Talking point: Ben Watson and his Factory Kawasaki MXGP deal
Back in October we reported the following on Ben Watson’s future, “the Brit has been linked to Factory Kawasaki with IceOne expected to go green but it remains to been seen if that will materialize”. We never stated it was a done deal because we knew at that time there were four names on Kawasaki’s list but Watson has eventually landed the ride which is great news for the Brit after a strong rookie season in MXGP.
Andy McKinstry: Fantastic news for Ben Watson who found out earlier this season he was losing his Factory Yamaha ride which was a bit of a blow. However, the good news is that he will remain a Factory rider in 2022 as he swaps blue for green.
It was a solid season for Watson’s rookie season in MXGP as he ended up eleventh in the championship and the Brit typically tends to get better each and every year in a class, if it wasn’t for Renaux making the move up to MXGP, he’d have probably kept his Factory Yamaha ride. However, as one door closes another opens.
The Factory Kawasaki structure hasn’t been confirmed yet but IceOne are expected to run the Factory Kawasaki setup in 2022 which will see Watson partner Romain Febvre. The pair are good friends so there should be a really good atmosphere under the awning.
I’m interested to see if Jacky Vimond will continue with his coaching role at Kawasaki now IceOne are expected to take over. There’s no doubt the former world champion is one of the best coaches in the paddock and he’s worked with Watson in the past during probably the best period of his career in the MX2 World Championship.
Watson will probably need a bit of time to adapt to the Kawasaki and it’s a shame Romain Febvre won’t have a full off season after his crash at Paris SX as that could have really helped Watson over the winter. Having said that, it shouldn’t take long for Watson to adapt to the bike and he should be raring to go for the 2022 season which is set to get underway in February in front of his home crowd – that’ll be a big weekend for the young Brit.
Over winter, I hope Watson goes to France and/or Italy and gets lots of minutes under his belt at the slick hard pack tracks if weather permits it. That’s the one area the Brit needs to improve moving forward.
Despite the fact a few riders have retired with the likes of Renaux, Beaton and Boisrame (still to be revealed if he’ll race MXGP), MXGP is still going to be very deep as usual but the goal for Watson has to be to break into that top ten of the championship standings and improve on his encouraging rookie season.
The main goal for Watson should be to do enough to secure his Factory Kawasaki seat for the 2022 season as the twenty-four-year-old still has plenty of potential and could be a future star of MXGP if all goes according to plan.
Jonathan McCready: This is great news for Ben Watson. For me he was unfortunate to lose his factory status with Yamaha after a decent rookie season that saw him finish just outside the top ten in 11th overall. Yes, there were a couple of tough GP’s but, all in all, Watson showed enough raw speed and potential to earn another shot on a factory squad, in my opinion. So it’s nice to see Kawasaki back the young Brit and show faith in his undoubted talent.
There was some tough competition for this seat at Kawasaki but Ben has got the role and his relationship with Romain Febvre will hopefully benefit him in the settling in period but also the testing and racing throughout the season.
I believe Watson has got the talent to be successful on the 450 in the premier class and his riding style certainly suits the big machine. He will have to adapt to another bike and another new team for the second year in a row, and do so quickly with the season so close, but I believe he has the tools to be a player in this class if he is given the time to learn – which he had in MX2. As a side-note, it will be interesting to see how he and Thomas Kjer Olsen progress in their second year in the class compared to MX2 world champion, Maxime Renaux, in his rookie MXGP season.
Pic: Shot by Bavo