With the opening round of the 2017 Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship less than five weeks away there’s a sense of confident calm under the Hitachi KTM UK awning.
When the gate drops at Culham Moto Park on March 12 to signal the start of the series both Ben Watson and Jake Nicholls will be among the favourites for top honours.
Ben, who was sidelined for almost the entire 2016 season after breaking his foot at the Argentine GP, made his return to racing at last weekend’s Hawkstone International where he was in impressive form.
After taking fourth in the opening MX2 moto he then came through the pack from 21st to 10th second time out – a stand-out performance for someone who hadn’t raced since early April.
“It’s been a long 10 months and a lot of hard work,” he said. “I’ve been really busy with Harris and Ross – they’ve been getting my foot back to 100 per cent and keeping up with my fitness which I’m happy with.
“As much as I’ve wanted to get back on a bike as quick as possible it was a really bad break so I’ve had to be very patient and make sure that when I got back on a bike I was absolutely 100 per cent and my foot wasn’t playing on my mind.
“I’ve been riding for about three months so I’ve had some decent time on the bike but no races because by the time I was ready to ride it was the end of the season.”
After such a long time out Ben went into Hawkstone with no expectations and he’s adopting a similar approach to this year’s MX2 title fight.
“The British championship is a long season with eight rounds so I just want to go to the first few and get my bearings with where I am and how well my off-season’s gone. Obviously, winning the championship is my ultimate goal.
“I like Culham a lot. I hope it’s well rotovated and gets rutty because around there it can either be really fast or get nice and technical and I think it will produce some good racing and lines if it’s deep.”
Ben’s MX1 team-mate Jake was also downplaying his title ambitions although, after staying healthy through the off-season for the first time in a number of years, he’s also got his eyes on the big prize.
“I really enjoyed the British championship last year and obviously I want to win it and I think I can,” he said. “I’ll do my best and see how it goes. I’m looking forward to it.
“I haven’t raced at Culham for years but I like it and have always got on good there. It’s quite a technical track and should be rutty at this time of year so it should be good.”
Picture © Nuno Laranjeira