DERBY, ENGLAND, JUNE 21: Ben Spies will start his first grand prix from the third row of the grid after a sterling eighth place qualifying run in the rain at Donington Park, site of Sunday’s British Grand Prix.
After a Friday spent learning the track, the bike, and the tires in the sunshine, Spies awoke to gray clouds and a persistent drizzle. Both the morning and the afternoon sessions were held on the cold, wet 2.5-mile circuit, which is known for its treachery in inclement conditions. But Spies was undaunted, saying that Donington Park in the rain is “ten times better than Road America.”
Rather than be discouraged, Spies said when he woke up that he “was thinking I get to learn another bike in the rain and tires in the rain too. I think from my lack of track knowledge, because you can’t ride the bike 100% (in the rain), I figured it would be a little more even playing ground.”
Spies took full advantage of the rain experience, despite never having ridden on Bridgestone rain tires. He was third during the morning session before finishing tenth fastest. Spies said if you put together a lap from his best splits he would have been sixth fastest in the morning, an impressive debut considering the various obstacles he’s had to tackle. In the afternoon, he was consistently around the top ten, finishing eighth.
Though not unhappy with his grid spot, he thinks he left a second on the race track, just from lack of experience and a comfort level that didn’t allow him to push.
Spies said he wasn’t too nervous going into the session. “I get more nervous on the Superbike in the AMA, just because I know we’re always trying to be first or second,” he said.
That’s where he’s accustomed to finishing in the race, but it won’t happen this weekend. The weather forecast for Sunday has now gone from wet to dry, which means that Spies will go into the race with one day of track time in either condition. The lack of dry track time is more problematic.
As for a prediction, Spies said, “a win for me would be like a top ten. In the wet, I think it’s very possible. It’s still going to be tough. In the dry it’s a different story, just because we missed all today for dry time to start really sorting the bike. So it’s definitely going to be tough.
“We’re basically, only going to have, if the race is dry, one day on the track. So it’s going to be hard to do very well, but we’re still going to try. I think riding in the rain helps me on the bike, because in the dry I wasn’t comfortable with the track and the bike enough to push it to start getting the bike out of shape and have some slides and some moments and know how the bike reacts. And after riding in the rain you have these slides in every corner of every lap basically. At least I know how the bike reacts, where it gets upset and stuff like that, so I can definitely face it in the dry.
“For me, we’ll be faster and be a whole lot better. I still don’t know if it’s good enough to be top ten for our first race. But even if we’re not I don’t think it’s so bad.”
Just as the day was ending he said he was “starting to get comfortable now. Now that the pace got slowed down, it was easy to really learn the track and get comfortable and hopefully that’ll transfer to the dry and be back up in there. But like I said, it’s going to be tough. In the dry, that’s where you really knowing the track helps out a lot more. That’s where we’re lacking. But at least we showed we’re a little more even now. We were up there and we’re in a good position. So hopefully we can continue that and do pretty good tomorrow.”