A Day of Learning for Spies

Henny Ray Abrams | June 22, 2008
DERBY, ENGLAND, JUNE 22: Ben Spies finished his first grand prix wishing there were more laps or another race.

Frustrated at his early pace, Spies sped up in the final third of the British Grand Prix to come within a less than second of finishing 13th in his MotoGP on the Rizla Suzuki. As it was, he scored two points by finishing 14th, a position he felt he could have improved upon with a little more experience.

“You know it was tough,” Spies said in his rented motor home after the race. “The only thing I really struggled with was getting used to that bike in the opening laps. It’s just a big difference from how the tires react compared to what I’m used to and how the bike reacts. And got off the line good, but definitely was just slow the first eight laps. And, you know, towards the end of the race, that’s the best track time I’ve got on the bike all weekend and realistically the third session we’ve had on it this year and on this track and all that stuff. And towards the end of the race-the result I’m not happy with it and I don’t know what other people’s opinions are-but I think towards the end of the race it was good. I thought we did pretty good.

“And the times I was doing, the guys I could see-basically up to tenth-I was catching on the last 12 laps pretty big. And then I could watch on my…I looked at my lap times at the end of the race and we were catching the whole group. (Sylvain) Guintoli, I was pushing him and he was catching (Randy) de Puniet and (Toni) Elias and I think it was (Anthony) West and I was even catching him too. So we were doing some pretty good laps at the end and turned my second fastest lap with two laps to go.” All in all not a bad day given his limited experience.

Spies entered his first grand prix with only one day of dry track time on a machine he’d never ridden. Seventeenth fastest in the dry on Friday, Spies leapt to eighth fastest in Saturday’s wet qualifying. That certainly gave him a confidence boost, but the downside was that it denied him an extra day’s testing in advance of Sunday’s race, which would run under gusting winds and partly cloudy skies.

Spies’ comfort level improved dramatically when he began to slide the rear tire. The breakthrough came about halfway into the race in the right hand Coppice Corner.

“I was like, OK, finally I figured out how the traction control works on the bike,” he said. “It’s just different from mine. Just a different feeling.

“If you look at my last split where I sucked all weekend, it was getting even with everybody, the guys at least I was racing with. And I was just comfortable if the bike was going to spin, I knew how it was going to spin and how it was going to react, and I think riding in the rain helped that a little bit. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty damn happy with the times. I know we can do it. Just need more track time and that’s all there is to it. There’s no excuses, it’s just that plain and simple.”

Spies added that “for all the amount of track time and the last half of the race it definitely showed I was getting more comfortable with the bike and the track and we had definitely a top ten bike and if we raced tomorrow we definitely have a top ten bike and a top ten rider, for sure.”

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.