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New Contract: Ben Watson

Finally, after months of speculation, Kawasaki has signed a second rider to pilot the KX450-SR in the 2022 FIM Motocross World Championship. Romain Febvre was announced as the first signing in late August and it is now official that Ben Watson will partner him beneath the ‘green’ awning. Watson beat out Calvin Vlaanderen (set to return to Gebben Van Venrooy Yamaha) and Mathys Boisrame (currently homeless) to secure the seat that was highly sought after.

Finishing eleventh in his first season as a premier class rider, Watson was controversially dropped from Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP after just one term. There was some difficult moments for him, as he struggled to scrape points together in both Russia and Turkey, but most felt as though the positives (running top three in both Czechia and Sardinia) outweighed the negatives. Kawasaki are obviously in that camp and will hope to reap the benefits of backing one of the youngest stars in the premier division.

Also on MX Vice: Mathys Boisrame signs MXGP deal

This announcement confirms that Watson will be a Kawasaki factory rider from this point on, of course, but there is still no official word on what team will run the factory effort. It’s well known that Kimi Raikkonen’s IceOne squad has secured that deal – the fact that has not yet been announced is baffling to most. For now, news on Watson’s signing is below. This is the official communication from Kawasaki.

Words: Press Release | Lead Image: Supplied

Kawasaki confirms that Ben Watson will be the new teammate of Romain Febvre next season, joining the Frenchman in the Kawasaki Racing Team assault on the FIM MXGP Motocross World Championship.

Considered one of the most-promising British youngsters of recent years, Ben Watson had a solid MXGP rookie season this summer, gaining in experience as the year went on in this highly-competitive class to culminate his season with the MXGP gold medal at the Motocross of Nations. Ben eventually just missed the top-ten in the final MXGP series rankings by a couple of points but he finished top-ten at no less than ten rounds with a fifth overall as his best result at the Dutch round of the series.

The twenty-four-year-old native of Nottinghamshire, England, first appeared on the international stage when he contested the European series as a ten-year-old, winning his very first race in the 65cc class. He progressed through the classes and has impressed throughout his adult career, starting with a fifth place in EMX250 and victory at the world-famous Enduro du Touquet in the Junior class. Ranked top five in the MX2 World Championship in both 2018 and 2020, he proved his ability on all surfaces in the closing stages of the latter season with Grand Prix victories on the vastly-different tracks of Lommel in Belgium and Pietramurata in Italy before switching to the premier MXGP class in 2021.

“To have this fresh start with new colours is definitely something I need at this stage of my career.”

Kawasaki Motors Europe Racing Manager Steve Guttridge is convinced that Ben will be a strong teammate to Romain Febvre: “It was a tough decision-making process to work through along with the project leaders in Japan regarding whom should finally take the second seat inside our factory MXGP team. We have a clear focus on Romain to challenge for the title, but the future arrives fast and a younger teammate who can grow into the MXGP programme is very important also. The duo already have a close relationship as they have often trained together in the past and Ben has already experienced a solid rookie season in the MXGP class, which takes a big extra learning curve for riders coming up from MX2 to succeed within these days. Inside the Kawasaki Racing Team we believe the staff can help Ben make that step in his career in 2022.”

Ben now has a little over two months to prepare for the opening round of the 2022 World Championship which will start in his native UK on February 20 at Matterley Basin. “I’m really looking forward to this fresh start,” said Ben. “I’ve been with another couple of brands almost all my life and Kawasaki is one I’ve never ridden before, so to have this fresh start with new colours is definitely something I need at this stage of my career. I’ve had some ups-and-downs during my MXGP rookie season this year but I think I proved on numerous occasions like the ‘Nations and several other GPs that I have what it takes to race up front. I was just missing a few things but I’m joining a group of guys and a bike I really believe will help me. I’m really excited to put my leg over the KX450-SR. The plan is to get used to the bike before Christmas; to get a feeling for the handling, the power delivery and sort out a few small things like seat height, position of the bars and so on. I’m looking forward to working with Romain and all the team and I think this is exactly what I need as a package to make the next step. It’s going to be a tough couple of months leading up to the opening GP at Matterley in February but wow, what a start to my Kawasaki career at the home GP with all the British fans cheering me on.”


MX Vice Editor || 25