Britain’s Ben Watson is under no pressure to perform in front of his home crowd at this weekend’s Matterley Basin MXGP but is keen to put the season opener behind him.
Watson had a difficult weekend in Russia and struggled from the word go, admitting he was off the pace from the beginning.
“Everything just was against me, the whole trip from qualifying to the last race. I didn’t really enjoy any of the laps. Not that it’s not my track, but I really struggled with the conditions on that kind of surface,” Watson told DBR.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable. In my mind when I feel like this riding, it’s so difficult for me to be myself and be free on the bike. So, I was riding around a little bit and under my level, let’s say. It showed in the results and the riding. I was really off the pace. It was just one of them days.
“Fortunatelyl, it was just the first GP. But I’m still feeling good. I’ve had some positive days again on the bike this week. We’ve done since Russia a couple of days in the sand last week just to get the feeling back again.
“Then this week we’ve done two days’ hard pack getting ready for the British GP. So, not anything crazy. Not a lot of riding. Just getting the feeling back, keeping it fun there, and just trying to feel myself and get ready for the race.
Watson was promoted into the Monster Yamaha senior squad over the winter and raced at the Lyng MXGB round where he got into tussle with Jeffrey Herlings.
Watson insists the team haven’t set him any targets for the season and certainly not for this weekend.
“There’s never any pressure from the team. I didn’t join in the last minute, but they had the two riders and I was a bit of a third development rider, let’s say. I showed some potential and of course all three riders are treated with the same respect. What is offered to Jeremy or Glenn is offered to me. So, nothing changes.
“I have everything there to be the best I can and run at the front. I have no excuses. I showed some good things in the past. I know what I can do on a bike when things are going good, let’s say. Anything can happen. But just because it’s the home GP, nothing is really going to change. Of course, it’s going to be some extra motivation, but whenever we go out on the track we give everything anyway. We always try to do our best. Doesn’t matter if the people around the track are not there.
“Of course, it’s amazing, but even from the British Championship when I went by the people around the track it was incredible. It was so, so nice, even coming off the track and on the sighting lap. It was amazing when everyone is there and get that little bit of a boost. So, I’m really looking forward to that. Obviously everyone is hyping me up a lot on social media at the moment.
‘It’s a shame that the guys can’t socialise in the paddock with us and check around the bikes and stuff, but at the end of the day everyone is still going to be there and cheering me on, so I’m really looking forward to racing in front of the home crowd. But as far as it goes for the team, there won’t be any added pressure. It will always be do your best and what happens, happens.”
This is Watson’s first world championship season on a 450 after spending time, and winning, in MX2 and he says the step-up has been stumble-free…
“The transition has been smooth. Obviously, I came from a Yamaha from the last three years so the only major change is with the engine. It’s just getting used to the new characteristics of the 450.
“With the chassis, my handlebars, tires, all this kind of stuff is the same as what I had the last season. So the general feel when I sit on my bike is pretty similar. IT’s just getting used to the engine. Of course, that is a huge change. The engine change, the chassis, the way it feels and the weight.
“If I was coming from a different brand then I’m sure the transition would have been a lot more difficult, but luckily it has been smooth and I’ve gelled with the bike pretty quick. I felt good at Lyng. Obviously everything went in the right direction there. Honestly, I didn’t feel anything really special there. Just rode like I know I can and had two good starts.
“Looking forward to putting myself in that situation at the bigger stage at the GPs and if I can get a good start and feel comfortable with the track and what’s around me then I think it’s going to be good.