Ben Watson assesses the start of his MXGP career

Ben Watson posted his second consecutive top ten finish in his maiden MXGP season with 9th place overall in Maggiora for the Grand Prix of Italy. The Monster Energy Yamaha man has registered 20th, 9th and 9th in the three rounds to-date and claims he is gaining experience to be able to run with the lead riders in the category.

“I felt great in the first moto and managed to stay with the guys for a while and get in the mix for the first time,” he said of his efforts at Maggiora. “After fifteen minutes I tightened up a little bit but the cure for that is to be in a similar situation more and get used to it. I have to start somewhere, and that was not too bad. I got passed by three guys and that was [Pauls] Jonass, [Tim] Gajser and [Jeffrey] Herlings at one point; I cannot complain, let’s say.”

If anything Watson’s starts and pace in Italy was also a relief after the understated start to the year in Russia; a circuit where he scored his very first Grand Prix podium finish MX2 in 2018. “I had a disaster in Russia,” he said of the GP where he only scored one point but also revealed the trickiness of the one-day timetable for rookie term in the class and on the YZ450FM. “There was no special reason but I just struggled so much with the track. With the one-day format I couldn’t change much and didn’t have enough time to figure it out.”

“As the races are going on I see myself in different situations,” he added, regarding his development in a contest with almost twenty riders with GP podium experience. “I’ve been putting some laps together with the guys and feeling my way with the speed; when I did this in MX2 then I came away with a few GP wins. This is a journey. I have to give myself some time. I believe in myself and I have an awesome team that also believes in me. I just want to keep building and then who knows what might happen.”

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Watson classified 11th in the muddy second moto in Maggiora and was one of the few at the top of the leaderboard to emerge with his goggles intact and in good shape. Watson uses Oakley Airbrake and shed some light on how MXGP stars have to consider their prep for adverse conditions.

“You have to gauge the rain and how sticky the dirt is,” he revealed. “If you have a roll-off system with really sticky mud then as soon as it hits your goggle it grabs, falls and pulls the film from the cannisters. But if it’s raining heavily while you’re on the line then it’s pointless having tear-offs because the rain goes behind the laminates and you just have a blur. I decided to go with rolls and then focussed on constantly keeping the film tight to the lens by just pulling a little bit all the time. You have to keep your head down in the roost and really work with the goggle. It’s strange but it’s part of the race management and not so easy!”

Words: Adam Wheeler

Pic: Nigel McKinstry