Ben Watson interview - The Rookie
Posted on April 06, 2021
Monster Energy Yamaha factory rider Ben Watson is a nice addition to an already exciting MXGP class. While the big guns of defending champion Tim Gajser, 2018 champ and four-time World champion Jeffrey Herlings, two-time MX2 champion Jorge Prado and the king of the MXGP class the last 10 years Antonio Cairoli lead the way, we have a nice group behind them with Jeremy Seewer, Romain Febvre, Pauls Jonass, Arminas Jasikonis, Glenn Coldenhoff, and possibly the two MXGP rookies Thomas Olsen and Ben Watson.
Of course, anything can and probably will happen in 2021 and some of those guys in the second group might find themselves battling the guys in the first group. One week a podium, the next 15th place is very possible in this the toughest motocross series in the World.
We caught up with Ben Watson at the end of 2020 and he gave us his feelings on moving up, but after a mini preseason in Italy, and a lot of riding with his new team-mates Seewer and Coldenhoff, we thought it might be a good idea to find out more about the big change.
MXlarge: We spoke at the back end of 2020 and how nice it was to have these two new team-mates in Glenn and Jeremy, but now you have spent more time with them. How have you been feeling in the new team?
Watson: Really good, I have really been enjoying it. With the guys having so much experience, I have been able to learn a lot. With the calendar changes nobody is doing too much, so the guys are sticking to maximum two days a week. Jeremy has headed home and Glenn only did one day this week, so it is very relaxed, and we are not doing too much at the moment. Just plodding along and slowly building.
MXLarge: I was speaking to Jeremy about how fast you are on the 450 and we both said how everyone expected that, as you have the right body for it, and you showed at the back end of 2020 how good your form was on the 250. He mentioned that a lot of the leading MX2 guys could be fast on a 450, but the important part is learning the race craft in the MXGP class, to not get too tired or whatever. Can you learn that in training, and can you work on that in training?
Watson: You can learn a bit in training, but racing is always different, and we saw that in the races in Italy. It took me some time to get into it and I was pleased with the first race. I just wanted to get some starts and do some laps in a race situation. It didn’t go perfect, but it was good enough. I hope before the season that there will be some warmup races organized so we can get more racing in before the GP season starts.
MXlarge: I am guessing you don’t really have a pre-season plan yet as the races that are planned all looking like they will be moved around, postponed or cancelled?
Watson: Well, as far as Lacapelle, I got an e-mail that that has been postponed, but they still want to go ahead with it. I mean, hopefully that goes ahead, and I have a plan, but it isn’t set and will it go ahead. I hope the Dutch federation organize some races like they did last season, just to give the guys something to do.
MXlarge: I know the opening round of the Dutch Masters is still set for Rhenen on the first weekend of June and I wouldn’t be surprised if that goes ahead.
Watson: Yes, and that is a five or six round thing, and the Dutch federation did those two or three races. I mean normally they do the three races early in the season and then the final in that big festival race. We will see and I am sure something will be organized.
MXlarge: I guess going to England to do those three rounds of the British championship in May is difficult with quarantine still needed to be done until early June for England. Would you consider heading home and doing those three races in May?
Watson: Not really, no. Just because it isn’t just me, it is also the team and with Covid the travel is difficult and when the season gets going, it is going to be a long one and I am not too bothered to fit three British rounds in that is for sure. Even if there is no racing, to go the GPs it is going to be a long, long season, so I am not too stressed.
MXlarge: That energy thing on the big 450 and in such a class as MXGP, so intense. We saw it even with Prado at the start of his 450 career that it isn’t easy. Is that something you and the team expect that you might struggle at the beginning.
Watson: It is hard to say, some struggle in the first year and some don’t. If you look at Febvre and Gajser, they didn’t struggle at all. It depends on and that is what is exciting, because it is unexpected and we don’t know how I will do, but I am really excited and as we said, that race situation is different. The team isn’t expecting me to die off after 15 minutes, but they also don’t expect me to be winning straight away. I just have to be solid, take my time and learn. Hopefully I can show some potential and you never know.
MXlarge: I know you are not team-mates with Romain (Febvre), but you are good friends. Has he in the past given you advice about moving up to the MXGP class and what the transition is like?
Watson: A little bit, but when we get together, we don’t really talk about racing or riding to be honest. We weren’t in the same class and now we are. I mean nothing has changed, if I go to see him, we don’t talk about riding, we go cycling or something, so we haven’t had that conversation. I think throughout the season, if we are battling, or if I am struggling, he is the type of guy who would give me some help or something if I needed it.
MXlarge: Has there been anything that has surprised you, maybe a negative about moving to the 450?
Watson: No, not really at the moment, but we have just been doing training and in Sardinia we a lot of riding and I did that one race, but no, not really anything bad has happened. We have ridden in different tracks, all conditions and nothing has made me feel strange. Racing situation will be something different of course, but I look forward to that.
MXlarge: Jeremy mentioned to me that you guys have been riding a lot together. Did you do races against the clock, or motos together where you sort of really raced and if you did, how was your speed compared to his?
Watson: We did a lot of riding together, especially with Jeremy, because he was just putting laps in, while Glenn was doing more testing. We did a lot together and it was good for me and I really appreciate we did everything together and letting me learn. It is hard to say because it was just training, maybe Jeremy was just ticking over, but it was good, and it was pretty close most of the times. Jeremy was a little bit better of course, but that is expected. It was nice to see where you are at and as I said it was just training.
MXlarge: The calendar came out and we don’t know if it happens or not. I don’t think too many are happy about it starting in Russia, but then we have Maggiora and Matterley Basin, which are both great tracks. What did you think of the calendar?
Watson: I mean it looks like a nice calendar and I would like to see it go ahead, not sure it happens, but if it does go ahead, we just have to be ready. You hear rumours about the schedule and how the race days will be. We just have to be ready when it does start up again.
Date of birth: 05 – 06 - 1997
Place of birth: Nottinghamshire
Height: 183 cm
Hobbies: Fishing, cycling, music, cars, gym
First Grand Prix raced: 2014, MXGP of Europe, Valkenswaard (NL)
2020: 5th MX2 World Championship
2019: 10th MX2 World Championship
2018: 3rd Monster Energy Motocross of Nations (Team Great Britain)
2018: 4th MX2 World Championship
2015: 5th European Championship EMX250
Bavo Swijgers images