Cancellation of the third round of the Maxxis British Championship at Foxhill last weekend due to poor weather meant that HM Plant KTM UK’s Ben Watson had to ‘sit’ on the incredible momentum established by his moto victory and runner-up position at the Grand Prix of Bulgaria and the opening fixture in the European EMX250 series the previous week.
The 16-year-old burst through to win the first race and then take a ninth position (after a mediocre start) in the second moto to tie on points with Jorge Zaragoza but claim the red plate – due to his chequered flag – on the 250SX-F.
It was arguably the most important weekend of the Brit’s fledgling career to-date. The European EMX250 contest has grown in importance and prestige over the past five years and since it became part of the FIM Motocross World Championship support card, with all motos run under the eyes of the most important teams and power-brokers of the sport this side of the Atlantic.
Watson was a surprise winner in Bulgaria for the first of eight rounds, even in his own estimation. “It was my first year in 2013 [contesting some EMX250 rounds] so I took it as a learning season; to see how it all works and to get used to some of the tracks,” he commented. “This year I wasn’t expecting a win at all! Last year I was struggling to qualify at some rounds and didn’t really have a good name. Obviously it was only one race. Top 10s and top fives were my goal but now I’ve gone and won! I just tried to stay as smooth as I could out there.”
The rain that washed out Foxhill could well have dampened Watson’s form and eagerness to keep the ball rolling. However the teenager now has to wait just two weeks before he can roll out the red plate on the European stage and get the chance to shine again, as well as deal with a slightly brighter spotlight.
Confidence is the key to beginning and ending a race in the fashion that he wants. “Bulgaria was only the first round so I hope to keep doing what I’m doing and stay up there,” he said. “At Sevlievo I got a good start and was second out of the first corner and that is probably the biggest part of the race and what helped me. I know I can get those starts but it is about having that confidence to arrive to the first corner and get through it as fast as I can and come out safe.”
While the Watson name is familiar on UK turf Ben’s progress across the channel is something new and encouraging for British motocross. The likes of Searle, Simpson, Nicholls, Anstie and Pocock (the latter using the vast boost of the 2012 EMX250 title to re-launch his MXGP career) are established in Grand Prix but it is positive that Watson, Dunn and Steven Clarke – as well as Conrad Mewes in EMX125 – are showing signs that another wave could be soon reaching international shores.
“I think it is really good,” Watson said on the European motocross pyramid with EMX250 being the last leap before Grand Prix. “When you are not on the track then you can go and watch the world’s best riders like Jeffrey Herlings and Cairoli. You can pick up a lot from watching. You also get to see and ride a whole lot of different tracks as well. When you are with the fastest riders in the Europeans then it pulls you along as well; so it is better than just competing in your own country.”
The second round of EMX250 takes place on May 11th at Talavera de la Reina for the first Spanish Grand Prix since 2011.