It was a career day for young Nathan Watson on Sunday at Hawkstone Park and a day he will never forget. Two wins and a second gave HM Plant KTM rider his first ever overall victory at British Championship level and vaulted him into the spotlight of the motocross media and industry.
Watson has been making steady progress until now but this season he has really come of age with GP points and now a MX2 British championship win. His form has also meant he has been given the opportunity to ride the last three GPs of the year in MX2 and that means he will get to experience his first ever British GP in just over a week’s time!
The last few days have put Watson on cloud nine with the GPs rides coming up you can safely say he is living the dream. Watson though is only getting started and, as you will read in this interview, Nathan is calm and relaxed about the future. But after his success he is even more determined and ready to step it up again next season!
Where you expecting to win at Hawkstone?
I have done a few races at Hawkstone this season. I did a two day event against Irwin and Lenoir and had beaten them round there so I was fairly confident but I never really expected to win to be honest!
The first race you had a bad start but caught Lenoir, even though you didn’t win was that the ride gave you confidence you could win?
Yeah definitely, it took me a few laps to get going then once I found my groove I seemed to go straight through everyone and passed them easily. I caught Lenoir from a big gap and got it down to two seconds. I knew I had the speed from that and I just had to focus on the start and I made it happen.
Coming to the end of the second race when you were leading and about to win, where you nervous?
I took the lead maybe a quarter of the way through. I pulled a gap and to be honest it was pretty easy, I don’t mean to sound cocky, but it was pretty easy and I was riding a steady pace and controlling the race. But I was constantly looking at the clock because I just wanted the race to finish so I could get my first win. So yeah I guess I was a little bit nervous on the last couple of laps!
It must have been a great feeling!
It was amazing. It was a weight of my shoulders to get that win then to get your first moto win and the overall in one day was great.
Did you feel comfortable again in the third moto?
The pressure was on because it was down to me and Steven. If he beat me he would have won the overall and vice versa. I’m not sure if he has won a British overall before so we were both really pushing. He gated in front of me and I didn’t want to push too hard in the first couple of lap so i just settled behind him then managed to pass him straight away. He was behind me and pushing but I was gaining maybe a second a lap so I was happy, kept steady and didn’t make any mistakes.
You were standing on the top step of the podium at the end of the day having beaten everyone including your teammate who is leading the championship. I’m guessing this was the highlight of your career so far!
Yeah for sure it is the biggest achievement I have had so far. I was over the moon, it was great. To get it done in my second pro year it has taken the weight off my shoulders and hopefully I can have a few more weekends like that.
You were good last year but has the victory come quicker than expected?
Last year I had a few decent rides with top tens and that but the top boys seemed to be on another level. Then when I came into this year I won three out of four races at the first British Masters and I seemed to have the speed. I never thought about winning an overall I just wanted to see what happened but I knew I had some good speed but it was a bit of a shock to win really!
What did you do during the winter to up your level?
Last winter was the first winter I actually started training a half decent amount. For my first year I didn’t do any training, I thought I didn’t need too! Then I had help of Shaun and he helped me out with my riding as well. I worked harder and it seemed to pay off.
Does that inspire you to work harder? You obviously have the talent and with the training it is now a good combination.
Yeah when I look back to see how much I have come on from last year, It makes me want to do the same next year. I worked last winter but I know I can work so much harder and hopfully I can step up another level.
You have been doing the European series you have had good speed there but the results have maybe been up and down. But the starts seem to have a lot to do with it because the speed is so close, have you enjoyed the series?
For sure it has been up and down. Unless you are there or study it really well people don’t understand how close it really is. One second can jump you up so many positions and for sure it is all about the start over there. I have struggled with my starts most of the season and they are just starting to come together now. It has been such a good experience doing the Europeans, you get to so many places and learn some good tracks and hopefully ready to do some GPs.
I have had some decent rides I have been really happy with. I was really happy with the Czech GP I was only 1 second off Guillod so my times were good and i had a decent ride in Sweden with seventh. I still believe I haven’t done as well as I can do yet but overall it has been great
How would you compare it to the British championship? Is it a similar level or deeper?
I would say it is a lot more intense racing. Them boys want it a lot more than they seem to in the British. They are really aggressive and the competition and talent is deeper. You are riding with the best from all over Europe, there is a lot of talent in and you don’t really lap anybody because they are all really fast!
Roger is trying to get you into the last three GPs, is that something you are excited about?
Roger asked me if I would like to do it at the weekend and I jumped at the opportunity. It is a great opportunity for experience and to see how I get on. It will also give me a good idea of what to do next year as well. If things don’t go well I will do what I was planning on doing and go MX1. But if I have some decent results maybe someone will take me in mx2. It is a great opportunity and hopefully I can do alright!
Does having three GPs in a row help because it isn’t just a one off race where you have to perform?
Yeah it is going to give me the chance to get the ball rolling. I will see how I get on and try and improve. As I look at it now Lierop should be my strongest round, the first two tracks are fairly hard and fast so I will have to get some good starts.
I was at Valkenswaard when you rode MX1 and it was a surprise to see you entered, but you adapted really well and didn’t look out of place, was that a good experience to go there and get points?
The original idea was to get a ride in the MX2 class because obviously it was a sand GP and I was riding pretty well at the beginning of the year. But I couldn’t get into MX2 so I thought I would give it a shot on the MX1 bike. I got on with it pretty good and got my first GP points and it taught me the schedule of the GP racing so I can use that now in the races coming up.
You have proven now you can ride the MX1 and MX2 machine, what do you prefer riding?
I don’t really mind, a bike is a bike to me! I love the MX1 bike because it is so easy to ride and so fast but I think I still enjoy riding the MX2 bike slightly more because it’s so fun, you are the boss of it. For the future I wouldn’t mind if I ended up with an MX1 or MX2 ride.
The problem with MX2 is you have to have a really fast bike and in MX1 you can’t use the power fully so the tuning isn’t as important and that was my dad’s main idea of MX1. If I got an offer to ride on a top MX2 bike I would jump at the opportunity.
Both you and Ben are coming on strong, is the rivalry coming on stronger too and are you looking forward to Ben catching up to your speed!?
Obviously I want to help him as much as I can and tag him along to get him speeded up! I believe his time will come. He is just 16 so he is still young and has time. When we are out on the practice tracks he is really fast so I believe he is going to catch me up – but I don’t mind! I’m not dreading the day he passes me. I just wish him all the best.
We had the Pourcel brothers in France and the Alessi’s plus a few more brothers in America but it is the first time in a while a British family could have two brothers racing at the top level in a while…Is that exciting that you are part of that and making history.
It is awesome that we are all together as a family and both being fairly successful. We seem to get into the history books for the brother achievements but it’s good!
Obviously the Des Nations is coming up soon and maybe in a few years you and Ben might even be on it at the same time which would be pretty cool!
That would be a dream come. I don’t know if it would ever happen, I would like to think it would – it would be amazing. Anything could happen, there are a few good young riders like Sterry and Conrad Mewse, who has just been crowned world champion. So there are good young riders coming from England.
Who did you look up to when you were younger?
The two guys I respect the most are Herlings and Roczen – even though I think Herlings is younger than me! But what they achieved at such a young age was so amazing. When you think about it, it knocks you down a peg but you speak to Harry Everts and he said those two were just something special it was just strange they appeared in the same era.
I liked Chad Reed when I was young, I thought he had a cool style and stuff but Jeffrey and Ken were my main inspirations.
I would like to thank everyone who supported me in 2013!
Interview by Jonathan McCready