Spies Finishes Indy Test

Henny Ray Abrams | July 2, 2008

Ben Spies finished the two-day test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the second fastest time after getting knocked from the top spot when he left the track early to catch a flight home to Dallas. Riding the Rizla Suzuki GSV-R800, Spies held the fastest lap of 1:43.0912 when he called it a day with about an hour to run. At the time, he had over .34 seconds on Ducati test rider Niccolo Canepa. But as the temperatures cooled, the Italian heated up, clocking a 1:43.0069, the fastest ever lap of the 16-turn, 2.618-mile MotoGP course and less than a tenth faster than Spies. Spies wasn’t aware of the time when he left the track and was happy with the work he and the team had completed. Ostensibly it was a tire test in advance of the September 14 Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix. But for Spies, the only rider among the seven testers who will take part in the race, it was a head start on what will be his third grand prix. Spies’ U.S. debut will come in the July 20 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. “We got down to a reasonable lap time, not super-great, but it came in an actual race test, so that was good,” Spies, the hardest worker on the track, said. He completed 100 laps on Tuesday and another 105 on Wednesday. “And the track’s cooled down now. I’ve already quit riding and definitely wish I could go back out there, to throw a good lap time out. But we were focused on the race set-up and just getting laps in. And just hard to judge lap time-wise and where we’re at.” Spies and Canepa were joined by Erwan Nigon, riding a Michelin Honda; Olivier Jacque, on a Bridgestone Kawasaki; William Costes, on a Michelin Yamaha; Wataru Yoshikawa, on a Bridgestone Yamaha; and Nobu Aoki on a second Bridgestone Suzuki. “I think the Canepa guy goes very good, and it’s obviously not like having Dani (Pedrosa) or Valentino (Rossi) or Casey (Stoner), or someone like that here, but I think we got going OK and just worked on putting a lot of laps together and did a couple of race stints today and just kind of fine tuning the bike to me and it was working out pretty good,” Spies said. Spies didn’t begin to feel comfortable during his debut in the British Grand Prix until he started sliding the rear tire halfway into the race. He’s still searching for the limit, but was able to slide the rear with more confidence today. “Yeah, for sure, just finding the limits to everything, and definitely still haven’t done that,” he said. “I didn’t even have one moment the whole two days. Two hundred laps and never anything that I was kind of like, ‘That was close.’ I’ll save that for Laguna.” There was more work to do with the electronics and traction control when he left England. It continued today, with more progress, which he thinks will benefit the team regulars. “We definitely took it a step further for me and hopefully for the team,” he said. “We’ll see when Chris (Vermeulen) and Loris (Capirossi) get back on the bike and see if they like what we kind of did. But definitely made it better for me. I’ll be pretty comfortable when I get to Laguna to try to get up there.” After the riders first laps, there was initial criticism of the Indy MotoGP track. The first part was dirty and slick and the final Turn 15-16 sequence was too stop-start. The riders later met with FIM safety boss Claude Danis and rider safety rep Franco Uncini. “It’s getting better,” Spies said. “There’s more grip laid down, but the first section is definitely still slick, like rain. But the last part’s getting better. All in all it is getting better, so we’ll see what those European guys think when they get over here.” Asked if the final sequence was Mickey Mouse, Spies hesitated before saying, “Yeah, a little bit.” But he also said he’d offered his ideas “and they’re going to use them in another corner and I’m not sure what they’re going to do in the last corner, just kind of gave them my thoughts on it and they’ll look into it.”

Lap Times (From IMS Live Timing): 1. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati/Bridgestone) 1:43.0069 2. Ben Spies (Suzuki/Bridgestone) 1:43.0912 3. Erwan Nigon (Honda/Michelin) 1:43.6276 4. Olivier Jacque (Kawasaki/Bridgestone) 1:43.8188 5. William Costes (Yamaha/Michelin) 1:44.068 6. Wataru Yoshikawa (Yamaha/Bridgestone) 1:44.2975

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.