walton in August and be in the fight. I am ready to be in the fight for this title. That is where I want to be.

Thanks, Tanner, for the time, enjoy the South!

Thank you. Thanks to the WLTN Kawasaki team. Everyone there is really pushing, and we are so far ahead of where we were in 2023. It is cool. And thank you to Canadian Kawasaki, without them, we don’t go racing. Jacob Black at Kawasaki worked to give the team the investment to be at Nationals, and everyone at Kawasaki has gotten behind the idea. I know my teammate Quinn (Amyotte) and I are proud to represent Team Green. Thanks to OGs, it is a big move supporting a National team, it is going to be cool to be part of their ride. And Montanna, thanks for putting up with me this winter!

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