The Australian double world U21 champion was handed a wildcard to compete in the upcoming 2013 season and will take his bow at this level in New Zealand on Saturday.
Ward has been touted as a dark horse to win the title come October but the 22-year-old claims he would be happy to make the top five.
“This year is going to be huge. It could play a factor in my whole career and not just this one year," he said.
“It’ll be nice to do what I can do, just ride my bike and hopefully do well. We’ll see what happens. I think I’ve got the potential to win it, but there are a lot of things you’ve got to put together for it to happen.
“It’s only my first year and I don’t really know the ropes or what to do. I still want to enjoy my leagues and my life away from racing.
“It’s not all about the GPs this year. I’m going to ride my bike, take it meeting by meeting and I’ve got somewhere in my head I want to be. I’d be really happy with the top five.”
Ward is joined this season by fellow newcomer Martin Vaculik while several other riders are making a return after spells out - Krzysztof Kasprzak, Matej Zagar, Niels-Kristian Iversen and Tai Woffinden.
Ward said: “It’s not going to be easy – that’s for sure. I think this year is the hardest line-up I’ve seen. The guys who qualified this year truly deserved it. Niels, Zagar and Kasprzak were quick throughout the whole year.
“With all the wild cards in it too, it’s going to be tough. Anyone could win a round. It’s going to be challenging and there’s a bit of pressure there with me being tipped so high. Hopefully I live up to my hype.”
- Sports & Recreation