ELDER statesmen Greg Hancock insists it is only “a matter of time” before Darcy Ward’s new-found wisdom transforms his world title dream into reality.

Poole Pirates captain Ward will attempt to hunt down the American stalwart and British sensation Tai Woffinden when the Grand Prix series resumes in Riga, Latvia tomorrow (5pm BST).

The Aussie ace heads into round eight in third position, trailing Hancock by 12 championship points and Woffinden by a further three after finishing behind both rivals in Cardiff last month.

And while former bookmakers’ favourite Ward has seen his price drift for this year’s crown, two-time standard bearer Hancock has no doubt that Poole’s enigmatic figurehead has finally found the focus to match his globally-renowned talent.

Asked whether he considered Ward a future world champion, Hancock told the Daily Echo: “For sure. The ball is in his court, he has all the ingredients it’s just a case of putting them together.

“I think it’s just a matter of time if he keeps going the way he is because he’s maturing as a man, a speedway rider and as a sportsman.

“Everybody has fun when they are young and growing up doesn’t mean you have to stop, you just have to know when to work hard and when to play and you can see that change in Darcy.

“I noticed last year when I was at Poole that he had started to ask different questions, the type you have to be very clever to answer. I give him as much advice as I can but from the sort of questions he’s asking, it’s clear that the only thing on his mind is winning.

“He’s throwing things out there to see what he can do and while they can’t follow everything you advise, Darcy is capable of listening to what you say and tweaking to make the difference.

“Like most riders, injury will be the only thing to slow him down. As long as he can steer clear of anything serious, Darcy will be one of a couple of guys to battle with Tai (Woffinden) for years to come.”

Meanwhile, shale sport legend Hancock believes the long-term future is bright for British riders on the international scene.

Hancock added: “It’s nice to see England bringing through some talent. The likes of Craig Cook and a couple coming out of motocross are starting to make the right steps. It can only be a good thing for British speedway.”