It’s safe to say that Nathan Watson was easily the standout performer at the opening round of the Italian Enduro Championship.
Prior to the race in Lignano, the young Brit had yet to race an enduro. He’d never filled in a timecard or changed a tyre under the pressure of the 15-minute work period. Yet come the end of two tough days of racing, Watson was standing on the top step of the podium having won both days outright.
Ok, as a top 15 MXGP guy last year and runner-up at the Red Bull KnockOut, Watson has form. Especially in sand. But against a wealth of talent - Alex Salvini, Johnny Aubert, Eero Remes - the KTM rookie still out played his world champion peers in astonishing fashion.
Catching up with Watson at the end of two tough days, it was time to find out if he was just as surprised with his wins as everyone else…
Congrats Nathan, you’ve certainly surprised everyone with this result, but what about yourself, how do you feel?
Nathan Watson: “I don’t know where I’m at really. It’s a mix of happy and stunned really. I never expected to win, let alone win both days so it’s amazing.”
It’s probably one of the most successful starts to enduro anyone’s ever had. Is it correct that this was actually your first ever enduro?
“Yeah! I never rode a timecard enduro before. Maybe about five years ago I rode a sprint enduro in the UK but that’s about it. It’s pretty cool to win first time out but it’s just been one race.”
How did you cope with the rules and running of the timecard system?
“When everyone explained it to me, it seemed a bit daunting at first. I was nervous by it but actually once I got going it sort of seemed pretty simple. Obviously there’s a bit more to it than racing motocross but by the end of the weekend I’d got my head around it. To be fair that was the most important thing for me - getting used to the event format before the world championship begins.”
You looked pretty comfortable on the beach test but you were just as comfortable looking on the muddy, wet, rutty cross test too?
“I feel most comfortable in the sand, I always like beach races so that test was a big help to me. But to be equally fast on the cross test was a confidence boost too. On Sunday, when it got really tough, the top guys were hauling so I’m happy to have been pretty close to their times. I know there’s plenty of room to improve, so it’s a matter of chipping away and working hard to get better.”
It’s also the first time we’ve see KTM’s new 250f on track. How’s the bike?
“The new bike is really, really good. I’m impressed with how much power the 250f has. I wasn’t struggling with it in the sand, I was fastest there, so that’s saying a lot about the bike.”
What’s your plan between now and the opening round of the world championship in Morocco in April?
“Practice - plenty of it! We’ve got a lot of testing planned in Spain and Italy so it’s a matter of just keep working hard with the team to be somewhere ready for when the world championship begins in Morocco. We’ve also got the next round of the Italian series in about two weeks time so I’m looking forward to that. It’ll be cool to go there as the leader but I’m told it’s going to be a tough one so again I just want to keep learning and not expect too much of myself.”