The Motocross of Nations is a daunting experience, especially for those who are competing for the first time. Ben Watson thrived in the high-pressure situation, however, as he acquired fourth overall in MX2 at RedBud, despite the fact that he was caught up in a first-turn fall in moto one. Watson recaps his time at RedBud in this exclusive MX Vice interview.
MX Vice: Another fourth. We have done a lot of interviews about that this year, but I feel like that was a pretty good one. You must be stoked.
Ben Watson: Yeah, that’s an incredible fourth. A little bit more special than the fourths that I have been getting all year. I absolutely loved my first experience at the Motocross of Nations. I want to just say, firstly, a big thank you to the whole of Team GB, everybody supporting at home and anyone who believes in me. I hope I showed you guys what I can do and made you proud in some way. But yeah, I have had an incredible day.
The first race we decided to put me on the 250F in the twenty-seventh gate pick, so unfortunately I got caught up in a pile-up with [Antonio] Cairoli and a few other riders. Then I managed to come through to fifteenth, but I had to throw my goggles kind of midway through and just kind of slug on to do the best I could for the team. Then the second race we put me up the inside and I could start third. I had a really solid race. I was riding really well. I felt real strong. I managed to finish in fourth. It was a little bit gutting because I was all over Prado on the final few laps. If we had got one more point we’d have been a little bit higher up in the chart. It has been an incredible experience and I have absolutely loved it for sure.
After the first race, were you sh*tting yourself a little bit? Obviously you would have used a lot of energy coming back from a first-turn crash and you had thirty minutes to turn things around. Were you kind of spent a little bit and wondering how you were going to get through the next one?
Not at all. I know my strength and I know that I am physically strong. I have done many times during the winter a thirty-five-minute and had the same time off the bike, then gone again for thirty-five minutes. I know they are not race conditions, but I try to give everything during training and make it as much like a race as I can. During the winter training we were always with another rider, like Seva. We would be racing each other and pushing and it did actually become like a race. I knew that I was strong in those conditions. At the end of the second race I still had a lot of fight in me.
What about the start in that second race? Obviously starting third in this environment against 450s, did your heart rate spike a little bit or did it just feel like a normal race the second the gate dropped?
Well, yeah, the second race we decided to put me on the inside, so I got peg seven. I had a real good jump and a real good straight. The first turn I stayed out of any trouble and I came out three or four and just had a real solid first few laps. I struggled in that situation a few times this year, but I am not sure. Maybe the added adrenaline with some crazy riders and some riders that I actually look up to racing me, everything just kind of went over my head and I just rode my heart out basically. It was actually probably the most fun race of the year for me.
Did anything about this experience surprise you? Obviously it is unique. There is nothing else like it. Did you kind of know exactly what you were getting yourself into or did something catch you off-guard a little bit?
Yeah, the whole thing has caught me off-guard a little bit. I kind of learned when I was here that the scoring was literally wherever you finished, not MX2 separate to MXGP. Then a few other little things, like Max [Anstie] was trying to give me a heads up on how short the distance between race one and race two is for the 250 guys. I literally washed my boots, helmet, was drying everything off and then I had to just quickly change my trousers and go to the gate again. I didn’t have time to have any food. In fact, by the time I was ready to go down I just got a little bit scared and realised I’d not even had a drink yet. So I quickly necked a bottle of water and then just went to the gate. I didn’t feel like I had the best preparation for that second race, let’s say. But it worked. Maybe in the future I should just care a little bit less.
Going from memory here, did you even do the sighting lap before the second race? I feel like I struggled to look out for you in that.
No, no. I think I was the only rider who didn’t do it actually. I’d just come off the track. I know that all they would have worked on was the faces, so there was actually nothing for me to look at. I just wanted to keep the bike as light as possible off the start. I feel like maybe that could have been the advantage that I got on the gate to the other guys. It was just a complete fresh bike in the mud.
Obviously it’s everyone’s dream to race here. It’s an amazing track. When you saw the weather, were you a bit bummed? These conditions are great for you, but everyone wants to do some laps around RedBud in the dry.
Yeah, kind of and kind of not. Basically I shared the Star Racing truck with Plessinger and we spoke quite a lot. It was pretty cool. He said, “Honestly if you come here in the summer and race the AMA, this track is the best in the world.” He said it’s unbelievable. I was like, “Yeah, damn.” I would have loved to have raced it in great conditions, but on the other hand I didn’t care because these conditions suit me down to the ground. The more technical, the better for me.
When I actually watched the AMA national here, it got deeper ruts. I feel like they tracked the track in and made it as hard as they could underneath it to seal it from the rain, because of course it was expected quite a long time ago. It obviously cut in deep and got some technical sections. The track did suit me.
Finally, what’s next for you from here? Obviously you have got a bit of a head start with testing on the 2019 and everything, so do you get time off or are you straight into testing?
Yeah, we have been riding the 2019 for a few weeks now. We have been grinding away with it and doing testing as we go along. It’s the end of the season so it’s not like I need to be blasting a load of motos out. We’ll just try to work on the bike and kind of fine-tune me, in a way. I’m not going to do any testing straightaway. I’m going to go back, have a holiday and take a few weeks of rest. Then I’m going to start everything again in Belgium on the first of November.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX