Ben Watson finished fourth overall yet again at the Grand Prix of Asia and continues to impress in his first season beneath the Kemea Yamaha awning. The fact that Watson was not necessarily pleased with that result proves just how far he has come in a short space of time. That is also discussed in this exclusive interview from round thirteen, which was initially posted as a post-race podcast elsewhere on MX Vice.
MX Vice: Solid weekend. Moto scores were not bad, but you missed the podium and you were set up quite nicely for that after the first race.
Ben Watson: Yeah. To be honest I am not thinking about a podium at all, because I do not deserve it this weekend from my riding side of it. I did all I could on what I thought was a really dangerous track. The track itself was not dangerous, just the preparation. They watered the track so heavily on only the takeoffs and the landings. The people who prepped the track… I do not think they know what motocross is. That is why, unfortunately, my teammate Jago [Geerts] had to miss the second race, because he just went up the takeoff on the sighting lap, had a huge crash and he could not ride. It is just dangerous for everybody. That was, for me, why I was so cautious this weekend.
I am not that rider who can just turn my head off and go balls out no matter the conditions. Unfortunately, I was off the pace this weekend. I was quite lucky with my results. I say lucky, but I do not know if it was lucky or if it was smart. I took it down a notch from what I would normally want to race at and I did not make any mistakes or crashes. I crashed in the first race, but it was so easily done. My position was third, because it was obviously not a big crash. [Thomas] Covington had a big crash. [Calvin] Vlaanderen crashed on the first lap. Everybody was crashing. I just kind of tried to stay on and somehow I managed third in the first race.
Obviously, you saw the track conditions on the sighting lap before the second race. I guess maybe you would have heard what happened to Geerts before you went out too? Does that stuff kind of get in your head? I saw your mechanic put “no thinking” on the pit board, so did you already have it in your head that it would be a bit difficult or sketchy to push?
Exactly, yeah. Jago crashed on the finish jump, so it was directly in front of the pits and I could see him there. I knew exactly what happened, because there was literally water streaks running down the takeoff and it was blue groove there. The ground is so hard and it is the most dangerous thing there is to just water it so heavily. It is a lot safer for there to be a little bit of dust just on the takeoff. Fair enough if they want to water the actual track a lot, but the takeoffs and landings should never be watered as heavily as they were. That is not a complaint. I was not strong enough in those conditions. The result I got… I do not feel like I deserve it really, but I just stayed consistent and I got a 3-5 scorecard.
Obviously practice was okay. I think you were fifth and sixth every time. The first moto when you were behind Pauls [Jonass], I think he fell or got caught up or something and ended up right in front of you. I thought your pace was actually quite good. It did not look like you were losing that much time on him. Was that kind of the bright spot of the weekend where you were like, “This is actually going all right?”
I feel like I rode a little bit better in the second race, to be honest. The first race Pauls was not so far in front of me for quite a while and then I slipped up. I looked behind and no one was there. I had like fifteen seconds to the guy behind me, so I just kind of rode around. I came off not happy. I just did not feel like I was riding like myself, so it is just one of them things. I just wanted to come away here safe and that is what I have done, so I cannot complain too much.
A 3-5 is great, especially when you look at your results last year and the year before that. Is it a weird one where you have to kind of remind yourself that? Even for the points, today was actually good. You gained eight points or something on [Thomas Kjer] Olsen.
Yeah. I am only ten points from third in the world championship now, which I am not looking at at all. I do not really care about that. I am disappointed after this weekend, because of my riding and nothing else. It is great. I have gained ten points on third place in the championship. It does look good. That is kind of the last thing I think about. At the end of the day… That is just a number to me. I just care about how I ride and how I feel in myself. That is where I am just a little bit disappointed. I cannot be too hard on myself. I have just got to stay focussed and, like you said, look at where I have come from.
Last year… I have finished fourth overall six times now this year. I got a little bit lucky in Indonesia last year, because it was a mud race. Just one of them things where anything can happen and I got a sixth overall. But to be fourth overall five times this year is really good. Obviously I am there every time now and I just want better each time. I cannot just be happy and settle with the results I am getting. Obviously last week I passed Pauls and [Jorge] Prado in one race and now this weekend they were another level above me. It is just one of them things I have to accept. Look back at where I have come from, stay positive and focussed for the next races.
Are you going to be dreading coming back here next year then? Do you think that if they sort out the watering, the track will dry out and be all right for racing?
No, the track was amazing. I really enjoyed it. It was just, I do not know who was doing it, I guess some Indonesians from the local village that have never seen a bike before. I am pretty, pretty certain it was that. It is just one of them things. No, I am going to look forward to coming back because I am riding my bike and I am racing… That is what I enjoy. So I am going to look forward to it no matter what. If it is just one race and this is going to be the worst I ride all year, then happy days.
Finally, on a scale of one to ten, how excited are you to get back to Belgium, a bit of normality and normal food?
Yeah, I am pretty sick of this place. Just going outside is just horrible. The heat just clags onto you. The food… It takes you an hour to do about twenty kilometres on the road. It will be really nice to get back to normality and get back to the European races and some sand actually. I am really looking forward to Lommel, which is not so far away, and also Loket. I really enjoy Loket. I did pretty good there last year. I am really looking forward to it and getting back to my usual routine.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Monster Energy Media/Ray Archer