Spies Says No Wet Racing at Mid-Ohio

Henny Ray Abrams | June 11, 2008
Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ben Spies said that neither he nor any of the other factory riders would race in the rain at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and he accused the powers-that-be of lying to the riders and public.

“To basically lie in a press release to say that they’ve done all this stuff and they’re racing in the rain to convince the fans to come out… I like the fans enough to say that I won’t be lying to them, that if it’s raining, I’m not going risk my life and race in the rain there,” Spies said. “It’s not going to happen. Yeah, no changes have been made at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car [his emphasis] Course and I’m not racing in the rain.”

Asked what changes he’d seen, Spies said, “Nothing. Nothing. I’m not racing in the rain at all. Nothing’s been changed. The pit wall, I think they added about a foot to the height of it.”

AMA Pro Racing issued a press release on Saturday, June 7, that said that the track had “completed updates to its motorcycle racing road course facility, as requested by AMA Pro Racing. With these track improvements, Mid-Ohio is now approved for AMA National road race competition during wet weather conditions. Earlier in 2008, Mid-Ohio was listed as a venue that would not include competition in wet conditions. This upgrade in track safety and configuration at Mid-Ohio was necessary to ensure the future of the event on the AMA Superbike Schedule.”

Daytona Motorsports Group CEO Roger Edmondson said the wording of the release should have been more clear. The changes refer not to any recent work, but improvements made over the past several years.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me at this point to make it clear that there was no intent to mislead,” he said. “An unartfully written release does give rise to that problem and I’m going to be issuing a statement later in the week that clarifies things.”

For Spies, and most of the riders, the “two major spots for me are the back straightaway and the Thunder Alley and neither have been even touched.”

The kink in the middle of the back straightaway is a high-speed bend with no room for error on the rider’s left, according to the riders.

The issue of run-off is directly related to the track surface, which is unsuitable for wet racing, the riders believe.

“It’s the surface that is the biggest part for the crashes, but then after you crash you don’t want to be tagging the wall,” Spies said. “Yes, if there were no walls here, I would race here in the rain. But the fact is there are a bunch of walls here and I will not race in the rain. Even though, supposedly, there were all these track changes that DMG or AMA or whatever it is now, called and said and approved for racing in the rain, but they forgot to ask the riders. The facts are that nothing has been changed. So they can get on my bike and race in the rain if they want.”

Spies said he’d “personally talked to both Honda riders [Neil Hodgson, Miguel Duhamel], Jamie [Hacking], Mat [Mladin], Eric [Bostrom], pretty sure… yeah, we were all standing there talking and I can tell you that none of them are going to race in the rain. It’s just not happening.”

Spies didn’t know how AMA Pro Racing could issue a press release when there were no visible improvements.

“I don’t know what the hell’s going on, but it’s completely ridiculous for them to even say something like that after the track hasn’t been changed,” he said. But, he added, “Now, if they plan on changing the track before we get back, that’s a different story. That’s not happening. They’re not moving either of those walls.”

As for the test itself, Spies found the track conditions difficult at first. Heavy rains in the area on Tuesday had washed the track clean.

The track was “very, very slick [for the first half of the day],” Spies said. “It was basically like riding in the rain almost and you just couldn’t even get your knee down. So didn’t ride that much. And then once we got going everything picked up and it went okay for us.”

Spies said he was about a second off his time from last year.

“I think me and Mat [Mladin] were pretty close, but I don’t even know what he did, so I’m not sure.”

The test concludes on Thursday.

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.