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Ben Watson at the 2018 Grand Prix of Patagonia-Argentina

Watson warming-up through the MXGP cold

Mar 182018

Through the rain, snow, and sleet last weekend MXGP could not have found a more stark contrast to the sunshine and warm temperatures of Argentina for what was the second round of nineteen last weekend. The dark sand of the Eurocircuit in Valkenswaard brought the series back to Europe and to the last dregs of winter for some tough arduous conditions near the city of Eindhoven.

As Jeffrey Herlings reigned once more in the premier class and Pauls Jonass conquered MX2 there were other promising signs of a fledgling season. Kemea Yamaha’s Ben Watson ran to 8th place overall despite adversity on the bike and with the bike. For the twenty year old it was another step of experience in a first term as a factory rider and just two weeks after he posted a career-best fourth place in Argentina.

What made the top four classification so sweet for the tall youngster was that it occurred at the track where he smashed his left foot to splinters in 2016 (Argentina was then round four) and he missed the rest of the campaign.


Valkenswaard was just his second outing on the rapid blue Yamaha and the cheery Brit is acclimatising to his fresh role as a protagonist of the MX2 division after being one of the original ‘bright lights’ as a fifteen year old in 2015.

“Going from previous years and doing things largely on my own I was given this opportunity for the next two years and it was one I wanted to take and so much has changed for me,” he admitted. “I moved to Belgium and the team’s base and had Jacky [Vimond] as a full-time trainer: there was so much support from Yamaha and the whole team. Everyone is putting in 110% every day and to get that first result in Argentina and give something back was pretty emotional.”

"I’ve been in MX2 a few years now but I’m still only twenty and I have this season in the class and two more. The start of the last winter up until now has been a massive step in my career. So much has changed for me."

A works machine, Yamaha resources, a good support system: is there pressure to deliver now?

The team are the complete opposite to that and they did not expect to me to be so high up so early. I knew I was better than their estimation of a top eight slot but there was no pressure on my shoulders. I’d had a few comments in previous years like “if he’d have factory support…” and now I have it, so there is a bit more pressure in that respect to show and prove to people that I can do the job. If the team achieve their goals with me then that's great but I also have my own aims and I’m concentrating every day on that. The best thing about a good result is that you’ve produced the goods after all the hard work that goes towards it.

As an EMX250 race winner you were highly hyped for MX2 a few years ago. Are you still a ‘hot tip’?

I’ve been in MX2 a few years now but I’m still only twenty and I have this season in the class and two more. The start of the last winter up until now has been a massive step in my career. So much has changed for me.

You’re tall for a 250cc rider. Does that mean a compromise in diet, training and weight?

You have to watch your weight carefully. In the last couple of years I didn't have a trainer for the physical side, so I was doing my own thing and what felt right for me. If I believed I was doing too much or too little then I was listening to my body. I ate healthily and didn't think too much about my weight: I’m tall, so even if I was skinny then I’d still be heavy. So a lot of thought went into being strong but not going too crazy. I’m almost 80 kilos as it is and for a 250 it’s quite a lot. The training was a big step.

Argentina must have been special because it was the place two years ago where you cracked your foot - and nearly your career - to bits...?

Yes, going to Argentina I was not that confident and my results in the past had been terrible there. I ended 2016 in the hospital. Even this year I didn't enjoy it and that track is nothing like how it looks. So to get that result put me over the moon. I got my revenge on the track. It is such a long season so I cannot get too happy. The hard work starts again now. I’m really confident from that side. When I came up from the Europeans to MX2 I was fifteen and people were not expecting much from me. I had three years of just hovering in that 10th-20th bracket all the time and could never really break through. I did it a couple of times in 2017 but one of the best things about Argentina was that I was ‘up there’ in pretty much every session and that single fast lap-time had tended to be a weakness. Overall the weekend was a huge boost for me. I cannot describe the impact.

In Holland you grabbed an 8th but that first race on the other side of the world was still a milestone. What does it feel like to make that small achievement?

You cannot pay for the emotion of it or the sensation I had Sunday afternoon in Argentina. You work so much for it and if I think where I was two years ago - in a hospital room there with nobody speaking a word of English and having to learn about my injury with Google translate – there have been some serious lows where I have had to battle back. To have a small highpoint like that was unbelievable. Now we’ll just look onwards.