Ben Watson had a breakthrough ride at the Grand Prix of Trentino, following a solid start to the current term. A seventh in the first moto, following a fall, was an underrated start to round four, but then he stole headlines with an impressive charge up from seventeenth to third in moto two. Watson is honest when admitting that there are still things he needs to work on though, which is evident in this exclusive MX Vice interview, as he has his sights set on so much more.
MX Vice: Great day. Kind of like 2018, because you were fourth overall and just missed the podium, but you should have been up there. Maybe in second or even first, because your speed was that good in the second moto. All positives, I think.
Ben Watson: Yeah! Overall, it has been a pretty solid weekend. I am gutted about a certain few small things, but that is just a part of racing. It is something that you have to take on the chin, learn from and accept. Yeah, yesterday started off really good. In the first two sessions I had really good speed and a really good feeling with the bike, so I was really happy, but then I had a small problem during the practice starts after the timed session. I think the bike got so hot and something happened with the hydraulics system in the clutch. The guys thought they had fixed it and then, unfortunately, on lap two of the qualifying race, the clutch was gone.
That was really difficult for me. I could only come back to eighth, but here the start position was not really that important. There were fifteen gates that you could get the holeshot from, so that was not really a worry. It was a disappointing end to the Saturday though, after the first two sessions, but then this morning I had a good warm-up and a good feeling. I was enjoying the track again. I came into the first race and just had a diabolical start. It has been a bit of a story of mine for the last few weeks now and it is getting frustrating, but we are working on that.
I hope that now, in this five-week break, we can really focus on trying to develop the starts. I came through… I think I got up to fifth and then just had a stupid crash in the corner trying to pass. I just washed the front-end in a bit of mud and that was that. I dropped back to ninth, then I came back to seventh in the end. I was mad after that, because I was feeling good on the bike, but then in the second race I had an even worse start. I think I was seventeenth going over the start line after the first corner on the timing sheets.
I came through pretty good and was really happy with the riding and some passes that I did. It was really nice to have that feeling back. It was definitely the best I have felt on the bike this season, apart from in training. I was happy with that. It is nice to now go into the break knowing that my speed is right up there, to be honest, but that has not been my worry. I know that I can do that. I have been really happy with my riding for a while now, but it has just not been transferred into results like I would want it to. Now we can stay focused and be happy with the end of this weekend.
That crash at the beginning of the first race, does that mean that you have got too much intensity now? You have been working on that. Does that mean we need to back it down and settle in at the beginning of races?
During training, that is pretty much what I have been doing. It is just going as hard as I can. Everything has been so intense during the week. This week we did nothing over ten-minutes long. It was just sprints, sprints and sprints. It is definitely showing a little bit more now, because my speed has, I feel, gone up a level.
Even during the winter when there were more motos and kind of working on the technical side of things, I felt a much bigger step from 2018 to 2019 than I did from 2017 to 2018. I was really happy, but the start of the season has not gone really like I expected. I did feel really good and now it is just slowly getting a little bit better each weekend. I am really looking forward to the rest of the season, because we still have a very long way to go.
I think there were six or seven laps in the second moto where you were the fastest guy on track, but I guess that was not a surprise to you? In training you have felt that good, like you said, so instead of it being a surprise, it is more a case of finally.
Exactly. I know that I can do it and it showed it in the timed sessions this weekend. I was second or third in every timed session. That was not a surprise for me. I know that is where I am and where I should be every time, but there are just a few things that I am not doing correctly at the moment to put me in that situation where I am riding in the top three and fighting for the win. We are going to go into the five-week break really focused on that one thing, because right now I am really confident in my riding and I do not feel like I need to work so much on speed or intensity.
The start of the race has been really good again this weekend. I think in that second race I went from seventeenth into about eighth on the first lap, so that was a massive issue from last year. It feels like we are finally starting to iron that out. It is just focusing on the points that I am struggling with at the moment: Starts and getting around riders a little bit quicker. We will see. Hopefully after the five-week break we can start getting up there.
Surprised you got [Thomas Kjer] Olsen so quickly? I think that with two laps to go you were three and a half seconds down and you were fast enough to close that up, but then making a pass that quickly around here is a whole different story.
Yeah. I was behind Olsen for quite a while. Vialle was in front of us both and then Olsen got Vialle, so I could see him creeping away quickly. I thought that I really needed to pass Vialle ASAP, because otherwise my chances of passing Olsen were gone. I managed to get through Vialle, as soon as Olsen passed him and started getting away, then I just put a big push on in the last couple of laps and I got onto him pretty quickly.
On the final lap, in the back section by the rollers, I set him up on the corner before and just went outside. Came down the straight with a good pace from my line, then outside again and beat him into the next corner. It was quite aggressive. I feel like that is one of my weak points at the moment. Just taking that little bit of risk to make a pass. It was nice to do that on the last lap and get a third.
Finally, starts. That is a big thing now. If you had to kind of put numbers on it, would you say it is more the bike or you? What percentage would you give to each thing?
Honestly, I do not really know. In the qualifying at Matterley Basin I had a good start, so I think it is a little bit of both. It is a little bit of me and a little bit of the bike. We are not working together at the moment. I have to be really precise and then the bike will work. If I do one thing a little bit incorrect, then I am at the back for sure. I feel like we need to work on making it more consistent. In a race situation it is not always easy to do a perfect start like you can on training.
You cannot even hear your own bike with the RPMs, so I am looking at the light on the front and focusing on so many things and then in a race situation it is difficult to really get it perfect. Just need to work on both for sure. I am not going to say it is all the bike. It is definitely me as well, but I can do it. Last year I got some great starts and I have done on several occasions this year. Just work, work, work and we will see
I feel like the initial split-second jump out of the gate is always good. Every time I watch you specifically out of the gate that split-second jump is like, "Oh! It is happening!" Then in the next split-second, you just get swallowed up. I guess that is partly to do with your size as well? Look at Jago [Geerts], [Jorge] Prado and [Tom] Vialle. It is a big difference.
Yeah. I am literally on the verge of eighty kilos. My jump out of the gate is really good, then I touch the dirt and just do not seem to go anywhere. Yesterday my jump and the first initial part on the dirt was really good, then all of a sudden Vialle just came straight slingshotting across the front of me and that was that start gone.
It is really [a case of] if you do not have your bars in front and kind of just bully your way through, then it is difficult. I am not saying the bike is not good enough or I am not good enough, like I said, just something is not going right at the moment and we need to really figure it out on the start situation.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX