British ace on returning to MXGP – and beating brother Ben...
After a five-year ‘break’ contesting the FIM Enduro World Championship, Nathan Watson is preparing for his return to top-flight motocross next season with his new Honda France SR Motoblouz team.
The 26-year-old signed for the team in the autumn in time to get one MXGP under his belt at Lommel in October and immediately signalled his intent with an 11th-placed finish in the first moto before crashing out of race two.
“Lommel was just for a bit of training and I was completely unprepared,” said Nathan. “I’d only just started with the Honda and I had my beach race bike with the long swinging arm but all my races were cancelled and the team said I could give it a go. I did all right in the first race and got 11th but in the second race I had a big crash but in the circumstances it wasn’t too bad.”
Before the world championship kicks off next year, Nathan will defend his coveted Championnat de France des Sables title – that’s the French beach race championship or CFS for short – starting with the legendary Le Touquet, which he became the first British rider to win in 2019, that’s currently scheduled for January 24.
“At the moment the main focus for me is the beach racing. They cancelled all the ones before Christmas but, obviously, Le Touquet’s still on at the moment and then there are another two after that in February. So I’ve got to do all of those, then I’ll have a small break before I get ready for the GPs but luckily they are a little bit later next year which gives me more time.”
Next season will be Nathan’s second attempt at contesting a full year of MXGPs. He picked up an injury during his debut campaign in 2015 but showed he had the speed to run in the top-10. He was also a member of GB’s Motocross of Nations team that won a bronze medal in 2019 at Assen so there’s no doubting his class.
“I’ve been wanting to get back into a grand prix paddock for such a long time and I think everybody knew it. I started hating the extreme races. It was just riding trials on an enduro bike and I struggled. I was always practising on my motocross bike and I knew I couldn’t finish my career without giving [GPs] a proper shot because I’ve never done a full season.”
Nathan’s return to motocross will pit him against his younger brother Ben who moves into the MXGP class next season with the Monster Energy Yamaha factory team.
“At the end of this year I moved out to Belgium and started to do a bit of training with Ben – I was faster than him on a few days although he was on a 250 and I was on a 450 – but for the last three years he’s been in Belgium and I’ve been in England so we haven’t ridden together much at all.”
When DBR caught up with Ben last month he admitted he’d take out his big brother for a GP win and – surprise, surprise – Nathan would return the compliment.
“For a grand prix win I’d do anything,” he laughed, “so, yeah, I’d do him but only if it wasn’t going to hurt him. I’d just chop him on the floor at low speeds!
“Next year I’d like to be a consistent top-10 guy. We’ve had a few decent lads retire so it’s like a new generation now in MXGP but the level’s still so high. Look at Zach Osborne in America. Some riders are starting to find their feet at an older age and I think I’m that sort of person. I feel better now than I ever have – I’m certainly not stressing thinking I’m too old.”