The following is from Ben Spies’ publicist…Anticipation is high as three-time American Superbike Champion Ben Spies readies for his World Superbike Championship debut this Sunday, March 1, at the scenic oceanside Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit in Victoria, Australia.In addition to his debut in World Superbike, Sunday will also mark the first race for Spies on Yamaha’s new YZF R1 Superbike. The 24-year-old rider from Dallas turned a lot of heads during pre-season testing by being among the leaders in every test on the newly developed motorcycle. Spies says he has not been this excited about the start of a season for a long time.”Just the fact that I have the challenge of learning new tracks and helping develop a new motorcycle has me focused more than ever,” Spies said. “People are expecting a lot out of me and I appreciate the support and faith they have in me, but the reality is I’ve never turned a wheel in a World Superbike race, so I have a lot to learn.”That being said, I still expect to go out there and have the chance to do well. If it comes down to the final lap and I’m anywhere near the front, I’m not going to let the fact that I’m a rookie in this championship bother me at all. I’ll do everything I can to win if the opportunity presents itself.”Spies is hoping to becoming the first American champion in World Superbike in seven years. Fellow Texan Colin Edwards was the last rider from the U.S. to win the prestigious championship in 2002. Spies is the only American regular in the series this season.Americans dominated the U.S.-born series in the early years with Californian Fred Merkel (winning the inaugural series in 1988 and again in ’89), Texan Doug Polen (1991 – ’92) and Georgian Scott Russell (1993) winning five of the first six World Superbike Championships. John Kocinski (1997) and Colin Edwards (2000, ’02) were two other American champions during the 1990s.World Superbike is the best supported championship in all of motorcycle racing with no fewer than seven manufacturers involved. Aprilia, BMW, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha and Ducati are all fielding factory efforts.A number of polls across the globe have Spies pegged as the pre-season favorite to win this weekend in Australia. CycleNews.com’ poll has 52 percent of the voters favoring the American. Japan’s Nori Haga is second with 17 percent. Spies is even favored in the British-based website Crash.net to win the entire series 34 to 24 percent over Haga.Spies sees it differently.”You’d have to say Haga,” when asked who he thought would be the rider to beat. “He’s the most seasoned rider, he’s on a really good bike and knows the tracks.”Spies also mentioned German Max Neukirchner as a great young rider. He then proceeded to reel off the names of a half dozen others riders he thinks has the potential to win this year’s title.”That’s the beauty of World Superbike,” he says. “There are so many riders who have the potential to win races and the championship. It’s going to take a good clean year and a bit of luck on your side to win this thing.”Some would say that with such high expectations Spies would have a lot of pressure on his shoulders as he enters the season. But Spies has battled some of the best Superbike racers in the world for the past four years in the American series, including the hugely respected Mat Mladin, and came away with three consecutive titles.”Right now I’m focused on training, getting better as a rider, learning the new circuits (often via video games) and developing the Yamaha,” Spies said. “The great thing is that my R1 is getting better every time I rider it. I would imagine as development on the bike continues, it’ll get better throughout the first half of the season. If we get to mid-season and are in the championship hunt, I’ll be very happy.”A phone interviewed of Spies taped on Tuesday (Feb. 24) can be heard on YouTube. Click the following link to listen:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnlPNSebUKkIn the U.S. the race can be watched on Speed TV at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.