Ben Watson was eager to perform when rain battered the Grand Prix of Lombardia over the weekend, but things just did not work out. Watson found himself right at the back at the start of each moto and had to salvage the best result possible from there. A pair of thirteenths left him in twelfth overall on the day. MX Vice editor Lewis Phillips caught up with ‘919’ to discuss the event on Sunday evening.
MX Vice: Obviously not the day you want, but then you were never really in a position to do what you want. Coming from the back both times, it just wasn’t going to happen around here.
Ben Watson: It was really strange for me, yeah. The first race I spun on the mesh, so I was last. The track was so tight and with the conditions like that, it was real one-lined. My mistake there on the gate did not ruin that race, but just made it so difficult for me. Then trying to come through I crashed two times during the race. I came back to thirteenth, which was a huge disappointment for me and the team. I was disappointed. I was kind of looking forward to the second race, because these are my conditions.
Normally I feel pretty strong here and in anything technical like this. In the second race I hit the gate. I just really wanted to kind of show [something] and make up for that first race. I just obviously saw something or went quite early and completely hit the gate. Yet again, I was last into the first corner. Completely last. Coming through okay, but had a small issue with the clutch again, the same as on Saturday and in Arco. I am not really sure what the problem was. It is just out of my hands. I do not know.
It was really difficult to come through, but I stayed on two wheels and came back to thirteenth again. Another huge disappointment for me. Actually, it is the worst weekend I have had since being with Yamaha. It was strange. I guess these are the weekends that build you as a rider and you need to have these weekends to make you stronger. I am just going to say positive and focus on Portugal next week.
It is funny you say that these were like your conditions. I saw it was raining and I was like, “Ben is going to do well. Ben does well in the mud.” This was not mud though, obviously because it was sandy. It was just deep, one-lined and technical. If it was hard-pack, it would have been the normal sticky mudder that people think. This was not that.
No. Considering how much rain we have had, and it has literally not stopped all day, it has actually been a lot drier than what people would have imagined. The conditions have been strange. Saturday was just so, so hard, dry and the bumps were square. They were not your normal bumps that would develop with a bike. I think the problem was they were scared about the rain and wanted to leave it as dry as possible, then it just went so hard that today the rain kind of sat on that loose layer and underneath was actually perfect.
It just got that horrible… Like, if you went a little bit wide in the corner you would just almost stop dead. That top surface was really heavy, then it was hard underneath. It was just strange, even yesterday, the conditions and the way the track was for racing was difficult. It was so important for the start. I think we saw that in a few of the races how there were some, not strange results, but the people who you would expect to come through a lot quicker were struggling. It has just been one of those weekends where I just want to, not forget about it because I need to learn from the problems and the mistakes, but I just have to say I have no excuses. Just need to be better.
[Jorge] Prado told me that I would not find any riders who liked the track yesterday, so I guess you are another one. They had got rid of some berms, flattened some bits out and it was just easy.
Yeah. It was real easy. I do not know the real reason why they just left it so dry. Yesterday I was expecting maybe a little bit of rain in the afternoon, but the track when we go out in morning warm up should be a bit like a mudder. It should be wet. It should create lines. Honestly there was just one main line. Anybody could just kind of sit on that line with a half-decent pace and run right up there. It was providing really strange racing and feedback from the riders.
If you spoke with anybody it was like nobody really enjoyed the racing. Yesterday when I was just kind of chilling out and scrolling through social media… You see so many people saying how terrible it looks, that this is not a GP track and the preparation is awful. They took the bank berms away from everything and just literally made the corners a right angle so you could kind of sit in the bottom of the berm, but not actually get any angle on the bike and lean it over and carry some pace around the outside.
It was really follow the leader. It is just one of those things. We get provided the tracks and we have to race it how it is. It is the same for everybody, so it is not like an excuse or a reason why I have had a terrible weekend. Those are just my thoughts on how the track was. You needed to be strong in all aspects and the most important this weekend was starts.
That was actually my next question. Going back to the month break, obviously starts were going to be a big one for you. I thought that today meant it did not work but obviously, like you said, you hit the gate and spun on the metal. Taking today out of it, do you feel like you actually made progress in the whole of April?
Yeah, definitely. I worked quite a lot on it, but to be honest we got to a point where you are trying to find something so small to help. Everybody is working so hard all around to try and find such a big step to go from terrible starts to the front and it is a lot of work. It is not something that can happen overnight. We are just working on myself, because I am not good enough. It is not just the few other things that I am struggling with.
The first race I completely dropped the clutch and just spun. My technique is quite aggressive on the start. Then the second race I hit the gate. Actually, I do not know if my starts would have been better this weekend. I have not actually been able to tell. Qualifying race was not bad. I was about sixth or seventh I think in the first few corners. That was a bit of an improvement from the last few races, but still there is always room for improvement. Never good enough.
Did you make any other gains in the break? It looked like your trials skilled came on a little bit.
Yeah. I had to go back for my passport to get my Russian visa. I was there with no bike for a few days and just thought, why not? I will go out with my brother and do some trials. It was good fun. Just try and switch it up and not always so focused on one thing and to make sure I am enjoying myself. It is good training for me. It is technical and you are still riding a bike. It is just something different to get out and enjoy yourself on a bike still.
Finally, thinking back to Portugal last season, I think that was the first time where… Obviously Argentina was good, but Portugal was the first time where there were fastest lap times and fastest sector times. It was all coming together there. At least you are going there with good feelings and good vibes.
Yeah. Every single time I have been to Portugal I have left really happy. Last year it was the first time that I really showed what I can do. I was just one point from the podium there and that was the first time that I left thinking… I was actually a little bit happier even though I was still fourth overall, that the way I was riding meant more to me than the results. I am always confident going into Portugal. I really enjoy that track. I just want to forget about this weekend. Try to learn from it. These next few hours are the most crucial for me. Then just stay positive and look forward to Portugal, because I know how to perform there.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX