Ben Watson returned to the front at the Grand Prix of Turkey, round eighteen of the FIM Motocross World Championship, and recorded a brace of fourths. There were incredible lap times thrown in there for good measure as well. Watson discusses all of that in this exclusive MX Vice interview, plus the fact that he was chosen to represent Team Great Britain at the Motocross of Nations.
MX Vice: You obviously missed the podium, which is a situation you have kind of become familiar with. Results, speed and all of that was pretty good this weekend though. I see no reason why you would not be happy with that.
Ben Watson: Yeah, I have made a big step this weekend actually. It is nice to feel like myself again. It has been a tough few weeks. It is nice to come here, kind of feel like myself and be right up there running with the first place. It has been a hard few weeks. I have been struggling with a few things and with the new bike it has taken some getting used to.
I came here and was really frustrated after Saturday, actually. I did not have a great day. My times were not where I wanted them to be. In the race I was not riding like I wanted to ride. It was nice to leave with two fourths and two points from the podium. Kind of the story from my whole year, really, but I am not complaining about that at all.
That second moto, your lap times, you were consistently the fastest rider on track. You had set the best lap of the race and then did it again and again and again. I do not know if I would say it was your best race of the season, but how do you feel about it?
Yeah. I would not say it was my best race of the season obviously, but it was for me from the last few weeks like you were saying. It is really nice to feel that again. For me, seeing the pit board and it saying I am the fastest on track, it is really nice to feel that again. It has been quite a while, a few weeks. I just want to thank all of the team and everybody. There has been no pressure, hard feelings or anything. It is just support for me.
It is really good in situations when it is not going perfect and like everybody wants. From 2017, coming to this year, it has been a huge step. I am maybe expecting too much too soon for myself, but I was fourth overall six times. For me I want to be there every time now. That is why it can be a little bit disappointing when things do not go like I want. Just stay positive. Everybody has stuck behind me. It is good to be back where I belong.
Another good point from this weekend is, had you had a better gate pick today, you probably would have had two holeshots. That has kind of been the thing holding you back all season.
Yeah, as soon as I got on the new Yamaha the starts have just completely changed. I was sure I would holeshot the second race today, but I ran a little bit wide and I think it was [Jorge] Prado or somebody who just got there before me. I have never been that close. Even in the first race I was really close again and even in the qualifying race, I had three amazing starts this weekend. We did quite a big change, because of the altitude here, so I think the team were maybe a little bit smarter than everybody else with what we did. It worked really well. Again, thank you to them for all their hard work. It is nice to come away with two fourths to give something back.
Can you say what they did to the bike or is it just over your head completely and a load of technical stuff?
Yeah, kind of. It is all with the computer. It is basically to do with the altitude. We went to the practice start grid and we did some starts on the bike, which from what it normally would be was really slow. They changed a few things for the altitude and it worked amazing.
Looking at this track, I would not necessarily say it is one that would suit you or one you would do well on. Were you surprised by your speed today? Obviously, you prefer more technical tracks…
After yesterday I was so disappointed with the track. I walked it on Friday and I thought it was looking maybe a little bit like Qatar or one of the man-made tracks that we have been to, where they have just built it on a flat field. I normally actually do quite well on those tracks so, for me, when I walked the track I was not thinking, “This is not for me or this is for me.” It was just one of those tracks where I just thought, “I will get on with it and it will be what it is.” It’s the same for everybody. When I went out there in the first practice yesterday, it was so awful. I was so disappointed. There was just nothing to the track at all. There were no ruts and no lines.
You would kind of jump off the small singles in the corners and then you would land in a boggy spot where, I do not know for what reason, but there were just random patches around the track that were soft. They were basically there in the ruts. One big positive was they left the rutty corners from yesterday for today and then they ripped the flat corners, so today the track was much better. It is not a track for me, really. I like it when it is really deep, really technical and not just wide open. For me it is just one of those things. It is the same for everybody. I just got on with it.
You have obviously stepped it up a lot this year, on the bike and off of it. Now that we are eighteen rounds in, are you starting to feel that? All of that training, testing and traveling? I guess it is a stupid question based on how you performed today, but do you feel a bit worn down?
Yes and no. It was a question from the whole team when I was not performing like I had been the last couple of weeks. They were saying, “How do you feel?” They said to me, “If you are feeling a little bit down or you are feeling a little bit sick of riding two times a week and then racing on the weekend, just tell us. Go home. Do what you want to do.” There are literally no rules or anything that I have to do or do not have to do. It is entirely up to me. I am not feeling down at all. After this weekend, I am really raring to go again for the last two rounds.
When I am doing well, I am enjoying my riding much more. For me it is just a lot more enjoyable for racing. The last few weeks have not been like I wanted them to be and I was not enjoying it so much. I was a little bit down and was a little bit unenthusiastic to go riding in the week. During the week I am feeling good still. Do not feel tight during motos or anything like that. It is not that. It was just a tough few weeks. After such an amazing season, it is getting tough for everybody. It is round eighteen and the same for everybody. Jacky [Vimond] is really smart with the training, so it is what it is. I am feeling strong.
Finally, obviously this week you have been selected for the ‘Nations. Everyone knew that was going to happen. I guess you are stoked about that? Especially considering you are not getting grief, so that is nice.
Yeah, I am absolutely over the moon by it. You cannot imagine what a feeling it is to be selected. I know it means nothing, but to just go on Facebook and read all the comments from everybody… I have not seen one negative comment about me. That is really special for a racer. I do feel sorry for Tommy [Searle] a lot because I really cannot imagine guys speaking about me like that. It would knock you down a lot. I think for Tommy it will just give him motivation and he will go there and have a lot of fun. I am sure he is going to do really well.
For Mark [Chamberlain] it is an incredibly tough decision, because like you saw with Shaun [Simpson] this weekend. He had a solid weekend. You never know with the three guys what they can do. It is hard with Jake, because he has not done any GPs this year, to see really where he is against Shaun and Tommy. I think that was maybe the one point that caused Mark to say no to Jake, because it is a gamble really. You do not know how he has been, but I know he was really motivated to do it. The decision has been made and I know that if it was Tommy, Shaun, Jake or anybody they would all give it one hundred percent.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Monster Energy Media/Ray Archer